Best Cloud Storage

By Ivan Stevanović October 7, 2020

Imagine having to download every movie or series instead of streaming it on Netflix. We’d all recoil in horror if we had to rely on USB sticks and hard drives to hold the large amount of files that we handle on a daily basis. Sharing files with colleagues? Have fun sending them manually every time someone makes the slightest change.

Luckily, this dystopian world never came to fruition thanks to cloud storage. You’re probably using one of the best cloud storage companies already. Services like Google Drive, Apple iCloud, or Amazon Drive are used by millions and integrate with a wide range of other services that we use daily. Buckle up as we do a rundown of the best cloud storage solutions available.

Best Cloud Storage in 2020

  • Affordable
  • Secure
  • Disk image backup
  • Only 5 GB with free plan
Price $6.95/mo
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  • 30-day file version history
  • Great for media syncing and backup
  • Integrated media player
  • Lackluster backup features
Price $47.88/year
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  • Easy to use
  • Best free plan around
  • Great for collaboration
  • Overly complex interface
Price $1.99/monthly for 100 GB for
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  • Integrates with almost everything
  • Easy file sharing
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Limited free plan
Price $9.99/mo
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  • Great for Office 365 users
  • Easy file sharing
  • Personal vault
  • Only backs up three folders
Price $1.99/monthly for 100 GB
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What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage long ago became part of our everyday tech jargon. But what exactly is cloud storage, and how is it different from regular storage?

Traditional storage methods rely on keeping all your files on a certain computer, server, hard drive, or other storage units. Unlike the best online cloud storage, regular storage requires you to be in the same location or directly connected to the storage unit in question. In addition to making it harder for you to manage these files, it’s also costly. Buying and maintaining servers isn’t cheap, especially for office use.

Nowadays, cloud storage providers are the ones handling the server infrastructure. Instead of hosting files on your own servers or storage devices, your files are distributed across the provider’s servers. These cloud storage servers are massive and hold petabytes of files that you can access via the internet. This remote server storage is referred to as the cloud.

Finding the best cloud-based storage is far from easy, as there are dozens of providers offering this crucial service. That’s why we’ve reviewed the top names in the industry in order to present you with the best options out there.

Why do I need cloud storage?

Hopefully, by now you’re acquainted with all the perks of having cloud storage. These perks extend to both your personal and professional life. Today, we’re all handling larger files in bigger quantities. Unless you’re willing to carry around portable HDDs everywhere you go, cloud storage is often the optimal solution.

One of the main reasons to look into the best personal cloud storage options is storage space. While both SSDs and HDDs are becoming cheaper, you’d need to invest hundreds of dollars to match the storage space offered by online file storage providers. With the pricier plans, you can get tens of terabytes.

Not only is it hard to match the sheer amount of storage space, but having both local and cloud storage allows you to prioritize your files without wasting local storage. Do you have old pictures, music, or documents you don’t use on a daily basis, but don’t want to lose? You can upload those to your cloud storage and use local storage only for the files you need regularly.

The best cloud storage for personal use also provides syncing capabilities – seamlessly keeping your files updated across all your devices. If you make any changes to a document on one device, you don’t have to transfer it manually to your laptop or tablet. Just put it in the sync folder and the changes will show on all your devices. The advantages of syncing are obvious. It makes collaboration between team members easier, especially when most of us are working from home.

Another crucial feature of most cloud backup services is file sharing. Instead of emailing individual files and adhering to restrictive file size limits, most of the best cloud storage services allow you to share files with friends and colleagues. Through these services, you can easily disseminate files to several people at once, choose exactly what you want to share, and regulate the level of access that other users have.

Furthermore, cloud storage is often used for backing up important files or even your whole system. In the case of a hard drive failure or other computer trouble, this can be a lifesaver. With cloud backup, you’ll never have to worry about losing important work documents.

Of course, these are only some of the functions of cloud storage. The best secure cloud storage providers usually come with a slew of additional features like heightened security or ransomware protection. Whether you’re a regular PC user who wants to keep his files safe and synced, or you’re handling sensitive data that you need to share with your colleagues, investing in cloud storage is definitely the right move.

1. IDrive

" Best All-Around "

  • Free storage
    5 GB
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Backup
    Disc image or chosen folders
  • Platforms
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Affordable
  • Secure
  • Disk image backup
  • Only 5 GB with free plan

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Affordable
  • Secure
  • Disk image backup
  • Only 5 GB with free plan
  • Free storage
    5 GB
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Backup
    Disc image or chosen folders
  • Platforms
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Thanks to its well-rounded offer that ticks all the boxes, IDrive is the ideal cloud storage choice for many. In addition to providing a generous amount of storage with all of its plans, IDrive includes a multitude of syncing, backup, and security features. Furthermore, this is one of the best cloud storage free options around.

Features

IDrive has almost everything you need when it comes to cloud storage. Firstly, it offers immaculate security features that guarantee the safety of your files and data. After creating an account, you can choose whether you want to use a personal private key for decryption or let IDrive handle it for you. The first option offers a higher degree of security, as you’ll be the only one capable of decrypting your files. But in case you lose or forget the key, you won’t be able to reclaim access to your account.

When it comes to syncing, IDrive may very well be the best value cloud storage because you can use it on an unlimited number of devices. You can freely sync your files across all your devices, which gives you incredible flexibility. After installing the service app, you select the folder on your local machine that you want synced, or you create a new one. File sharing is equally straightforward – you just right-click on the file or folder you wish to share and select the Share option. Unfortunately, recipients are required to set up an IDrive account. Furthermore, sharing is only an option if you’re not using a private encryption key. You cannot put up passwords for files, but you can regulate whether recipients get permission to edit files.

IDrive is also one of the best backup cloud storage options available. For starters, you can choose to back up individual folders from your device. IDrive advises users to back up most folders like My Documents, but you’re free to select which ones you wish to back up. You can also choose where to back up your folders – it can be on the cloud, another local device, or via the Express Device option. However, the truly standout feature is the disk image backup. This basically makes a copy of your entire hard drive. In case of an HDD failure, you can restore this image, which brings you back to your previous settings and OS installation.

Storage & pricing

Unfortunately, IDrive isn’t the best unlimited cloud storage option, as all of its plans have storage caps. But the service still offers enough storage to keep even the most demanding users satisfied.

There are three different plans available with IDrive: Free, Personal, and Business. The free plan gives you 5 GB of storage. There’s no credit card required, and the service is free for life – always great to see when it comes to free plans. This is definitely one of the best free cloud storage plans available.

The IDrive Personal plan has two variants. The 5 TB variant currently costs $52.12 for one year, while the 10 TB one is $74.62. Both of these are for one user only, but can be used on an unlimited number of devices. There’s an ongoing promotion at IDrive that gets you one year of the 5 TB plan for only $6.95 – a very affordable option that the competition can’t match.

The Business plan goes from 250 GB ($74.62 for the first year) to 1.25 TB ($374.62 for the first year). The business plans allow for an unlimited number of users and offer HIPAA/GDPR compliance.

Final thoughts

If you’re looking for the best private cloud storage, the low price and a plethora of security, backup, and sharing options make IDrive a prime choice for cloud storage.

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2. pCloud

" Best for media backup "

  • Free storage
    10 GB
  • Number of devices
    5
  • Backup
    Automatic media backup
  • Platforms
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux

Things we liked / disliked:

  • 30-day file version history
  • Great for media syncing and backup
  • Integrated media player
  • Lackluster backup features

Things we liked / disliked:

  • 30-day file version history
  • Great for media syncing and backup
  • Integrated media player
  • Lackluster backup features
  • Free storage
    10 GB
  • Number of devices
    5
  • Backup
    Automatic media backup
  • Platforms
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux

Swiss-based pCloud is another very solid choice for cloud storage. While it has most of the traditional cloud features like syncing, file sharing, and backup, it really shines when it comes to storing media content. If you’re a photography buff or a music fan, pCloud could be the right choice for you.

Features

After installing the pCloud desktop software, you’ll be able to choose which folder you want synced. pCloud makes a duplicate of the folder on the cloud and begins the syncing process. Unlike some of the best business cloud storage services, pCloud makes a separate iteration of your sync folder on the cloud drive and any devices you install it on. With a paid pCloud account, you can see the previous versions of your files going back 30 days, while the free package limits you to 15 days.

When it comes to security, pCloud uses TLS encryption to protect any communication between you and its servers. pCloud also has its own high-security folder called the Crypto folder. Any files you keep here are protected by zero-knowledge encryption, meaning that not even pCloud can ever access those files. Sharing files is easy with pCloud, as you can share an unlimited number of files and folders as long as you don’t break your subscription storage limits.

This is probably the best cloud storage for videos, music, and photos. Firsty, any media files that are shared or stored through the cloud can be played via the embedded media players. The integrated audio player can be used to create playlists, and any images stored can be previewed and turned into a slideshow. It also makes your life easier by allowing you to back up media both from your mobile phone and your social media accounts.When it comes to integrations, pCloud integrates with some services, but not as many as some of the providers we’ve already reviewed. For example, you can preview Office 365 files online, but you cannot edit them.

Storage & pricing

So, how much will this best photo storage cloud cost you? pCloud has a fairly generous free plan that nets you 10 GB of free storage. Only Google Drive with its 15 GB offers more with a free plan.

When it comes to paid plans, pCloud offers both monthly and annual subscriptions. The 500 GB plan costs $47.88 per year or $175 for a lifetime, while the 2 TB one is $95.88 and $350. These prices are incredibly low and even more affordable than IDrive in the long run.

Final thoughts

While pCloud can’t compete with the big boys when it comes to storage space, syncing, or backup, it’s very affordable, and great media-oriented features earn it a place on our list.

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3. Google Drive

" Best for G Suite users "

  • Free storage
    15 GB
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Backup
    Any folder
  • Available on
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to use
  • Best free plan around
  • Great for collaboration
  • Overly complex interface

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to use
  • Best free plan around
  • Great for collaboration
  • Overly complex interface
  • Free storage
    15 GB
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Backup
    Any folder
  • Available on
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android

You’re probably familiar with Google’s incredibly popular cloud storage solution: Google Drive. Chances are you’re already using it, as both Android users and anyone with a Google account gets a free package. Apart from storage, Google Drive comes with a long list of features and integrations that are constantly growing, making it one of the safest cloud storage choices around.

Features

One of the main advantages of Google Drive/Google One and why it’s on every best online storage list is its illustrious track record. Naturally, this Google product integrates with many Google services and other widely-used programs. If you’re using any of the G Suite apps and services – and you probably are – then Google Drive is the optimal choice, especially for collaboration. The same goes for Android users, as most of the services are already integrated with Google Drive.

Of course, Google Drive also enables file syncing. After installing the desktop app, a folder is chosen or created that acts like any other folder on your device. This folder will be synced in real-time as long as you’re connected to the internet. Like with any best cloud service, you can freely add or remove files in the sync folder and create subfolders.

Most files that you upload to your cloud can be converted to Google formats and then edited, making collaboration or working on the move even easier. When it comes to sync folders, the process is a two-way street. You select the folders that will constantly be uploaded to the cloud and which ones you want downloaded to each of your devices.

Besides Android and Google services, Google Drive offers many productive integrations, including Slack, which is another widely used software by businesses.

There aren’t any real downsides to using this best cloud backup storage service. But if we had to choose one weakness, it would have to be the browser-based interface. While the desktop app is far more user-friendly, we found the web browser to be a bit convoluted and hard to navigate. However, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly, and it doesn’t really impede you in any way.

Storage & Pricing

Google Drive has one of the most generous free plans around. This lifetime offer provides you with 15 GB of storage and no strings attached.

Paid personal plans are part of the Google One service with three default best cloud storage packages available: 100 GB ($1.99/mo), 200 GB ($2.99/mo), and 2 TB ($9.99/mo). This makes Google Drive one of the more affordable options, but there are definitely cheaper providers out there.

The Business plans all include extensive collaboration features, like shared calendars, team meetings, team chats, as well as priority support. These G Suite plans offer 300 GB ($6/mo for each user), while the other two get you unlimited storage if you have more than five users. If not, each user gets 1 TB. The other two business plans cost $12/mo and $25/mo per user, with the latter offering more analytics, logs, and greater management control.

Final thoughts

Those looking for the best cloud backup should definitely consider Google Drive. Its many integrations crush the competition, but there are cheaper options available.

4. DropBox

" Best for file sharing "

  • Free storage
    2 GB
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Backup
    Desktop, Documents, and Downloads
  • Platform
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Kindle

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Integrates with almost everything
  • Easy file sharing
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Limited free plan

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Integrates with almost everything
  • Easy file sharing
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Limited free plan
  • Free storage
    2 GB
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Backup
    Desktop, Documents, and Downloads
  • Platform
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Kindle

Any cloud storage that manages to stay popular next to Apple, Google, and Microsoft definitely deserves a closer look. While other companies were getting ready to board the cloud train, Dropbox was winning over users. Thanks to its immense popularity, Dropbox integrates with almost any app and features its own suite of collaborative apps.

Features

Dropbox was launched in 2008 and has since become a feature-rich and trusted provider. It’s considered the best cloud storage for music, videos, or private data. All files stored with Dropbox are protected by 256-bit AES encryption. This is considered to be the industry standard in file protection and will keep your storage space safe from malicious third parties. On top of that, there’s two-factor authentication via SMS or through the company’s authenticator app.

Like most cloud storage services, Dropbox operates mainly by creating a sync folder on your computer. You can choose its location, move the folder around, and make sub-folders. But you can’t turn existing folders into sync ones. Beyond syncing, Dropbox also offers to back up your files. It covers the usual trio of folders most at risk from system errors and shutdowns: Desktop, Documents, and Downloads. Dropbox isn’t really the best cloud photo storage solution, since it doesn’t back up the Pictures folder.

Dropbox has its own proprietary suite of collaboration apps called Papers, which acts similarly to G Suite and Office 365. Dropbox Papers is only available in the web browser and allows you to create documents where videos, images, and audio can be added. While it won’t match G Suite/Office 365 in a head-to-head fight, we found Papers to be extremely useful for quick online collaboration.

Dropbox is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and even on Kindle. Furthermore, it integrates with the most popular apps and services, including the Office 365 suite. The long list of integrations that’s constantly expanding makes Dropbox the best cloud storage for small business owners.

Storage & pricing

Dropbox has a free cloud storage plan that gives you 2 GB of storage, enables you to back up certain folders, and provides you with automatic camera backup if you have the desktop app installed. While it’s great that there’s a free plan, it’s pretty lackluster when compared to what other providers offer with their free packages.

The Plus plan costs $11.99/mo and gives you 2 TB of storage, while Professional is $19.99/mo and nets you 3 TB. Both have similar core features, with Professional giving you greater admin controls over access and longer file history.

Final thoughts

You really can’t go wrong with Dropbox. While it doesn’t have the best free plan around, nor is it the cheapest cloud storage you can get, its sheer number of features and integrations make it a safe choice.

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5. Microsoft OneDrive

" Best for Office 365 users "

  • Free storage
    5 GB, 1 TB if you upgrade to Office 365
  • Number of devices
    15
  • Backup
    Desktop, Documents, and Pictures
  • Platforms
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great for Office 365 users
  • Easy file sharing
  • Personal vault
  • Only backs up three folders

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great for Office 365 users
  • Easy file sharing
  • Personal vault
  • Only backs up three folders
  • Free storage
    5 GB, 1 TB if you upgrade to Office 365
  • Number of devices
    15
  • Backup
    Desktop, Documents, and Pictures
  • Platforms
    PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox

What Google Drive does for G Suite and Android users, Microsoft OneDrive does for Windows lovers. A strong rival to both Google Drive and Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive has strong integrations with Microsoft services. While it’s made by Microsoft, it works perfectly on non-Windows systems as well. In addition to storage and syncing, OneDrive also provides additional tools to keep your online files secure.

Features

While Google Drive is the best cloud storage for Android and G Suite, OneDrive is the equivalent for Microsoft users. It comes preinstalled on newer versions of Windows 10. This enables Windows users and others to use the free plan with no credit card and for an unlimited period of time.

Naturally, OneDrive works great with any program from the Office 365 package. If you’re heavily reliant on software from this package, OneDrive is a natural choice. One of the most valuable integrations is with AutoCad – a highly popular program for designers and architects.

In addition to providing free online storage, OneDrive also has backup and sync features. When it comes to sync, it differs slightly from other providers, as it doesn’t allow you to choose which folder you want to sync. It sets a OneDrive folder on your local machine, and only that one – and any subfolders you create – can be synced. While this can be slightly annoying, it doesn’t pose a significant problem.

Fortunately, OneDrive allows you to quickly share files and folders you have in cloud storage. Furthermore, it doesn’t require the recipient to register, which is especially useful for sending files to business associates.

OneDrive is also the best cloud storage for photos or for storing any sensitive files, thanks to its recent addition of personal vaults. Along with the standard encryption, the vaults provide additional security for your files by adding multi-step verification.

OneDrive is a bit lackluster in the backup department. Just like with syncing, you can’t choose which folders to back up, but it does offer to back up the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders.

Storage & pricing

Similarly to Google Drive, OneDrive also comes with free storage preinstalled on Windows systems. However, it only provides 5 GB for free. If you subscribe to Office 365, you get 1 TB of free cloud storage, as well as advanced protection.

There are three options available within Microsoft’s best home cloud storage pricing plan, which is aimed at individual users and families. There’s the OneDrive 100 GB option, which costs $1.99/mo. Then there’s Microsoft 365 Personal ($69.99/year), which gets you 1 TB of storage and includes free Skype and Office software access. The Microsoft 365 Family package is designed for up to six users with 1 TB of storage each. All of the plans include the aforementioned syncing, sharing, and storage features.

For Business plans, the price goes from $5/user/month to $12.50/user/month. Each business plan gets you 1 TB of storage per user.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re an avid Windows user or you’re looking for the best cloud storage for Mac, OneDrive is a great choice. However, its free plan isn’t as generous as Google Drive, but those looking for great integration with Office apps should look no further.

Review Methodology

Here, we’ll go over the metrics that we consider to be the most important in any cloud storage service. These quantify the features we focused on in our best cloud storage service reviews. We’ll thoroughly review each product and present you with the pick of the litter, but you’ll have to decide which cloud service suits you best. Our evaluation methodology can help you make an educated decision.

Storage

Naturally, the main purpose of cloud storage is storage. You don’t need to know much when it comes to storage size – the bigger the better. Of course, choosing the provider just by looking at which offers the most storage won’t necessarily lead you to the provider that best suits your needs. When reviewing the best cloud storage options, you should always compare the dollar-to-terabyte ratio in order to determine exactly how much you’re paying for storage with each provider.

You also need to take into account other features. Certain providers might offer a terabyte less but include more robust security and backup features. Also, if the provider has constricting bandwidth limits, storage size won’t matter much, as your upload/download will be throttled.

Syncing

File syncing is a crucial feature with cloud storage providers, and one that makes cloud storage so much more than just an online hard drive. The function synchronizes selected files across all your devices. As such, the best cloud file storage relieves you of the need to carry around a USB drive that you have to manually update with the newest versions of your files.

Instead, you just create a sync folder, and any changes to your files are automatically backed up to the cloud. All changes are updated in real-time, enabling any user or device with access to that folder to view the newest iteration of the files.

This is an invaluable asset for people who use multiple devices for work, especially if you’re constantly switching between the office and your home or regularly traveling. The ideal cloud solutions have robust, real-time sync features that are available across all devices, including mobile.

File sharing and collaboration features

In addition to storage and syncing capabilities, users rely on the best cloud storage for quick and safe file sharing with friends and team members. Even if you plan on using the cloud largely as your personal online storage, you should still choose a provider that offers basic sharing features.

Most providers should enable you to share files directly with others. This is usually done by sending a direct download link via email or sharing files through the software itself with those who are using the same storage provider. We always like seeing file sharing options that don’t require the recipient to create an account in order to download your file.

Additionally, the best cloud storage deals should include advanced collaboration features. This covers seamless folder sharing between multiple users and the creation of team folders. In our reviews, we expect to find team folder management tools as well as an admin system that regulates access to the folder. Admin management tools are crucial for larger teams and businesses that work on multiple projects and regularly change team members.

Some providers also offer integrations with popular programs like OfficeSuite in order to facilitate easier collaboration.

Security

Cyberthreats are becoming a bigger problem with each passing day. Hence it’s only natural that users are looking for the best encrypted cloud storage around. Luckily, most services tend to keep up with the times, using top-notch security measures to protect you.

When you’re responsible for the files stored on your local drives, you should employ a variety of cybersecurity measures to protect them. When it comes to cloud storage, you largely depend on the provider to keep your files and your account data safe and secure. During your quest to find out what is the best cloud storage service, you mustn’t overlook the security features.

The absolute minimum you should expect from cloud storage providers is high-end encryption, which serves to protect your files from third-party intrusions. Whether you’re handling highly sensitive files or just your personal photos, security is paramount.

The best cloud storage for business providers offers granular control over file access and HIPPA and GDPR compliance. Failing to comply with these standards, especially in privacy-focused industries, can result in penalties with huge monetary costs. Additionally, multi-factor authentication, data retention, and file wiping on compromised locations/devices are all important security features to look out for.

Pricing

Ultimately, your choice of provider will be based on the price. But a low price shouldn’t be your sole consideration. When choosing the best cloud storage providers, you should take all the aforementioned metrics into account before subscribing to a particular service.

Still, the allure of cheap cloud providers is difficult to resist, especially when they offer great features. In our reviews, we look at how much storage your money buys you and compare the prices of different providers. Of course, any ongoing discounts are always a plus.

FAQ

Which is the best cloud storage provider?

While each user has different needs, we believe IDrive is the best cheap cloud storage that also has a variety of useful features. For collaboration, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive are great choices.

What is the best cloud storage for business?

Google Drive and Dropbox have some of the best business packages, with OneDrive being great for companies using Office 365.

What is the best cloud storage for videos?

pCloud is the best storage provider for media, including videos.

Which is better OneDrive or Google Drive?

Choosing the best cloud storage boils down to personal preferences. These two providers are fairly similar, with Google Drive being better for G Suite users, while OneDrive is tailored for Office 365 aficionados.