Businesses are drowning under the relentless onslaught of data. IDC predicts that digital data will grow at the incredible annual growth rate of 42 percent through 2020, while many analysts say that the data generated by Internet of Things (IoT) systems will come so fast and furious that most storage systems won't know what hit them.
One popular option to meet this demand is cloud storage, or internet-based backup and syncing for businesses.
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It's the focus of our latest PCMag Business Choice Awards; survey respondents were asked to rate their overall satisfaction, reliability, and tech support experience with the cloud storage service they use, plus the likelihood they would recommend it to others.
If you select, deploy, or administer the products covered 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. Read on for the cloud services most recommended by PCMag readers.
Cloud Computing Services
The main advantage of using a cloud storage provider is that you outsource your storage needs to experts; they maintain massive storage infrastructures so you don't have to.
These aren't just big hard drives in the cloud. They're feature-rich environments that offer file versioning, file sharing, a variety of access methods, file viewers, and file system agents for server, desktop, and mobile operating systems.
Depending on their size, companies have very different needs when it comes to cloud storage, so we asked SOHO/SMB and enterprise readers to rate their providers separately.
In this year's Business Choice Awards for Best Cloud Storage Service, we had 80 companies (48 SOHO/SMB and 32 Enterprise) nominated. In the SOHO/SMB category, six services received enough votes to be included as finalists. Box, last year's winner in the SOHO/SMB category (a tie with Carbonite) didn't receive enough responses to be included.
This year, the SOHO/SMB award for best cloud service goes to Dropbox; which previously won in 2014. Dropbox scored very well across the board with an 8.3 out of 10 in overall satisfaction, 8.8 for reliability, 8.5 for likelihood to recommend, and a 44 percent Net Promoter Score (more on that below). It was closely followed by Google Drive with an overall satisfaction of 8.0 and iDrive with an overall satisfaction of 7.7. Last year's winner, Carbonite, only managed a 7.5 overall this year. Apple iCloud brought up the rear with an overall satisfaction of 7.3.
We also break satisfaction into sub-categories: development, storage, management, synchronization, access, flexibility/elasticity, and price. Dropbox did well in these categories, taking synchronization and access, while Google Drive impressed with the highest satisfaction scores in development, management, flexibility/elasticity, and price. Carbonite recorded the best score for price satisfaction.
Cloud service providers have their act together when it comes to technical support. So few survey respondents required technical support that we're unable to rate them with the exception of Microsoft OneDrive. Similar to last year, only OneDrive had 13 percent of survey respondents requiring tech support with a rating of 7.1. This is a slight increase in the percentage requiring tech support, from 11 percent to 13 percent, yet we're pleased to see the tech support rating rise from 6.7 to 7.1.
A key question asked is "how likely are you to recommend your cloud service provider to a colleague?"—a question used to calculate the Net Promoter Score (NPS). We're surprised to see Box not make the cut this year because it had the best likelihood to recommend and NPSes in the SOHO/SMB category last year. This year, Dropbox took the lead with an 8.5 likelihood to recommend (8.6 last year and 8.0 the year before) and a 44 percent NPS (42 percent last year and 32 percent the previous year).
In the enterprise category, our winner, for the third year in a row, is Amazon's AWS/S3 with an overall satisfaction of 7.9, slightly down from last year's 8.0 and the same as 2015's 7.9. Google Cloud Platform came in second with a 7.7.
Amazon took top satisfaction scores in the sub-categories of development and price, Microsoft Azure showed very well with storage, management, flexibility/elasticity, and a tie for price, and GCP took synchronization and access.
For enterprise recommendations, Amazon take a nose dive to 7.6 from last year's likelihood to recommend of 8.4 (7.9 in 2015) and earned only an NPS of 16 percent, well down from last year's 50 percent and even the previous year's 25 percent. Google pulls an upset in these categories with a 7.9 likelihood to recommend and 24 percent NPS. In fact, even Microsoft got a higher likelihood to be recommended than Amazon.
See all of our survey results for cloud computing.
WINNERS: CLOUD COMPUTING
Back on top after a couple of years of middling scores in the survey, Dropbox not only triumphs overall and scores high for reliability, but when it comes to the specifics like synchronizing data and ease of access, no one else comes close. ENTERPRISE—Amazon
This makes four years—the entire time we've done this survey—that Amazon's AWS/S3 cloud business has taken the award. It has the best price, it's best for development, and overall, corporate customers just like what it delivers for their business.
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 14, 2017 to September 5, 2017.
Respondents were asked to rate their cloud computing solution 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 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 2016.)
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