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There was a time when all offices used to have dedicated server rooms. It was easy to spot one by the cables jutting out of every corner, the audible noise of fans spinning, or the frequent blinking of lights as the machines went to work. Here was the room that housed the bulk of the technology used in the workplace, from storage devices to physical servers, placed on horizontal racks.
Server rooms still exist, of course, but they are a rarity. Instead, most companies these days use cloud storage, which is a safer and much more efficient way of storing precious data without buying into costly equipment or renting out additional storage space.
Even at home, you may be using a variety of cloud storage services without knowing it. Every time you perform a backup on your smartphone or computer, for example, the device stores all your essential data and software in the cloud. The backup would keep your data safe if you were to delete a file or the device was to become infected.
In this guide, we will walk you through the best options in cloud storage currently available in the market. Some of these are free, others paid. However, almost all have some kind of free plan or trial to help you test them out before committing.
The best cloud storage solutions
IDrive, not to be confused with Apple’s iCloud Drive, is one of the most well-rounded cloud storage options out there and is well worth its number one position. It ranks consistently high on every review due to its many features and fair pricing structure. It’s available on Windows, macOS, and Linux-based computers as well as smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS.
IDrive offers a basic plan with 5GB online storage. This plan is free forever and doesn’t require a credit card to get started. From there, it offers Personal Plans of $69.50 (5TB) and $99.50 (10TB) per year and Business Plans of $99.50 (250GB) up to $2999.50 (12.5TB) per year. The business plans cost considerably more than the personal ones, but this is for a good reason. While the personal plans allow for only one user on an unlimited number of devices, the business ones are optimized for team collaboration with support for unlimited users.
Another advantage of buying into the business plan is free backups for up to three times a year compared to just once a year on the personal plan. Other features unique to the business plans include single sign-on and server cloud backup. IDrive’s business offering is also compliant with regulations like HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, and SEC/FINRA.
All of the plans come with features like continuous file syncing, drag-and-drop restore, the ability to pause and resume uploads, and many more. The service can be managed using the desktop client, a minimal web interface, or a handy smartphone app for users on the go. The only real disadvantage to IDrive is the outdated UI, which makes navigation a bit difficult for new users, but it's working on it.
Read our full iDrive review.
pCloud is one of the very few cloud storage providers that offer a lifetime subscription plan. That means you pay only once and get to keep the software forever. The offer sets you off by $175 for 500GB and $350 for 2TB. If your storage requirements are low and your long-term budget tight, this might be the best option for you.
When it comes to security, pCloud uses TLS/SSL channel protection and 256-bit AES encryption for all files. While your purchase is good for one user only (there are other plans available for families and businesses), you can easily share your files with other users with a branded link. What’s more, pCloud comes with a built-in audio and video player to stream your files online without ever downloading them!
A handy feature to have is file versioning, which lets you recover previous versions of your files that have existed in pCloud for up to 30 days in the past. The same feature can also be used for your entire account as opposed to just one file, restoring it to a previous state in the case of data corruption or security issues.
pCloud’s offer does not limit you based on the size of individual files, so feel free to use the service to back up and sync large media files. Backups can also be synced from other cloud and social media storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Facebook, and Instagram.
pCloud’s client is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. It’s also available as a browser extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Other than the single-user lifetime plans, pCloud also has a family plan that lets you share storage space with up to five users for a one-off price of $500. pCloud Business, meant for enterprise customers, costs $7.99 per user per month when paid annually and supports an unlimited number of users.
Zoolz is a powerful hybrid backup service that lets you combine cloud storage with on-site external storage for the best performance and security. Its entire infrastructure is built on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS). That means files stored on Zoolz eventually end up on Amazon’s servers with 256-bit AES encryption and Glacier technology, offering excellent security and cheaper online storage.
Although not as intuitive as Dropbox or Google Drive, Zoolz’s UI is clean and functional. While the slightly awkward menu design is forgivable, however, the download and upload speeds are not. Backup is quite slow, and you can expect to have this program running in the background almost all of the time, even on devices with a fast and steady internet connection.
Among its user base, Zoolz is preferred primarily for its feature-rich subscription plans. It offers a free trial plan of 30 days with 50GB of storage space, which is more than enough to get a good grasp of its features. It also helps that upgrading your package is very easy to do.
Once your trial period is over, Zoolz lets you choose between 1TB and 5TB storage plans for home users at $39.95 and $99.95, respectively. These plans support up to five users on a single subscription and allow for multiple network drives. There are no limitations on individual file size.
Prices for business plans are, of course, higher. For $150 to $750 a year, Zoolz lets you choose between 1TB, 2TB, and 5TB storage plans with unlimited users, servers, and network drives. All of these plans are GDPR-compliant and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with your purchase.
For those looking for even more features, Zoolz BigMind offers cloud storage with a dash of artificial intelligence thrown in. It comes with added features like image discovery and facial recognition to sort through your backed up files quicker.
Read our full Zoolz review.
Microsoft OneDrive is the ultimate cloud storage solution for users of Windows 10 and Office 365, but it is also available for users of macOS, Android, and iOS. Strangely enough, it is also available to console gamers on Xbox One, making it possible for them to store their precious save files safely in the cloud.
OneDrive is super simple and very easy to use. The service is very well integrated into Windows. In its essence, it lets you take away any file or folder in your desktop computer and access it on a variety of other devices. It also comes with the ability to share files and folders with users who don’t have OneDrive.
You can also edit files directly on the cloud, without the need to download them every time. From Outlook to AutoCAD, OneDrive is compatible with a variety of different other services, both internal and third-party. Security-wise, OneDrive offers a feature called the Personal Vault, which lets you lock away essential files safely with two-factor authentication and Bitlocker encryption.
If you are a subscriber to Office 365, Microsoft offers you a free storage space of up to 1TB on OneDrive. Even if you aren’t a subscriber, you can test out its offering with a forever-free storage space of 5GB. You can always expand your storage space later to 100GB for just $1.99 a month. OneDrive is available for businesses at a reasonable price of $5 per user per month or for free with an Office 365 for Business subscription.
Read our full Microsoft OneDrive review.
Google’s cloud storage option walks hand in hand with Android and G Suite. If these platforms are already a part of your workflow, Google Drive offers a native backup-and-sync solution that’s both feature-rich and affordable.
While not as barebones as some of the other options on this list, Google Drive’s UI is clean and intuitive. It is worth remembering, however, that this is more than a cloud storage platform. It comes with the companion apps Google Photos, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, together known as G Suite. With them, Google Drive lets you create, edit, store, view, and synchronize your documents using a unified, web-based interface.
Whenever you open a new account, Google offers you free storage of up to 15GB on Google Drive. This plan is yours to keep forever, and if you wish to upgrade to a spacier storage plan down the road, you can do so. The paid plans, offered under the banner of Google One, start at $1.99 per month for 100GB. From there, you can upgrade your storage space to a maximum of 30TB for $299.99/month.
The web interface, although very attractive, isn’t the easiest to use. This problem is easily solved by downloading the Google Drive client for Windows and macOS. The application features a file explorer-based drag-and-drop system not dissimilar to Microsoft OneDrive, which lets you back up, store, modify, and delete files directly from your desktop.
Read our full Google Drive review.
Best business cloud storage
Choosing the right cloud storage option for your company will contribute to having a robust technological backend. Depending on the nature of your business, though, your cloud storage needs will vary significantly. It can be difficult to make the right choice, but one of these options is sure to resonate with your requirements and budget.
We don’t recommend using a free cloud storage solution for your business needs. Unless you are on a particularly tight budget, it is worth remembering that none of the free options will offer the kind of reliability and support that an enterprise user might require. There are also legal factors worth considering, such as GDPR and HIPAA compliance, which is why we recommend investing in a premium cloud storage solution.
How to choose a cloud storage service for business?
According to Storagecraft’s Florian Malecki, “organizations are often unclear about the best way to keep their files and systems safe.” But, he says, “There are plenty of preventative measures that can be taken to avoid the costly risk of downtime. Arguably the most important factor is backing up and recovering data quickly and efficiently. That is where cloud storage comes in.”
For businesses operating under any budget, cloud storage is an attractive option that can be tailored to custom-fit the company’s unique data and software needs. It can help save on storage space and reduce maintenance costs, while still being a much more secure option compared to brick and mortar storage solutions.
Data stored on the cloud can also be accessed by employees from anywhere across the world, making it a perfect choice for digital and remote-based businesses. Here are the key factors worth considering when migrating your business to the cloud:
- Redundancy equals safety. If you have the budget for it, we recommend keeping both on-site and off-site copies of your most valuable data in the form of physical drives as well as cloud storage. This way, if you were to accidentally delete a file from the cloud, you’d still have the ability to restore files locally. Inversely, if the local storage were to be damaged or infected, you’d still have the copies stored on the cloud.
- If you don’t have the budget or storage space to set up a local recovery mechanism, try investing in a cloud storage solution with data recovery options. Various cloud services store multiple copies of your files and allow you to recover them from memory if one copy was deleted. Some of them even let you set up a virtual machine with additional storage to keep a second copy of your files.
- Apart from keeping separate physical and digital copies of your files, you should also have your most mission-critical mirrored and stored away in a different geographic location in case of an unexpected malware attack. If you operate in an industry where constant uptime is essential, this is a must-have for your business.
- If this is your company’s first foray into cloud storage, consider investing in a hybrid backup plan instead of going fully on the cloud. This will help keep things simple for your employees and make the transition to an entirely cloud-based system later much easier.
- Finally, remember to perform a proper cost and return-on-investment analysis to compare your current storage plan with your new cloud-based one. This has to be done before you make any important decisions regarding migrating your business to the cloud so that you can make sure that the process is ultimately profitable.
Below are some of the best cloud storage options available for businesses. Note that business plans typically cost more than personal ones due to the priority support and high-end technology that usually comes packed with them.
Founded in 2007 as a startup by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdows, Dropbox is one of Y Combinator's most successful properties to date. It is a cloud storage solution that, although not a jack-of-all-trades like G Suite, still comes with plenty of options to create and modify files alongside backup and storage.
It comes with a very simple desktop application that you can use to drag and drop files directly into the cloud. These files can be in any known format as the system prides itself on compatibility. Files can also be circulated easily among users using the in-built share function, even if the person you’re sharing with does not have an account with Dropbox.
Dropbox Transfer is a tool that makes it extremely easy to transfer files to other users, whether or not they have an account. That way, the receiver gets access to an exact copy of the file with all the appropriate permissions without getting to the original. With free accounts, Dropbox Transfer has a file size limit of 100MB. Upgrade to a business account, however, and the maximum file size quickly expands to a whopping 100GB.
Dropbox Business Standard is available for $12.50 per user per month when billed annually, for a minimum of three users. Dropbox Business Advanced is available for $20.00 per user per month, also for a minimum of three users. While the standard plan limits your storage space to a maximum of 5GB, the advanced plan is one of the rare plans to offer truly unlimited cloud storage for businesses.
When it comes to the UI, Dropbox features a clean, minimalistic design that’s easy to understand and operate. The desktop app is available on Windows and macOS, while the smartphone app can be found on Google Play and the Apple App Store. There’s also a very smooth web-based interface for users who want to keep things lightweight.
Egnyte is a file sharing and management solution designed specifically for businesses, built for maximum security and compliance. The hybrid cloud storage design allows you to store data both locally and online, allowing for abundant redundancy in case of the unforeseen.
Egnyte is also compatible with a wide range of third-party applications, including Microsoft 365, Salesforce, Slack, and AutoCAD. Its web interface can, for example, be used to create and edit documents directly in both Google Docs and Microsoft Office. The Egnyte App is available on both desktop and mobile devices, including Windows, macOS, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile, and Kindle. There is also a unified web interface that you can access on any device with an internet connection.
Egnyte has really good servers, which means that downloads and uploads happen fast, even on average internet connections. Files can be accessed and modified offline if needed, using a nifty feature available via the web interface. You can also restore previous versions of existing files. Sharing and collaboration are fairly easy.
The web interface is truly as good as it can possibly get. You can add a comment, share a file, or assign a task with ease using one of the sleekest interfaces available in cloud storage. Common file types can be opened directly in your browser, and the system offers excellent user management and analytics reports.
In stark contrast to the web interface, Egnyte’s desktop and smartphone apps appear basic and outdated. There’s also very little you can actually do using these apps, as the majority of features are exclusive to the online interface.
Egnyte standard is available for at least $8 per user per month for 5–25 employees. This plan offers a maximum storage space of 5TB and supports a maximum individual file size of 10 GB. If you have more than 25 employees, you will have to opt for the business plan, which supports up to 100 employees and 10TB online storage. Higher-end plans with premium support are also available, but you’ll need to call for pricing.
Unlike the other options mentioned so far, BackBlaze doesn’t come with file-sharing or management capabilities. Instead, it offers a very secure backup service that keeps your essential files safe from malware attacks and system corruption. The emphasis is on security as functionality takes a back step.
BackBlaze is built with novice users in mind. You only need to set it up once and then you can completely forget about it. There’s a very simple installation wizard that guides you through the first-time setup. Once done, BackBlaze will automatically back up all your files and folders as it runs in the background. You can set it up to run backups continuously, once a day, or when prompted manually.
The service is pretty basic. The only time you will need to access the client after the initial setup is if your computer is somehow compromised. Usage is restricted to just one device per user per account. There’s support for external hard drives, but no network drives. There is also no support for mobile devices.
While advanced users may find the functionality lacking, those with little experience with cloud storage will find the offer appealing for the very same reason. For as little as $6/month or $60/year, users get access to unlimited storage space on a single device. While the service only stores older versions of your files for up to 30 days, you can extend that time limit up to one year for an additional $2 a month. There are also no limits on individual file size.
Despite the limited functionality, BackBlaze is really popular among its user base. At this moment, it has over one million terabytes of data stored away securely using its cloud platform. It has also helped recover over 50 billion files since it was first launched in 2007. If you are looking for a simplified option that lets you back up and store your files on the cloud without giving it much additional thought, you need to look no further than BackBlaze.
Founded in 2011, Tresorit banks its entire cloud storage technology on a “zero-knowledge encryption” claim. Apart from the selected few people that you choose to share your files with, no one will have access to the stuff that you upload to your cloud storage. Your account is secured by two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption.
Because of the strong focus on security and privacy, Tresorit’s cloud storage technology doesn’t integrate at all with third party applications. There are no options to edit or modify your files on the cloud or stream audio and video without downloading them first, either. These things can feel limiting, but for a data-centric company that requires extensive security, Tresorit is well worth the compromise.
Tresorit offers both cloud storage and network drives, with data residency options to help you choose where to store your data from one of several data centers across the world. It has good servers with decent download and upload speeds. The desktop and mobile apps are smart and intuitive, with a guided tour to help you get your bearings when you first begin.
Tresorit offers a free 14-day trial on all its subscription plans. Plans start at $20 per user per month when billed annually. This plan offers up to 1TB of storage space per user for three–nine users. The business plan is available for $24 per month per user for 10–100 users with 1TB of storage per user. There is also an enterprise plan for upwards of 100 users, but you’ll have to contact them for the pricing on that one.
SpiderOak is yet another zero-knowledge cloud storage solution that offers end-to-end encryption. Your files are secure from all prying eyes, including those of law enforcement. Not even the employees of SpiderOak can gain access to your files. The only exception to this rule is the ShareRooms, which are left unencrypted to allow for the easy sharing of various file types.
SpiderOak One’s client is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS devices. However, the mobile apps are read only and cannot be used to modify files in any way. The design is very basic, trading modernity for security at every step.
The centralized dashboard is pretty easy to navigate and the drag-and-drop system that comes with the client is a welcome feature. The company claims that your data is encrypted as soon as you install the client onto your desktop, even before the files have actually synced, but this claim is impossible to verify.
SpiderOak offers a 21-day free trial to all prospective users. After that, it has tiered plans that scale in price depending on the amount of storage you need. You gain access to 150GB storage on unlimited devices for just $6 a month. This is followed by a 400GB plan for $11, a 2TB one for $14, and a 5TB plan for $29 a month.
Read our full SpiderOak review.
Best free cloud storage
Thanks to the fierce competition among major cloud storage providers, a lot of them now offer free storage plans for those with basic needs and a tight budget. These plans, although low on features and storage space, are still plenty for most personal users.
Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, for example, offer 15GB and 5GB free storage each on their free plans. They are good for storing away documents and image files, but for anything more demanding, you may have to upgrade to a paid plan.
A little bit of free cloud storage can go a long way as it allows you to keep a secure copy of your most important files that you can always access no matter where you are. It is also good for collaborating with others on small projects if you are a freelancer.
You might think you don’t have much to lose since these are all free options, and in most cases, you would be right. However, there are a few factors worth considering when choosing the right free cloud storage option for your personal use. Here are some of the best options available right now to help you make the right decision.
We bet this isn’t the first name that comes to your mind when thinking of free cloud storage, but did you know that around 20,000 people join Degoo each day? Since 2019, when it was first launched, Degoo has achieved a total of 10,000,000 installs from 15 million users across the globe.
There are no limits on individual file size, even on the free plan. Each file is encrypted on upload and it is possible to set up two-factor authentication when signing in. On paid plans, files are encrypted in chunks via zero-knowledge encryption and spread across data centers in one of four continents, where not even the provider itself can gain access to your data.
With the free plan, however, there are quite a few caveats. The first is that free plans are ad-supported, which can be a major put-off for certain users. Second, features like zero-knowledge encryption aren’t available on the free plans, you’d have to upgrade to a premium plan for those. Third, free accounts on Degoo impose a 90-day inactivity limit, where your account gets deleted along with all your files if you don’t log in at least once during that time period. However, on the free plan, you get a maximum storage space of 100GB, which is definitely a lot more than what other competitors have on offer.
In spite of the immense competition in cloud storage, Degoo has been able to carve itself a place in the market. While the software can be a bit clunky and the free plans offer limited features, this free cloud storage provider is still worth its salt.
Nextcloud is a file-sharing and collaboration technology based on an open-source platform. Although the platform doesn’t offer cloud storage features per se, it lets you set up your own cloud storage on a private server using its native application. It brands itself as a “self-hosted productivity platform” rather than a cloud storage provider.
Nextcloud is meant for advanced users. It takes considerable knowledge to set up and use your own private server for backup, not to mention the added risk of being solely responsible for your data should anything go wrong with the server. However, it all pays off in the end as the speeds are a lot faster than they would be on a typical cloud backup solution.
Nextcloud’s interface is slick and intuitive. The web-based admin panel comes with all of the features you would expect from a self-hosted storage platform. Moreover, download and upload speeds are considerably higher than any other storage provider due to the fact that files are stored on your own private server. Without other accounts clogging the network, the system is also a lot more secure, even if the sole responsibility of maintaining it lies with you.
Nextcloud has a bunch of premium plans available for heavy-duty enterprise users, but you won’t need these unless you want even more customizability and immediate support. The prices for these plans start at $2,130 for 50 users per year.
MEGA.nz is a very popular cloud storage company based in New Zealand. It offers end-to-end encryption and generous free storage with absolutely no throttling. Mega was founded in 2013 by Kim Dotcom, a rather controversial figure in the online world. Kim has since left the company and the service is now managed by Mega Limited, a company registered in Auckland City.
Mega offers a generous 50GB free storage and no throttling on its free plan, although its zero-knowledge encryption technology makes collaboration a bit difficult. Individual files can still be shared, however, using a dedicated encryption key that is required to unlock them. Files can also be password-protected to add another layer of security.
Mega does not impose any limitations on individual file size. It also allows you to restore previous versions of corrupted files using the built-in file versioning technology. The downloadable client is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Mega has also released its entire source code on Github, which is good for tech-savvy users who want to audit its technology for security issues.
Consumers interested in storing their data with Mega should be aware of its controversial history, however. Since leaving Mega in 2015, Kim Dotcom has leveled some pretty serious accusations against Mega for its possible ties with the New Zealand and Chinese governments. While these accusations have generally been exaggerated, it is true that Mega’s majority shareholder is a Beijing-based businesswoman by the name of Li Zhi Min. However, Mega has made its source code available to the public, and its zero-knowledge encryption technology implies that not even the company itself can get to your data without your permission.
Apple iCloud is a cloud-based storage system built into macOS, iOS, and iPadOS devices. It is also available on Windows and Android devices in the form of a downloadable application. The platform securely stores your contacts, bookmarks, calendars, notes, and other data on in-house servers owned and managed by Apple. Once your data is synced to the cloud, iCloud lets you access it from the device of your choosing, be it a Mac, PC, iPhone, or Android smartphone.
iCloud’s free plans offer 5GB of free storage, which makes it the lowest offering of the bunch. However, you can always buy more storage at $0.99 a month for 50GB up to $9.99 for 2TB. Moreover, any items that you have purchased from the iTunes Store, be it songs, movies, apps, or games, can be stored for free on iCloud without counting towards the free 5GB quota.
iCloud doesn’t impose any limits on individual file size. Users can also take advantage of the iWork apps that come with it on Apple devices, such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Compatibility issues prevent iCloud from achieving the mainstream status it craves, but it still makes for a lucrative offering for users who own Apple products like the Macbook or the iPad.
Based in Shenandoah, Texas, MediaFire boasts a user base of 150 million per month. The service offers free storage of 10GB, but the space can easily be upgraded for free to 50GB by performing simple tasks like referring users or following the company’s social media accounts.
MediaFire does impose a 4GB limit on individual files. It also lacks a desktop client and doesn’t offer any encryption to safeguard your data. However, the web-based user interface is very smooth and easy to use, while the official mobile applications will appeal to users on the go.
You don’t even require an email account to get started, but keep in mind that inactivity will get your account deleted after 14 days. There is no throttling on free accounts; however, they do support some advertisements.
What is cloud storage?
A cloud is an off-site server owned by a dedicated service provider that you can access from anywhere in the world. It offers a secure space in the virtual world where you can store important data such as documents, work files, apps, games, and media.
Cloud storage comes in a variety of shapes and sizes—open and encrypted, shareable and unshareable, free and paid. Whether you are a business manager looking for a secure way to store company data or a home user who wants to keep their photos and memories safe, the cloud can help you.
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