From Dropbox and Google Drive to SkyDrive, all of the major online storage services have their own unique strengths, but we wanted to answer one question: who has the fastest cloud? After all, if you have to wait around for those photos to upload or to download that important presentation in a pinch, what’s the point? To find out which cloud service offers the best transfer speeds, we put five popular options to the test.
To conduct our tests, we zipped a 300MB folder filled with photos, music and video files then uploaded it to and downloaded it from Google Drive, SkyDrive, SugarSync, Dropbox and Kim Dotcom’s new Mega service. We performed each set of uploads and downloads three times and took the average, conducting our testing over the course of five business days.
Each test was performed using the latest version of the Chrome browser with our office Ethernet connection, which typically averages 12.9 Mbps down and 17.8 Mbps up on Speedtest.net.
Editors’ Note: We did not evaluate Apple’s iCloud because the service is not designed to be used as a typical upload/download file storage service like the other services in this story are.
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Kim Dotcom’s recently-launched Mega service finished our upload test in an average of 2 minutes and 34 seconds, besting its nearest rival, SkyDrive (3:08), by 34 seconds. Google Drive came in third with an average upload time of 3:39, which is just over a full minute faster than Dropbox (4:42 per upload). Sugarsync lagged behind the rest by a wide margin, taking an average of 10 minutes and 27 seconds to upload our test file.
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Google Drive seized the download crown with an average time of 3 minutes and 28 seconds, edging out Dropbox (3:33) by just 5 ticks. Mega (3:56) trailed Dropbox by 23 seconds, SkyDrive finished fourth with a time of 4:36 and, once again, Sugarsync brought up the rear by taking 11 minutes and 2 seconds to pull our zip file from its servers to our machine.
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If you add the upload and download times together, Mega takes the overall crown with an average task completion mark of 6 minutes and 30 seconds. However, it’s important to remember that this relatively new service has less users than other services. In addition, some potential users may we hesitant to try Mega because of the controversy surrounding Mega CEO Kim Dotcom’s previous service, Mega Upload. It was shut down by the FBI in January 2012 for allegedly enabling piracy.
Among more established cloud storage services, Google Drive wins with a total time of 7:07. The speed difference between the top four services isn’t overwhelming, but if time is of the essence, we’d avoid SugarSync. With a total task time of a whopping 21 minutes and 29 seconds, the service is as slow as molasses when it comes to uploading and downloading.