BT Cloud review
It may be free, but that doesn't mean it's good value
Cloud storage is vital in the business world with the vast amount of data being generated. The need for storage solutions to be both easily accessible and provide value for money is essential in a market as competitive as cloud storage solutions.
BT jumped on the cloud storage bandwagon some time ago and has offered a cloud storage solution for a few years now. However, it isn't a metered, pay-as-you-go system like Dropbox or Google Drive, it has been bundled in as an extra for its broadband subscribers.
This means that those who have a broadband contract with a rival provider, you can't have BT cloud, it's members only I'm afraid. But the 9 million or so BT customers, on the other hand, it's a free service. Its available to you whether you want it or not.
However, just because it's free and just for you, doesn't necessarily mean you should use it. Cloud storage is a hotly competitive market with plenty of providers offering low budget and free packages for basic storage.
BT Cloud: Pricing and value
Pricing is a difficult topic in this case, as technically there isn't any. BT Cloud comes free with its broadband packages, with varying levels of storage depending on which package you're subscribed to.
Customers on the company's limited broadband or limited Infinity packages receive a 10GB storage allowance, while Unlimited broadband and Unlimited Infinity 1 customers get a generous 200GB allocation. Anyone on BT's top-tier Unlimited Infinity 2 package, meanwhile, will enjoy a whopping 1TB of free cloud storage.
If this isn't quite enough to accommodate your needs, you can bolt on some extra storage capacity for an additional monthly fee, with an extra 50GB available for £3 per month and 500GB for £9 per month. This paid extra storage isn't particularly price-competitive, unfortunately - Dropbox and Google Drive both offer 1TB for around the same price as BT's 500GB upgrade, while Google Drive also offers an extra 100GB for just £1.59 per month.
But what about the base packages; how do they stack up in terms of value? To answer that question, let's look at how BT stacks up against its biggest rival (and the only UK company with a competing fibre infrastructure), Virgin Media.
Virgin doesn't offer cloud storage as part of its broadband subscriptions, but Virgin's packages are substantially cheaper than BT's. For example, BT's top-end Unlimited Infinity 2 package costs just under £50 per month for the first 18 months and almost £60 per month thereafter, plus an initial activation fee of £59.99.
Virgin's entry-level Vivid 100 fibre package, meanwhile, starts at £31 per month and goes up to £38 per month, with a £20 activation fee. Not only is Virgin's offering around 25Mbits/sec faster than BT's, it's also at least £10 per month cheaper - meaning you can buy 1TB of Google Drive storage on top of your Virgin package for £8 per month and still have change left over.
BT Cloud: Privacy
A check through BT Cloud's terms of service reveals some good reasons for opting to store your personal data with the company. BT makes a big deal, and for good reason, of the fact that its servers are exclusively located within the European Union and that your personal data will not be transferred outside the EU - unless you yourself are abroad and accessing your files remotely.
This gives you the full benefit of the EU's privacy laws. The company also promises that it does not inspect the contents of the files for the purposes of targeted advertising - a worryingly common revenue-generation exercise implemented by ]major US-based cloud services - nor transfer any information to third-party companies or use it for its own marketing purposes.
Using the service is straightforward enough. It is activated in the My BT section of the company's website, with one BT Cloud account per account number - meaning there's no option to have separate accounts for people living in the same household. Once activated, dedicated software can be downloaded for Windows or OS X, or the storage facility can be accessed in any modern web browser across any operating system including GNU/Linux and BSD. Mobile devices are also supported, with a BT Cloud app appearing in the official distribution services on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
BT Cloud: Features
Like most cloud storage providers, BT Cloud is primarily accessed via either a web app or dedicated client software, available for desktop and mobile devices. The service's functionality is reasonably basic, with a standard folder structure as well as filters for viewing all of the pictures, videos, music files and documents in your storage library. As you'd expect from a cloud storage solution, content is automatically synced across all devices, with a specific folder added to desktop machines for uploading and downloading content.
Sharing is fairly basic, with a simple HTTPS link for sharing files and folders. The recipient does not need to be a BT Cloud user in order to download whatever it is you're sharing, but there's no option to password-protect the shared files.
Additional functionality is provided via the client software, which includes a backup tool to automatically sync important files with BT Cloud - although note that this doesn't provide full snapshots in the way that a dedicated backup suite would. BT Cloud also offers automatic malware scanning and version tracking, with five revisions of each file kept in order to prevent accidental corruption. BT customers will also be pleased to note that uploading to and downloading from BT Cloud does not count towards any data caps that may apply to your broadband usage.
BT Cloud: Verdict
Giving a verdict on a product that can't be bought independently feels like something of a moot point. If you want BT Broadband, then you get BT Cloud whether you want it or not, and we highly doubt that it will be an incentive for people to switch providers in and of itself.
The storage amounts on offer aren't hugely competitive considering the price you pay for the broadband packages themselves, but if your cloud storage needs are relatively light, then they may prove sufficient. BT Cloud's interface is functional (if a little basic), and there's nothing particularly wrong with it. However, if you need a cloud storage provider for more than occasional use, we would recommend looking elsewhere - more established companies can offer more storage, better features and functionality and a more attractive rate.
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