Businesses are hungry for storage and there are plenty of options available to meet this insatiable need. One rapidly growing option is cloud storage, an Internet-based service that allows businesses to maintain, manage, work with, and back up data remotely—and even use that online storage for developing software. Advantages of cloud storage include being cost-effective, secure, highly available, and accessible on and off the corporate network via a variety of devices.
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This edition of the PCMag Business Choice Awards focuses on Cloud Storage Services, providers that maintain massive storage infrastructures to host files and backups. For almost 30 years, we have been augmenting our hands-on, labs-based product reviews with our Readers' Choice Awards, in which PCMag readers rate the products and services they use the most. The Business Choice Awards extend the Readers' Choice Awards by garnering feedback about the hardware, software, and services our readers deploy, administer, maintain, and use in a business environment.
Our survey asked respondents to rate their overall satisfaction, reliability, and tech support experience with the cloud storage service they use and the likelihood they would recommend it to others.
If you select, deploy, or administer the products in our Business Choice Awards, or if you advise or manage people in these roles, then you know how critical it is to choose the right products. The results of the PCMag Business Choice Awards survey are invaluable when doing so.
Looking for an expert opinion? Read The Best Cloud Storage Providers and File-Syncing Services.
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Cloud Computing Storage Services
At first glance, selecting a cloud service provider seems as simple as deciding how much storage your business needs. While that was true in the past, cloud storage service providers are constantly seeking to differentiate themselves by offering more features such as file versioning, file sharing and the associated privileges, and a variety of access methods such as a Web interface, direct drive mapping via VPN, and file-system agents for any variety of server, desktop, and mobile operating systems.
This is a crowded marketplace, so shop around, find the capabilities you need for the price you're willing to pay, and then double-check that you get what you pay for by reading PCMag's expert reviews, reader surveys, and consult the PCMag Business Software Index: Cloud Storage section. Many cloud services, especially at the lower end of the spectrum, offer a free, but limited, account so you can try them out before you commit.
Different size companies typically have different needs when it comes to cloud storage so we asked readers at SOHO/SMB and at enterprises to rate their providers.
In the SOHO/SMB category, six companies stood out from the rest and were included as finalists; SugarSync dropped out, as it didn't receive enough response this year, but we added iDrive for the first time. The Business Choice Awards goes to two providers, Carbonite and Box; because of their high scores (out of 10) in overall satisfaction (8.2 and 8.1, respectively) and their likelihood to be recommended to colleagues. Box, in fact, took the higher likelihood to recommend score (8.8), despite Carbonite edging ahead in overall satisfaction. Carbonite was also a winner of the Business Choice Award in this category last year.
In addition to inquiring about overall satisfaction, we broke down satisfaction into the following categories: development, storage, management, synchronization, access, flexibility/elasticity, and price. Among SOHO/SMB solutions, Carbonite dominated with scores for storage (8.7), management (7.7), access (8.6), and price (7.9); Box was on top for synchronization (8.0), Google Drive took development (6.7), and there was a three-way tie between Box, Carbonite, and Dropbox for flexibility/elasticity at 7.6.
Reliability, in this case the critically important ability of the cloud storage provider to serve up files and storage on a consistent basis, sees Box out in front for small businesses with a 9.0 followed by Dropbox at 8.6 (up from last year's 8.5) and Carbonite at 8.4 (up from last year's 8.2).
Turning to the important question "How likely are you to recommend your cloud storage service to a colleague," Box stands alone with an 8.8 up from only 7.0 last year, an amazing jump. It's trailed by Dropbox at 8.3 (up from 8.0 last year). Carbonite was only fourth here, at 7.9, even behind Google Drive's 8.0.
This question is used to calculate the NetPromoter Score (NPS) which echoes the results of the likelihood to recommend different cloud storage services and accentuates the differences between them. The NPS scores tell a story of dramatic improvement for Box up from last year's 0 percent to a whopping 57 percent this year. Box is followed by Dropbox (42 percent, compared to last year's 32 percent) and Carbonite (32 percent, up from last year's 21 percent). Sadly, newcomer iDrive is dead last with 12 percent.
In the enterprise cloud category, our winner, for the third year in a row, is Amazon Web Services (AWS) with an average overall satisfaction of 8.0 up slightly from last year's 7.9.
Among enterprise solutions, AWS had the top scores for storage (8.5), access (8.3), and flexibility/elasticity (8.3); Dropbox Business was rated best for price (7.2), and Google Cloud Platform took development (7.4), management (7.8), and synchronization (8.2).
AWS and Dropbox are on top in reliability, tied at 8.5, while Google Cloud Platform improves to an 8.2 from last year's 7.5.
For likelihood to be recommended, AWS blows away the competition with an 8.4 (up from last year's 7.9). Next comes a tie at 7.5 between Dropbox Business and Microsoft.
For the NPS, AWS towers above the competition with a middling 50 percent (up from last year's category best of 25 percent). A distant second is Microsoft at 17 percent showing great improvement over last year's -9 percent. Cisco, with our only negative score trails far behind the pack with -13 percent, although there's a glimmer of hope with dramatic improvement from last year's dismal -31 percent. This is the third year in a row for Cisco's negative Net Promoter Score so customers are most definitely discouraging others from signing up with Cisco.
Interestingly, Cisco's overall score stayed the same as last year (7.1), yet the cloud storage provider's rank dropped from second place to last—every other provider leap-frogged it in customer's estimation. Perhaps more significantly, the company is solidly in last place in every category. According to this year's survey respondents you're going to want to stay away from Cisco when selecting an enterprise cloud storage provider.
We're witnessing a stunning maturation almost across the board in the technical support category. In both the SOHO/SMB and Enterprise categories, the number of respondents requiring tech support dropped so low as to be insignificant, with one exception: Microsoft. In SOHO/SMB, Microsoft's OneDrive saw 11 percent of responding customers require tech support with a rating of 6.7, while Microsoft's enterprise offering saw 22 perent of responding customers require tech support with a rating of 6.5.
WINNERS: CLOUD COMPUTING SERVICES
For the second year in a row this easy-to-use online backup service is the top rated overall cloud service for small businesses with PCMag readers. It's not as feature-full as the competition—it even discontinued its folder syncing capabilities as of our last review!—but the price (including a free tier) continues to draw people in while the features it has are enough to make most customers happy.
Box is one of the biggest names in cloud storage, synching, and backup—obviously that's backed up by the warm feelings it's getting this year from PCMag Readers, who put it on top in several sub-categories, and placed it at the absolute top when it comes to reliability (with a 9.0 out of 10). It's the cloud most recommended by peers above any other, with a score higher than any seen in our history of surveying cloud computing services.
Amazon Web Services includes services like Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3); on the whole, it has the power of Amazon in front and the appreciation of customers out front. This is the third year in a row AWS has swept this award and based on the scores it earned it's probably going to be in the lead for a few years to come.
We email survey invitations to PCMag.com community members, specifically subscribers to our Readers' Choice Survey mailing list. The surveys are hosted by SurveyMonkey, which also performs our data collection. This survey was in the field from August 8, 2016 to August 29, 2016..
Respondents were asked to rate their cloud storage service provider using multiple questions about their overall satisfaction with the solution, as well as experiences with technical support within the past 12 months.
Because the goal of the survey is to understand how the email marketing solutions compare to one another and not how one respondent's experience compares to another's, we use the average of the email marketing solutions' rating, not the average of every respondent's rating. In all cases, the overall ratings are not based on averages of other scores in the table; they are based on answers to the question, "Overall, how satisfied are you with your cloud storage service provider?"
Scores not represented as a percentage are on a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 is the best.
Net Promoter Scores are based on the concept introduced by Fred Reichheld in his 2006 best seller, The Ultimate Question, that no other question can better define the loyalty of a company's customers than "how likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?" This measure of brand loyalty is calculated by taking the percent of respondents who answered 9 or 10 (promoters) and subtracting the percent who answered 0 through 6 (detractors). (For more, read PCMag's Top Consumer Recommended Companies for 2015.)
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