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How does Amazon S3 stand out from other cloud storage services?

Amazon S3 gets a lot of hype as a cloud storage system, but sometimes it could be overkill. Simpler cloud storage products could get the job done.

What's the difference between Amazon S3 and Dropbox or SugarSync?

Using cloud storage services really makes you wonder how we ever survived without them. Now with a multitude of offerings, how do you choose which one is best for you?

During the planning stages, you'll realize that the varieties of cloud storage products are not just commodity services. Cloud vendors tailor their storage services according to popular use cases, such as collaboration, file sharing, bulk storage of large data sets, backup and synchronization services for multiple devices.

Three of the major storage services that are making names for themselves are Dropbox, SugarSync and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), but they are not all the same.

How do they differ?

Dropbox is an easy-to-use storage service that integrates well with desktop operating systems and mobile devices. Dropbox starts with 2 GB of free space, but you can earn up to 16 GB by referring friends. The minimalist Web interface is easy to learn, so it's perfect for those who are new to storage services. Dropbox is designed for collaboration, and users invite collaborators to share documents via email addresses.

SugarSync offers an online backup of your files so they are available to you from any device. You can also share and sync folders across devices and teams of collaborators. Like Dropbox, SugarSync supports major mobile device platforms. If you want to make sure all -- or most -- of your files are backed up on the cloud, then SugarSync is a good option.

Both aforementioned cloud storage services are designed for limited or personal cloud storage. Amazon S3 is designed to offer virtually unlimited storage. It can be used solely for storage or in conjunction with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). On its own, S3 is not designed to compete with Dropbox or other collaboration storage services, but third-party add-ons, such as S3Fox, mimics the more easy-to-use design of these services. Amazon S3 is a good option for storing large volumes of data; if you are just sharing files among a few collaborators, it is probably overkill. However, if you have large data sets you need to back up or store for analysis in the cloud, S3 is a good starting point.

About the author:
Dan Sullivan holds a Master of Science degree and is an author, systems architect and consultant with more than 20 years of IT experience. He has had engagements in advanced analytics, systems architecture, database design, enterprise security and business intelligence. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, software development, government, retail and education. Dan has written extensively about topics that range from data warehousing, cloud computing and advanced analytics to security management, collaboration and text mining.

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