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Facing the trend of cloud storage service, how do the options stack up against each other though? It causes new issues, challenges and needs in software & user experience testing, particular in testing clouds and cloud-based applications which are able to provide the innovative services with functionality, performance, compatibility and usability.
For this reason, Allion considers that the cloud storage service should meet both user scenario and user experience to improve its brand value promotion at the top of the cloud storage service market. Allion especially selects 6 popular cloud storage services to implement a series of validations and make the insightful comparative analysis.
As shown in the basic specifications comparison (Table I), the current cloud storage services feature “Free storage” or “Paid storage” for their business models; depending on this difference in market demand, Allion is not going to discuss further in the article. Even the more capacity the cloud storage service provides, the more marketing advantage it gains; according to Allion’s user research on cloud user scenario, most users are still more inclined to the real usage on variety of personal and portable platforms with great compatibility. That is, the over-capacity data transmission through cloud storage service can’t reflect its functionality and usability immediately. At best, it’s just the capacity comparison between file upload and download. Excluding psychological factors of such users, Allion has designed the scenario-based test coverage for user interface design review, functionality and platform compatibility. The detailed test coverage includes:
- 1. Interface Design
- 2. Upload Design
- 3. Browser Support
- 4. File On-line Preview Support
- 5. File Share Support
- 6. Office Files On-line Edit
- 7. Misc. Function Support on Web
- 8. Mobile Platform Support
Through the first visual contact with UI design, could the user quickly understand the overall layout to operate the related functions?
1. Google Drive, SugarSync and Dropbox show icon only. User needs to move mouse cursor over the icon to get text message to know what it is. Without mouse, such the touch panel users might get confused with what options can be used against the files.
2. Asus WebStorage and MS OneDrive show both text and icon, so it’s easy to understand in any condition. MS OneDrive has the most obvious icon, which is convenient for touch users.
3. Although Asus WebStorage UI provides the complete information with both text and icon, the aesthetic design still needs some improvements.
Check if the process of uploading is easy to use/learn or not.
1. Norton Online Backup doesn’t support upload function, because files are synced by scheduling.
2. There is a limited drag area for uploading in Asus WebStorage and SugarSync, but this should not be an impact on the user.
3. If the user wants to drag a file to upload via Asus WebStorage, the uploader of Asus WebStorage must be opened. Users may not know there is another option to upload files.
4. Asus WebStorage supports customized PC folder/files backup with PC application while others are bound to specific Sync folder only.
Use different browser as the access interface of tested cloud storage services.
All 6 cloud storage services we tested officially support most of mainstream browsers. Even Google Drive and MS OneDrive do not formally declare that they support for Safari Windows (Table IV), but Allion finds that most of the observed features are still running properly.
File On-line Preview Support
Does the cloud storage service provide On-line preview without downloading in advance?
1. Google Drive and Asus WebStorage have best compatibility in file on-line preview for multimedia, Office and PDF files.
2. MS OneDrive supports image, Office and PDF files preview.
3. SugarSync only supports image preview.
4. Worth to mention, Google doc is only supported by Google Drive itself.
File Share Support
Check if the cloud storage service can share the file to other 3rd party service such as mailbox or SNS?
1. Files on each cloud storage service can be shared by link function. Allion notices Asus WebStorage and Norton Online Backup do not support the share function to 3rd party service such as Facebook or Twitter.
2. Google Drive supports sharing with 3rd party service the most, including Google+.
Office Files On-line Edit
Can users edit the office file online directly without downloading in advance?
Both Google Drive & MS OneDrive support the feature for editing online; for the user scenario of Office, it improves the convenience a lot.
Misc. Function Support on Web
Does the cloud storage service offer other misc. functions users often care about?
1. Google Drive, Dropbox and MS OneDrive support right click function; compared with Asus WebStorage, SugarSync and Norton Online Backup which do not support right click function; this makes the operation and usability of touch screen much easier for users.
2. When upload process is on-going in Asus WebStorage and SugarSync, the user can’t do anything until the process finishes.
3. Dropbox provides 3rd party function to integrate its service more than cloud storage. Dropbox can be a cloud music playlist, webpage server and mail box.
4. All cloud storage services support file restore from webpage.
5. The “ZIP download” function is available on Google Drive and Asus WebStorage.
Mobile Platform Support
Since most cloud storage services have launched the mobile APPs, do their compatibility and functionality remain easy-to-use as same as the webpage version? Allion chooses 3 smartphones with different operating systems such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone to implement some specific test items.
1. Because Android is kind of an open operating system, the user can download/upload the files in internal/external file system.
2. However, Microsoft and Apple only allow the user to upload picture or do online note editing.
3. Google Drive, Dropbox and SugarSync don’t have official APPs for Windows Phone, but the user can install third-party APP to access Google Drive’s and Dropbox’s services.
As shown in Table IV, Allion sorts out some key issues for cloud storage service on mobile device, including platform compatibility, synchronization capabilities and user experience. Detailed test items with results, please refer to Table X, XI and XII.
Have an Ace up Your Cloud
When the development of cloud computing technology and application is growing with lots of manpower and resource involvement, Google has also opened its largest data center of the Asia-Pacific region in central Taiwan. Facing the developing trend, many vendors receive the new challenges to cloud technology research, quality assurance and global marketing.
To cloud storage services; for example, most of them have launched into the market with the hardware purchases to support the software development or capacity restrictions. Without the actual testing, validation and evaluation of user experience by the professional laboratory, all bugs and critical issues appear immediately with incompatible hardware/software specifications, unreliable performance and useless interface.
This comparative analysis report of cloud storage service is drafted by Allion, offering a scenario-based validation point of view between 6 web-based/cloud-based applications. The test results show that there is still a significant difference in each functionality, performance and usability, so that Allion would say that cloud testing is becoming the hot research topic in cloud computing and the whole IT community. For today's cloud storage service is closely related to the user’s daily life; either through a computer or mobile phone usage, the functional integrity, performance, stability and user experience will need much more professional validation, analysis and improvement.