Space Monkey review: 1 TB cloud storage, assembly required

While all of that is happening in the background, you never get a glimpse of that process. You'll just see your files syncing with the Space Monkey network, and then be able to recall those files any time, in the same amount it takes to open a file in any other cloud storage service.

Space Monkey claims that it's system is very safe and extremely hard to crack. However, no cloud storage service is impenetrable to hacking. So if security is a paramount concern for you, you might consider not storing files in any cloud.

Always online

I mentioned earlier that each Space Monkey drive has 2 terabytes inside. That's because you get 1TB to use, and the other terabyte is left open to store other users' data. Because Space Monkey is a two-way street of uploading your data to cloud, downloading others' data onto your drive, it's constantly using your Internet connection.

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Space Monkey's Windows desktop app. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Most people have modest internet connections at home, somewhere around 20Mbps according to data from Ookla. That means if you try to add several gigabytes of files to your Space Monkey drive at once, it's could to take hours, and possibly even days, to upload, depending on the number of gigabytes and your network speed.

Space Monkey has an answer for this, saying that the service tries to be nice to your network by backing off syncing when you're doing other things on your network, like playing games online or streaming video. The company is still trying to improve how the cloud affects your network, but in the meantime, you can control the download and upload speeds in the desktop application.

Mobile apps

Like other cloud services, Space Monkey has mobile apps so you can add, delete, and edit files from your phone. Both apps have simple, basic designs. The home screens show all of your files and folders. The only other screen just shows all of your camera uploads from your phone. You can add new folders, and upload new files from the app, and everything will get synced automatically.

If your drive goes offline for any reason, you'll still be able to view and download your files from the apps or Space Monkey's Web site.

Both the Android and iOS apps have a helpful auto-upload feature, which will automatically save every photo or video you take to the cloud. This is similar to Dropbox's and Microsoft's OneDrive automatic uploading features in their mobile apps.

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The Space Monkey Android app. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Why Space Monkey?

Space Monkey's biggest draw is cost. It's cheaper than most other options out there, including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box.

The reason the service is less expensive is that you're covering the cost of the hardware that stores yours and other people's files, instead of the companies paying to use server space in a data center. This approach helps Space Monkey keeps its costs low, which means you'll pay less for cloud storage.

However, it might not be the cheapest option forever. When Space Monkey first came on to the scene, 1TB of storage was a rare, and expensive option. Now, costs are lower, with Google charging only $10 per month for 1TB. As the cost of for more storage continues to fall, Space Monkey will become a less compelling option, especially considering Dropbox, Google Drive, and other traditional cloud services are faster and easier to set up.

Western Digital also has Space Monkey slightly beat with its cloud option. It's My Cloud NAS server gives you 2TB of storage for $150 and comes with your own private cloud for no extra cost. There's no subscription cost, and you get all 2 terabytes to store your files. The only downside is that if you drive fails, you'll lose your files because they aren't stored anywhere else.

Conclusion

With the help of a sleek-looking desktop hard drive, Space Monkey gives you 1TB of storage that also backs up to the cloud, so you don't lose precious files. The service costs only $50 per year, which is cheaper than most other cloud storage options.

However, Space Monkey costs more money up front than its competitors, because you need to put down $200 for the drive, though you get one year of service for free. Luckily, that cost balances out over time, because it's only $50 per year for the cloud storage, compared to Google Drive's $10 per month ($120 per year) cost for 1TB.

While the promise of low-cost decentralized cloud storage is enticing, Space Monkey takes more effort to set up than its competitors. That makes it a bit more daunting for most people, because you have to make sure the drive is running properly to keep your personal cloud online.

If cost is an important factor for you, Space Monkey is worth the up-front investment. However, if you just want a cloud service that doesn't require any hassle, and you're not as concerned about exactly how and where your files are stored, it's more convenient to pick Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.

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