China has a long-running practice of censoring and restricting access to foreign services, and cloud storage is no exception. Google Drive is the last service to hit the Golden Shield. It is hard to believe that Google will find solace in the fact that most of the popular cloud storage services are also restricted in China. 500 million active internet users are off limits while cloud storage is on the rise. There are already quite a lot of great service providers out there. The number of services suggests that there is a rising demand. Cloud storage for the masses is still a new and exciting thing.
How is China coping with the Golden Shield vacuum? Generally they mimic the concept of existing services, build upon them and offer internal solutions to Chinese citizens.
Below are the global options and their Chinese alternatives:
Google Drive & Wangpan
Google Drive gives you 5GB of Google Docs plus whatever you feel like sharing with Google. For a free service it would be OK, but I won’t feel okay with Google being able to use my content if I pay for the storage.
Wangpan is the Chinese word for “your only viable option”. The offering comes straight from Baidu which is China’s Google. All attempts of witticism aside, Wangpan offers 15GB for free. With most options removed by default, it seems like a pretty decent offering. According to online sources, Baidu will is bring Wangpan to Yi (Android derivative). Baidu are up to something. When you search for “wangpan” you’ll get a lot of results from sites such as Forbes and other high quality sites.
Dropbox and Kanbox
Dropbox gives you 2GB of cloud space which get to about 18GB, media streaming, Linux & Blackberry clients included. This service is quite popular, every now and then offering perks to help free users boost their space. And they are also known for the smart marketing to attract new customers.
What China offers is Kanbox. Think of Kanbox as the Chinese Dropbox. The similarities are too many to be ignored. Even the homepage has the same concept. The service offers the same features as its non-Chinese counterpart. Unlike Wangpan, anyone can register. There is no hype around limited number of daily invites as the service is already well established. After receiving 20 million in venture capital in Q4 2011, Kanbox is definitely about to up its game.
Skydrive and 360 Cloud Disk
Skydrive offers 7GB of cloud storage and a not-so-nasty 2GB file size limit. It is rare to see Google have a nastier policy than Microsoft. In this case I would feel better with Skydrive. Also one of the few Windows Phone options.
What China offers is 360 Cloud Disk. 360 Cloud Disk offers the whopping 18GB, extend it to 36GB absolutely free. The only limitation is that your file needs to be below 5GB, which is something we could put up with. This solution can also be considered pretty safe. It has been developed by a company mostly known for its antivirus and security solutions.
Of course, one might say that the Chinese are missing out on some of the other great cloud storage services out there, such as Box, SugarSync, Insync, etc., but three good free cloud storage services are more than what most countries have. Then again China has no decent access to the first set of service providers. The best thing about all services listed here is that Chinese or not these services are free and would aid anyone who is after a decent backup for their personal data. If you are about to travel to China on business and need cloud storage, you should probably try to copy your essential data to one of their counterparts.
Speed and technical availability of the cloud storage services in China seem to be the last thing to worry about. Still, it is good to remember that The Great Firewall monitors all internet activity in mainland China. No matter what service you use, you should check if it is available in China. You can do this with our China firewall test. Note that sometimes the services seem available and you should run multiple tests. Dropbox can be accessed by some platforms and locations, but completely unavailable in others. It has to do with China’s firewall not being that great. No pun intended.