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Best cloud storage in 2021: premium, business and free

woman on laptop next to data center
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Finding and choosing the best cloud storage for you or your business can be difficult, particularly because this is a market filled with multiple, different services and providers offering similar features and products. The number of such providers has grown vastly in recent years, mainly down to the fact that cloud storage demand has increased so much.

Many of the services available offer either personal cloud storage or business-level, comprehensively-packaged storage and sync plans: and there are a fair number who provide both personal and business storage. Security is an integral feature that providers must offer when it comes to cloud storage, and the vast majority of companies not only offer this, but affordability and versatility too.

It's also worth noting that most of the best, premium providers also offer the best free cloud storage packages alongside their paid plans. Before you consider your options from the best cloud storage available, remember that security, price, and features will all differ between companies. Most importantly, you need to understand what cloud storage is, and what you or your business need from it.

The top-rated platforms in our guide provide the same user-friendly infrastructures, integrate high-level security provisions within their services, and provide user access to files from any device. Here, we study these important elements, and rate how each storage provider meets them, to assist you in selecting the right service.

We examined features, security, and pricing closely to provide in-depth summaries of the best overall, business-specific and free services. Additionally, we answer key questions on cloud storage, security, and other significant market elements.

Across three lists, we reviewed and tested platforms ranging from personal to enterprise grade cloud storage, ranking the best cloud storage solutions on their capacity, pricing, file size limits, security, and ease of use.

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What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage stores data on a physical drive and makes it accessible to users via a software platform over the internet. These files can then be accessed from any internet-connected device when a user wants to access them, hence the basis for the term "cloud".

There are two main forms of cloud storage: self-hosted, using on-premises (on-prem) infrastructure; or storage as a service (StaaS), using externally managed, third-party infrastructure. The latter's benefits include that providers can achieve economy of scale in managing advanced, expansive data centers, and thus provide large, affordable amounts of storage.

In comparison to self-hosted solutions, StaaS products are nearly always more affordable per TB, are designed for collaboration, and can thus be described as storage and syncing platforms. Users can upload and access data from any connected device, and seamlessly share files. Those of us working from home are relying on the cloud to do our jobs, one way or another.

Cloud sync technology is the most important of these collaborative elements, encompassing link sharing — sharing documents simply and easily across businesses — and file versioning, which allows users to track changes to documents, and view (or easily incorporate) edits made by colleagues.

Essentially, cloud storage offers an integrated, cohesive digital environment compared to static, on-prem solutions, whether via self-hosted platforms like Nextcloud, or StaaS services like Microsoft OneDrive.


The top 3 best cloud storage solutions available

1. IDrive: the best cloud storage available
IDrive ranks consistently highly due to its top features, high security level, and a fair pricing structure. It’s available across Windows, macOS, and Linux-based operating systems, as well as smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS.
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2. Google Drive: high-performing, seamlessly integrated
Google Drive has a wealth of useful tools that elevate it beyond mere cloud storage. Its slick apps and tight integration with Google Workspace's suite of products make it easy to fit into workflows, while seamless integration with third-party apps and swift performance make it an easy sell to consumers or businesses.
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3. Dropbox: affordable and the file sharing leader
Dropbox remains one of the world’s leading cloud storage solutions, its unobtrusive dashboard ensuring it remains one of the simplest to use. In turn, the freedom to choose third-party applications for integration should not be underestimated in comparison to Dropbox's competitors.
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Which is the best cloud storage service?

In terms of premium providers, IDrive is top, as it provides great value for money across a range of impressive plans, and highly secure cloud storage. It remains the clear frontrunner for users without massive storage needs, and the features relative to the cost are unmatched. Second and third are Google Drive and Dropbox, followed by Microsoft OneDrive, Zoolz and pCloud.

For business cloud storage, Microsoft OneDrive is highest-rated, providing integrations with the Microsoft 365 application suite as both a cloud storage and cloud syncing platform. Other top features include file versioning, tracked changes, link sharing, AES 256-bit encryption, and the Personal Vault, providing unlimited end-to-end encryption for all business customers.

Dropbox Business comes a close second, followed by IDrive, Nextcloud, Backblaze, Tresorit and SpiderOak. Finally, IDrive tops our free providers list, followed by Dropbox and OneDrive, while Mega, Apple iCloud, and pCloud run the top three close.

The best cloud storage solutions

IDrive's homepage

IDrive offers versatile cloud storage solutions for a variety of users (Image credit: IDrive)

1. IDrive cloud storage

An excellent all-around choice for all users

Specifications
Storage capacity: 5TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Compatible with almost any device or OS+Unlimited user and device plans available+Very easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Unlimited storage isn’t available-No two-factor authentication

IDrive takes first in our list of the best premium cloud storage providers, and for good reason. It offers great value for money, provides highly secure cloud storage solutions, and has an option for every user. 

The basic free forever plan only supports 5GB of storage, but this should be enough for you to test the platform. Personal plans that support one user and unlimited devices cost $52.12 a year ($69.50 on renewal) for 5TB or $74.62 a year ($99.50 on renewal) for 10TB of storage. 

Team plans include a limited number of devices and users, and start at $74.62 a year for five computers, five users, and 5TB of storage. IDrive is also currently offering 5TB for a hugely discounted price of $3.48 for the first year — this is the most affordable high-capacity plan we’ve seen.

IDrive's Business plans are significantly more expensive, but support unlimited users and unlimited servers, computers, and databases. Prices start at $149.62 a year for 500GB of storage, and range up to $8,699.62 a year for 50TB. 

All plans can be used on various desktop and mobile operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. You can set up continuous data backup if required, and it’s even possible to create a copy of external hard drives and NAS (network-attached storage) devices. 

Files can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, and file sharing is extremely easy. All plans come with the innovative IDrive Express feature, which enables you to back up files and data to a physical storage device, which is then mailed to your chosen address. This is available once per year with the Personal plans, and three times a year with the Team and Business plans.

Read our full IDrive personal cloud backup review to find out more about the platform, and why we've ranked it first.

Google Drive's homepage

Google Drive works hand-in-hand with Android and Google Workspace (Image credit: Google)

2. Google Drive

All-in-one solution powered by Google Workspace

Specifications
Storage capacity: 2TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: Encrypted transfer
Reasons to buy
+15GB of free storage+Android and Chromebook integration+Fully featured cloud sync that’s simple to use
Reasons to avoid
-The web interface can be a little complicated-No end-to-end encryption

Google’s cloud storage walks hand in hand with Android and Google Workspace. If these platforms are already a part of your workflow, Google Drive offers a feature-rich, affordable native backup-and-sync solution.

While not as barebones as some of the other options listed here, 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 companion apps including Google Photos, Docs, Sheets, and Slides — together known as Google Workspace

Consequently, Google Drive lets you create, edit, store, view, and synchronize your documents using a unified, web-based interface. 

When 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 a month for 100GB. From there, you can upgrade your storage space to a maximum of 30TB for $299.99 a month. 

The web interface, while very attractive, isn’t the easiest to use. This problem is easily solved by downloading the Google Drive desktop application for Windows and macOS. This 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.

For more information on the platform, read our full Google Drive review.

Dropbox's homepage

Dropbox provides affordable plans and third-party integration (Image credit: Dropbox)

3. Dropbox

A leader in file sharing over the cloud

Specifications
Storage capacity: 3TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: In-transit and at rest
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Freedom to choose third-party applications+Free plan will suffice for many personal users
Reasons to avoid
-No backup features-Expensive

Dropbox is a fantastic choice for personal cloud storage. Plans are affordable, the user interface is impressive, and it integrates well with many third-party platforms.

It is a leader in file sharing, with several features helping to make it easy to share large files with others, whether they use Dropbox or not. However, one limitation is that you can’t back up external or network drives — Dropbox only stores what you transfer to the Dropbox folder on your device. This isn’t a major issue, but differentiates it from competitors like IDrive. 

Security is impressive without being exceptional, with all files are encrypted at rest and in transit, though there is no end-to-end encryption. Accounts can also be secured with two-factor authentication (2FA). 

Despite those limitations, we think you could do much worse than Dropbox for cloud storage. You can read our Dropbox review for more details.

Zoolz' homepage

Zoolz offers cloud storage solutions backed by highly advanced features (Image credit: Zoolz)

4. Zoolz Cloud Backup

A popular cloud backup platform with an excellent reputation

Specifications
Storage capacity: 1TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Streamlined platform with minimal system impact+Attractive, intuitive user interface
Reasons to avoid
-No live backup options

Zoolz offers high-quality cloud storage backed by the Amazon Web Services (AWS) ecosystem. It boasts excellent security, including full 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption, and compliance with various legislative frameworks including HIPPA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation). 

A fully functional free trial is available with 50GB of storage, enabling you to try the service before committing. Prices range from $14.99 a month for 1TB of storage to $674.99 a month for 50TB. Significant discounts are available with annual payments.

All business plans support unlimited users, unlimited server backups, and unlimited external drive connections. Users also have access to excellent 24/7 live support and a comprehensive help center.

The Zoolz desktop interface is neat and easy to navigate, and there are also mobile apps available for managing files on the go. Unfortunately, these are clunky and frustrating to use, while upload and download speeds can be slow, which could be an issue if frequently working with larger files. 

Read our full Zoolz cloud storage review, and then take a look at our Zoolz BigMIND review for our thoughts on the new personal and business service.

Microsoft OneDrive's homepage

Microsoft OneDrive comes paired with Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 (Image credit: Microsoft)

5. Microsoft OneDrive

Built-in cloud storage for Windows 10

Specifications
Storage capacity: 6TB
Number of devices: 30
Encryption: AES 256-bit
Reasons to buy
+Free with Microsoft 365+Lets you edit files without downloading them first 
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks advanced features

Microsoft OneDrive is the ultimate cloud storage solution for Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 users, and is also available for users of macOS, Android, and iOS. Strangely enough, it is also available to Xbox One console gamers, making it possible to store precious game save files safely in the cloud.

The platform balances high-capacity storage with functional user interfaces, powerful integrations with the entire Microsoft 365 suite, and a robust security framework. Once you’re set up, it will perform as described with no further effort or stress on your part.

The service is very well integrated into Windows. In essence, it enables you take away any file or folder on your desktop and access it on a variety of other devices. It also offers 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, it offers the Personal Vault feature, which lets you lock away essential files safely via 2FA and Bitlocker encryption.

If you're a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you have up to 1TB of free storage via OneDrive. Even if you aren’t, you can test it with a forever-free storage capacity of 5GB. You can always expand storage later via its personal plans, with 100GB for just $1.99 a month. 

OneDrive is available for businesses at a reasonable price of $5 per user a month, or for free with a Microsoft 365 for Business subscription.

Read our full Microsoft OneDrive review to learn more about the service and its features.

pCloud's homepage

pCloud offers 10GB of free storage to all new users (Image credit: pCloud)

6. pCloud

Secure storage with a lifetime subscription

Specifications
Storage capacity: From 500GB
Number of devices: Unspecified
Encryption: In transit and at rest
Reasons to buy
+Powerful media sharing tools+Impressive lifetime license available
Reasons to avoid
-Pricing options are very confusing

pCloud is one of the only cloud storage providers offering a lifetime subscription, providing you with 500GB of storage for a one-time payment of $175, or 2TB for $350. Alternatively, annual plans are available for $47.88 and $95.88 respectively. 

Monthly payment options are also available, and there’s a fully functional free plan with 10GB of storage. You can also choose a family plan, which supports up to four users, while business-specific solutions start at $9.99 per user. All plans come with advanced collaboration and file-sharing features, and you can even back up files from a series of third-party platforms. 

Additionally, all files are protected by TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) security, with 256-bit AES encryption. Powerful Android and iOS apps are available for mobile management, and there are tools to help you set up automatic social media uploads should you require this. 

Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems are supported, and there are also browser extensions for Opera, Chrome, and Firefox.

To learn more about the service, read our full pCloud review.


How to choose the best cloud storage for business

Finding the best cloud storage for your business means finding a highly secure and stable system that protects data at all times — look for those providing end-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture, the latter in particular as it prevents providers from accessing your data, even if compelled to by law enforcement.

Any business cloud storage service will also need to provide advanced cloud sync and collaborative features for seamless digital workflows, in order to increase and facilitate your employees' cooperation an productivity. These elements, as mentioned earlier, are integral to StaaS products.

Another advantage is the powerful administrative features provided, particularly for medium- and large-sized organizations, because these enable access management and system usage auditing via 2FA and roles-based permissions. In essence, businesses should look for a provider of cloud storage and cloud syncing capabilities, to increase company productivity and streamline workflows.

The best business cloud storage solutions

OneDrive's homepage

OneDrive is the complete package for enterprise cloud storage (Image credit: OneDrive)

1. Microsoft OneDrive

Integration with Microsoft 365 makes it a standout platform for businesses

Specifications
Storage capacity: Unlimited
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+End-to-end encryption with Personal Vault+Best-in-class integration with Microsoft 365+AI capabilities
Reasons to avoid
-Less impressive as a standalone product-Fewer third-party integrations than competitors 

Microsoft OneDrive is the perfect platform for businesses already using Microsoft 365. Integration across those applications, including Word, Excel, Teams, and SharePoint, enables users to collaborate dynamically, making OneDrive our choice for the best cloud storage platform for business.

One of its greatest strengths is that it's both a cloud storage and cloud syncing platform. File versioning, tracked changes, and link sharing all operate seamlessly alongside OneDrive’s core functionalities, strengthening its credentials. Security is another strength, as while AES 256-bit encryption is applied to all data at rest, Microsoft goes further with the Personal Vault, with this subfolder providing unlimited end-to-end encryption for all business customers.

Data is also backed up across several servers, so you can be confident it won’t be lost. Microsoft’s enterprise plans also offer best-in-class cybersecurity services and advanced threat detection functionality. Ensuring the integrity of employees’ accounts is easy too, with administrators able to enforce 2FA and periodic password changes.

Read our full OneDrive for Business review to find out why we ranked it first for business cloud storage.

Dropbox Business' homepage

Dropbox offers a raft of business-specific features  (Image credit: Dropbox)

2. Dropbox Business cloud storage

Unlimited storage for large businesses

Specifications
Storage capacity: Unlimited
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: In transit and at rest
Reasons to buy
+Intuitive user interface+Feature-rich file sharing+Selective synchronization
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No full device backup option 

Dropbox, while not a jack-of-all-trades like Google Workspace, still comes with plenty of options to create and modify files alongside backup and storage. 

Its simple desktop client provides drag-and-drop functionality for files of any known format onto the cloud, and the system prides itself on compatibility. Files can also be easily circulated among users using the in-built share function, even if the person you’re sharing them with does not have a Dropbox account. Dropbox Transfer also makes it extremely easy to transfer files to others, whether or not they've got 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 a month when billed annually, for a minimum of three users; while Dropbox Business Advanced is available for $20 per user a month, again for a minimum of three users. While the standard plan limits storage space to 5GB, the advanced plan is a rarity that offers truly unlimited cloud storage for businesses.

The service's clean, minimalistic design is both easy to understand and operate. The desktop app is available on Windows and macOS, alongside a smartphone app available via Google Play and Apple App Store. There’s also a very smooth web-based interface for those wanting to keep things lightweight.

To find out more about the platform, read our Dropbox Business review.

IDrive's homepage

IDrive is the best cloud storage platform for server and device backups (Image credit: iDrive)

3. IDrive

The best choice for server and device backup

Specifications
Storage capacity: 12.5TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Options for end-to-end encryption+High-capacity storage options+Compatible with almost any device or OS
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal cloud-syncing capabilities-No two-factor authentication

IDrive is undoubtedly one of the best cloud backup and cloud storage platforms. However, the lack of cloud syncing features means it loses some marks from a business standpoint. Strengths include file versioning and snapshots, business-specific features such as user management and activity logs, and security, as businesses can choose to employ end-to-end or standard encryption. 

Collaboratively speaking however, this is an area where IDrive doesn’t excel. It simply doesn’t integrate with third-party platforms in the same way as competitors like Microsoft OneDrive or Nextcloud. IDrive is instead oriented towards businesses that want high-capacity, highly secure storage that can back up several servers and devices simultaneously. 

Likewise, if your staff need access to a lot of static data, with less emphasis on collaborative editing, then it's certainly one of the best cloud storage platforms for you. Read our IDrive review focusing on the business services to learn more, and find out what we made of it.

Note: IDrive is currently offering 5TB of storage for a hugely discounted price of $3.48 for the first year. This is the most affordable high-capacity plan we’ve ever seen.

Nextcloud's homepage

Nextcloud is the only self-hosted platform included in our buying guide (Image credit: Nextcloud)

4. Nextcloud

A self-hosted cloud storage platform for businesses wanting total control

Specifications
Storage capacity: Potentially unlimited
Number of devices: Potentially unlimited
Encryption: Fully customizable
Reasons to buy
+Affordable if you maintain on-prem storage infrastructure+Best-in-class configurability
Reasons to avoid
-Setup and maintenance can be time and resource-consuming

In the strictest sense of the word, Nextcloud isn’t a cloud storage provider. Instead, it’s a suite of software platforms providing self-hosted cloud storage and file management services. As a result, it's likely the best platform for you if your business is looking for an innovative and self-hosted cloud storage solution.

Nextcloud enables business leaders to connect on-prem storage infrastructure to a local area network (LAN), essentially creating a private cloud. There are several benefits of such a system, alongside a few potential negatives. Benefits include enhanced control over security, because you will always know exactly where your data is stored.

Technically speaking, it reduces the attack surface area, and IT administrators also have significant control over how data is stored, including the level of encryption used. This enables businesses to tailor their storage solution to their specific needs. 

Another strength is the wide range of open-source software applications that can be integrated into your cloud ecosystem. These include Nextcloud Files, Nextcloud Talk (a video-conferencing platform), and Collabora Online (a suite of office applications). These integrations enable Nextcloud to compete against competitors offering extensive cross-platform integrations, such as Microsoft and Google.

The potential downsides — we’d call them important considerations — include an increased responsibility on the behalf of business leaders to manage data backup and maintain infrastructure. In short, Nextcloud’s flexibility means more responsibility is shifted to the business. 

Read our Nextcloud review for more information and a detailed analysis of the service.

Backblaze's homepage

 BackBlaze is a basic, but highly secure cloud storage company (Image credit: BlackBlaze)

5. Backblaze

Minimal solution offering encrypted backups

Specifications
Storage capacity: Unlimited
Number of devices: Potentially unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end encryption
Reasons to buy
+Unlimited storage space+No limits on individual file size+Fantastic value when purchased with ExpressVPN
Reasons to avoid
-No full disk image backup 

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 essential files safe from malware attacks and system corruption. Its emphasis is on security, while functionality takes a back step.

Backblaze is built with novices in mind, as you only need to set it up once, and only need to access it again should your computer somehow be compromised. There’s a very simple installation wizard that guides you through the first-time setup, and once done, Backblaze will automatically back up all files and folders in the background. 

You can set up backups to run continuously, daily, or when manually prompted. Usage is restricted to just one device per user per account, and while there’s support for external hard drives, there is none for network drives or mobile devices.

While advanced users may find functionality lacking, those with little cloud storage experience will find Backblaze appealing for the very same reason. For as little as $6 a month or $60 a year, users get access to unlimited storage space on a single device. While it only stores older versions of files for up to 30 days, you can extend that to one year for an additional $2 a month, and there are no file size limits. 

You can currently also get Backblaze completely free for a year when you sign up to award-winning VPN provider ExpressVPN, where you can also get 15 months for the price of 12!

Despite limited functionality, Backblaze is really popular with its user base, with over 1EB (exabyte, or one million terabytes) of data stored securely. It has also helped recover over 50 billion files since launch. If you're looking for a simplified option that lets you back up and store files on the cloud, you need look no further. 

You can learn more about the service by reading our Backblaze cloud backup review.

Tresorit's homepage

Tresorit's security is a plus point, but it's expensive (Image credit: Tresorit)

6. Tresorit

Zero-knowledge service with a focus on security

Specifications
Storage capacity: 1TB
Number of devices: Potentially unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Extremely secure+Lots of options for enterprise users 
Reasons to avoid
-No add-ons or extensions 

Tresorit banks its cloud storage technology on a claim of “zero-knowledge encryption”. Apart from the select few you choose to share files with, no one will have access to what you upload, with your account secured by 2FA and end-to-end encryption. 

Because of the strong focus on security and privacy, Tresorit’s technology doesn’t integrate with third party applications. There are no options to edit or modify files on the cloud, or stream audio and video, without downloading them first. These elements can feel limiting, but if you're a data-centric company requiring extensive security, Tresorit is well worth the compromise. 

It offers both cloud storage and network drives, with data residency options for several data centers worldwide helping you choose where to store data. It has good servers with decent download and upload speeds. The desktop and mobile apps are smart and intuitive, while a guided tour helps you get your bearings when you begin. 

Tresorit offers a free 14-day trial on all its subscription plans, which start at $20 per user a month when billed annually. That plan, Business Standard, offers up to 1TB of storage space per user for three to nine users. The Business Plus plan meanwhile is available for $24 a month per user for 10 to 100 users, with 1TB of storage per user. There is also an enterprise plan for upwards of 100 users. 

Read our full Tresorit review to find out more about this cloud storage provider.

SpiderOak's homepage

SpiderOak One is a cloud storage solution offering zero-knowledge encryption (Image credit: SpiderOak)

7. SpiderOak One

Secure and straightforward encrypted cloud storage

Specifications
Storage capacity: 5TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Secure and encrypted storage+Clients for different platforms 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited free trial

SpiderOak One Backup is a multi-purpose cloud platform with a near best-in-class security framework. It provides cloud storage, syncing, and backup across all operating systems, although the lack of business-specific features is somewhat disappointing. It is also more expensive than many competitors. 

A standout feature is end-to-end encryption being standard for all data managed, and few other platforms provide this kind of zero-knowledge architecture. It also means that no one at SpiderOak can access your company’s data, even if compelled to by law enforcement.

If you’re looking for a highly secure and reliable cloud storage solution, you'd do well to consider SpiderOak’s offerings. You can read our full SpiderOak One Backup review to find out more about the platform.


What you need to know about free cloud storage 

Many cloud storage providers offer free plans, for those with more basic needs and tight budgets. While these plans may be low on features and storage space, they are still more than enough for most personal users. Such plans are ideal for storing documents and images in the cloud, but for anything more demanding, you may have to upgrade and pay.

Advantages of even a small quota of free storage include that you can keep a secure copy of your most important files, and then easily always access them. It's also good, for example, if you're a freelancer for collaborating with others on small projects.

While you might think you don’t have much to lose, since the providers listed below are all free (and in most cases, you'd be right), there are however a few factors worth considering. Here are some of the best free services available right now, to help you make the right decision when choosing the right option for personal use. 

The best free cloud storage providers

IDrive's homepage

IDrive offers best-in-class data protection and recovery features (Image credit: iDrive)

1. IDrive

The best platform for cloud backup and high-capacity storage

Specifications
Max storage: 5GB
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+ Back up an unlimited number of drives and devices+ End-to-end encryption 
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal collaborative features 

IDrive is the ideal platform if you need somewhere to back up multiple servers and devices, and prioritize end-to-end encryption. However, it isn’t designed for collaboration, and file-sharing is somewhat limited. The basic free forever plan only supports 5GB of storage, but this should be enough for you to test the platform.

The apps aren’t the most impressive, but work as described, and the web app in particular is surprisingly useful, making it easy to manage your various backups. If you’re a photographer, video editor, or anyone managing lots of data, IDrive should be one of your top considerations. 

Dropbox's homepage

Dropbox offers simple file sharing as part of its free version (Image credit: Dropbox)

2. Dropbox

A leader in file sharing over the cloud

Specifications
Max storage: 2GB
Encryption: In transit and at rest
Reasons to buy
+Easy file-sharing+Free plan will suffice for many personal users
Reasons to avoid
-No backup features

Dropbox is a fantastic choice for personal cloud storage. Plans are affordable, the user interface is impressive, and it integrates well with many third-party platforms. The free option offers 2GB of storage, and the file sharing leader provides several features that make it easy to share large files with others, whether they use Dropbox or not. 

One limitation however is that you can’t back up external or network drives to your account. Dropbox only stores what you transfer to its folder on your device. This isn’t a major issue, but differentiates the platform from competitors like IDrive. 

Security is impressive without being exceptional, with all files encrypted at rest and in transit, but there is no end-to-end encryption, though accounts can also be secured with 2FA. We think however that you could do much worse than Dropbox for your cloud storage solution. 

OneDrive's homepage

Microsoft OneDrive is powerful but easy to use, and excels in all categories (Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Microsoft OneDrive

The perfect blend of performance, aesthetic-design, and robust security

Specifications
Max storage: 5GB
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Available in a Microsoft 365 bundle or as a standalone product+Impressive apps across all operating systems
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal backup functionalities

For personal use, Microsoft OneDrive is a great cloud storage option, with its free plan offering 5GB of storage. It balances high-capacity storage with functional user interfaces, powerful integrations with the entire Microsoft 365 suite, and a robust security framework. 

Once you’ve set OneDrive up, it will perform as described with no further effort or stress on your part. Current users of Microsoft 365 also benefit, because 1TB of OneDrive storage is included in your subscription.

Mega's homepage

MEGA.nz is a very popular cloud storage company based in New Zealand (Image credit: Mega)

4. Mega

Controversial, but very secure

Specifications
Max storage: 50GB
Encryption:
Reasons to buy
+Generous free plan+Open-source client for file syncing 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited compatibility with third-party apps

MEGA.nz is a very popular, New Zealand-based cloud storage company, founded in 2013 by Kim Dotcom, a rather controversial figure in the online world. It offers end-to-end encryption and a generous 50GB of storage via its free plan, with absolutely no throttling.

While its zero-knowledge encryption technology makes collaboration a bit difficult, individual files can still be shared using a dedicated encryption key 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, and allows restoration of previous versions of corrupted files using built-in file versioning technology. The downloadable client is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, while its entire source code was released on Github. This is good for tech-savvy users who want to audit the technology for security issues. 

However, consumers should be aware of its controversial history. Since leaving in 2015, Dotcom has leveled serious accusations against Mega for possible ties with the New Zealand and Chinese governments. While these accusations have been exaggerated, it is true that its majority shareholder is Beijing-based businesswoman Li Zhi Min. 

However, as well as its source code being publicly available, Mega's zero-knowledge encryption technology also implies it can't get to your data without permission. Read our full Mega review for more details.

iCloud's homepage

iCloud is a logical consideration for Apple OS users (Image credit: Apple)

5. iCloud

Apple users’ favorite cloud storage service

Specifications
Max storage: 5GB
Encryption:
Reasons to buy
+Reasonable prices on premium plans+Natively built into Apple products 
Reasons to avoid
-No official client for Android devices

If you use Apple mobile and desktop devices, and don’t plan on making the jump to Windows or Android anytime soon, then Apple iCloud is the logical cloud storage platform for you. 

When used on Apple OSs, nothing comes close to iCloud in terms of integration, functionality, and ease of use. It seamlessly takes care of device and app backup, and syncs data across all connected devices. For miscellaneous file storage, there is also iCloud Drive. 

iCloud’s free plans offer 5GB of free storage, the lowest offering of this list of free providers. However, you can always buy more storage, starting at $0.99 a month for 50GB and ranging up to $9.99 for 2TB. Moreover, any items purchased from the iTunes Store can be stored for free without counting towards the free 5GB. We also like that you can share the 2TB storage plan with family members. 

iCloud doesn’t impose any limits on individual file size. Users can also take advantage of the iWork apps included with it, such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Compatibility issues prevent iCloud from achieving mainstream status, but it still makes for a lucrative offering for MacBook or iPad users.

However, security is not a strength, as most data is stored with AES 128-bit encryption. 2FA is included, and should be activated by all users.

Read our full Apple iCloud review for more details.

pCloud's homepage

pCloud balances cloud storage, cloud backup and cloud syncing (Image credit: pCloud)

6. pCloud

A reliable platform, but not particularly inspiring

Specifications
Max storage: 10GB
Encryption: In transit and at rest
Reasons to buy
+Lifetime purchase possible+Drive backup included
Reasons to avoid
-Encryption a paid extra

pCloud differentiates itself by offering a lifetime access option as well as the standard subscription-based options. If you prefer paying a one-off fee for cloud storage, pCloud is the best choice, and while it does itself a disservice with a confusing pricing model, its free option provides 10GB of storage.

However, its range of optional add-ons can be confusing to understand. For example, advanced encryption is not a standard feature, but must be purchased separately. Nonetheless, pCloud offers a range of easy-to-use apps that make storing your files and backing up important files, servers, and devices easy. 

It includes typical features such as file versioning, file recovery, and link sharing. There are also innovative features including automatic upload of content shared via social media. We like pCloud because it balances third-party software integration with admirable backup features: however, it isn’t a leader in either category.


How secure is cloud storage?

While cloud storage services might, theoretically, not be as secure as local storage (as it is, by definition, a networked system), most provide cutting-edge security. Both end-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture make leading cloud storage providers almost hack-proof, so not even their staff can access your data.

In-transit and at-rest encryption mean that even if a cybercriminal could intercept your data (which is highly unlikely), it would be totally indecipherable. StaaS providers also ensure data centers are secure: 24/7 security guards, biometric authorization for entry, and frequent security auditing are the main elements to expect.

Security is crucial for enterprise cloud storage, particularly those in privacy-sensitive industries. Investing in a provider with state-of-the-art security policies is non-negotiable, and the best not only protect data, but the infrastructure housing it. 

For most businesses, the global location of a data center will influence your choice. Different countries have different data privacy laws, so you must ensure your data is stored in a country that complies with your organization’s data privacy obligations.

Administrator controls — such as 2FA, roles-based permissions and auditing — enable you or IT staff to manage access and audit system usage. In 2021, there is no reason to let security concerns deter you from using a cloud storage service for personal and professional use.

If you want to learn more about cloud storage security, make sure to read our features analyzing providers, explaining how secure it can be, and how to use it securely:

  • khelban
    The free 50GB that Zoolz offers is a 14 day trial.
    From cloudrewards.net:
    Zoolz offers a 14-day free trial with 50GB of regular storage and 100GB of cold storage so that you can thoroughly test it out.
    Reply