PROS / The overall value is among the highest of all the services we reviewed.
CONS / There is no server-level encryption of your files.
VERDICT / Amazon Cloud Drive provides exceptional value and performance, but there are some considerable concerns about the security.
Amazon is one of the most recognizable brands in our review. The company is the largest internet commerce retailer in the U.S. It's also one of the largest cloud-computing services in the world. In fact, many cloud-storage services rent their server storage space from Amazon S3 servers. So it's no surprise that Amazon Cloud Drive, which is the company's consumer-level cloud storage service, would rank among the best online storage services. The service provides unlimited storage for all of your devices at one of the lowest costs, and the overall performance is excellent. The one major concern is the security.
To find the best cloud-storage services, we evaluated the relative value of 23 cloud-storage services to find the annual cost-per-computer for a large family, a small family and an individual. We also tested the upload and download speeds for performance, and we evaluated the ease of use to find the easiest desktop app for a novice user.
With concern to value, Amazon Cloud Drive is easily among the most valuable services. The yearly cost is just $59.99 for unlimited storage for all of your devices. As such, the service earned an A- at each level of our evaluation. For a large family of at least five devices, the cost is about charges $12 a year per computer. For a small family using three devices, the cost is about $20 per computer each month. In comparison, the average cost for online storage is $33 per computer for a large family and $48 per computer for a small family. For an individual, the average cost is $134, which is more than double the cost of Amazon Cloud Drive. Only one other service, IDrive, has a lower cost per computer.
In our performance tests, Amazon Cloud Drive received a C for upload speed, which means that it was average. After multiple tests, it recorded an average upload speed of 38.5 MB per minute, which suggests that it would take about 18 days to complete an upload of 1TB. However, the download speed received an A. The service recorded an average download speed of 325 MB per minute, which was the fastest speed in our tests. At this speed, you could download 1TB of data in about two days. So while it will take you longer to upload your data to the cloud, the access to the data is much faster than any cloud service we reviewed.
The ease of use of the desktop app received an A. The app is among the easiest ones we evaluated. It has two tabs – an upload and a download tab. This makes the process adding and retrieving files from the desktop very easy. You can access the settings, which are clearly labeled with both a cog symbol and text. In both the upload and download process, there are no more than three to four steps. For comparison, some services had as many as 11 steps. Fewer steps means there's less room for making a mistake. A novice user can easily use the app with no learning curve.
The one major concern is the security. While Amazon owns and maintains their own servers and files are protected with an SSL-encrypted transfer, the files aren't encrypted while at rest on the servers. Also troubling is that Amazon's privacy policies suggest the service can view your files at any time to "copy Your Files for backup purposes, modify Your Files to enable access in different formats, use information about Your Files to organize them on your behalf, and access Your Files to provide technical support." In fact, the policy shifts the responsibility of security to you, the user, stating,"[y]ou are responsible for maintaining appropriate security and protection of Your Files." This is in stark contrast to secure cloud storage services that make security a priority by providing zero-knowledge encryption.
Amazon Cloud Drive does provide a two-step verification option. Also known as two-factor authentication, this is a critical security measure that requires an additional step to the login process – a step that requires your presence to gain access to your account. One of the most common ways hackers access an account is by acquiring a password. With two-step verification, you enter your password and this sends a PIN to you via text, phone call or email. In this way, your immediate attention is required.
Amazon Cloud Drive provides exceptional value by providing unlimited cloud storage for a fraction of the cost per computer of other services. The upload performance was middling, but the download speed was the fastest we tested. For a novice user, it's one of the easiest apps to use. The one downside is the lack of serious security measures.