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Best cloud storage 2021

group of four people working on laptops together
(Image credit: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

Cloud storage has become an increasingly popular technology in recent times due to its versatility, security, and affordability. Selecting the best cloud storage for your business can be difficult, though, because of the large number of providers competing for a share of the market. 

There are various free and premium cloud storage options, with many providers specifically targeting business users. And on top of this, every provider comes with different features, security, and price levels. 

Before you begin the process of selecting the best cloud storage provider for you, you need to understand exactly what cloud storage is. In short, cloud storage allows you to store files, media, and basically any other data via a remote third-party platform. Reputable platforms boast excellent security, high-performance cloud infrastructure, and the ability to access your files from any device. 

In this guide, we analyze some of the world’s most popular cloud storage platforms to help you determine which option is best for your needs. We look closely at prices, main features, security, and more to bring you a list of the best overall, free, and business-specific options. 

Top 3 cloud storage solutions

1. IDrive is simply the best cloud storage right now
IDrive ranks consistently high on every review due to its great 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.
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2. pCloud offers top security and a great lifetime deal
pCloud is one of the very few cloud storage providers that offers a lifetime subscription. You pay once and get to keep the software and storage forever. pCloud also offers top-notch security and 'file-versioning'. A great all-round choice.View Deal

3. Zoolz Cloud Storage has great performance and security
Zoolz is a powerful hybrid backup solution where you can combine cloud storage with on-site external storage for the best performance and security. Its entire infrastructure is built on top of AWS, so you can trust that it's secure.
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The best cloud storage solutions

Best cloud storage - 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

Free tier: 5GB | Storage size: 5TB | Number of devices: Unlimited

Compatible with almost any device or OS
Unlimited user and device plans available
Very easy to use
Unlimited storage isn’t available
No two-factor authentication

IDrive sneaks into first place on our list of the best 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 10 TB of storage. 

Team plans, which include a limited number of devices and users, start at $74.62 a year for five computers, five users, and 5TB of storage. 

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

All plans can be used on various operating systems, including Windows, Mac, 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 devices. Linux devices can also be backed up via the web console. 

Files can be accessed from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, and file sharing is extremely easy. And what’s more, all plans come with the innovative IDrive Express feature. Basically, this enables you to back up your 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 per year with the Team and Business plans.

Read our full IDrive personal cloud backup review.

best cloud storage - pCloud's homepage

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

2. pCloud

Secure storage with a lifetime subscription

Free tier: 10GB | Storage size: From 500GB | Number of devices: Unspecified

Powerful media sharing tools
Impressive lifetime license available
Very competitive prices
Pricing options are very confusing
User interface is a little messy

There’s one primary reason why pCloud sits so close to the top of this list. It’s one of the only reliable cloud storage providers that offers a lifetime subscription. Access 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 10 GB of storage. Or, go for a family plan which supports up to four users. 

Business-specific solutions are also available, with prices starting at $9.99 per user. All plans come with advanced collaboration and file-sharing features, and you can even back up files from a variety of third-party platforms. 

On top of this, all files are protected by TLS/SSL security with 256-bit AES encryption. Powerful Android and iOS apps are available for mobile management of the cloud, and there are tools to help you set up automatic social media uploads if required. Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems are supported, and there are browser extensions for Opera, Chrome, and Firefox.

Read our full pCloud review.

Best cloud storage - Zoolz' homepage

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

3. Zoolz Cloud Backup

A popular cloud backup platform with an excellent reputation

Free tier: 50GB | Storage size: 1TB | Number of devices: Unlimited

Streamlined platform with minimal system impact
Attractive, intuitive user interface
Competitively priced
Mobile apps could be better
No live backup options

Our pick for third-best cloud storage solution, Zoolz offers high-quality cloud storage solutions backed by the power of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) ecosystem. It boasts excellent security features, including full 256-bit AES encryption, as well as compliance with HIPPA, GDPR, and various other legislative frameworks. 

A fully functional free trial is available with 50GB of storage, enabling you to try the platform before committing to a subscription. Prices range from $14.99 per month for 1TB of storage to $674.99 per 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. There are also mobile apps available to help you manage your files on the go, but unfortunately, they are clunky and frustrating to use. Upload and download speeds can also be slow, which could be an issue if you’re frequently working with large files. 

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

best cloud storage - Microsoft OneDrive's homepage

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

4. Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage

Built-in cloud storage for Windows 10

Free tier: 5GB | Storage capacity: 6TB | Number of devices: 30

Free with Microsoft Office 365
Lets you edit files without downloading them first 
Lacks advanced features

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 to store precious 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’ve set up the platform, it will perform as described with no further effort or stress on your part.

The service is very well integrated into Windows. In its essence, it enablesyou 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.

best cloud storage - Google Drive's homepage

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

5. Google Drive cloud storage

All-in-one solution powered by G Suite

Free tier: 15GB | Storage capacity: 2TB | Number of devices: Unlimited

15GB of free storage
Android and Chromebook integration
The web interface can be a little complicated

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 Google Workplace. 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 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, 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 cloud storage - Dropbox's homepage

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

6. Dropbox

A leader in file sharing over the cloud

Max storage: 3TB | Encryption: In-Transit and At Rest

Easy file-sharing
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 platform is a leader in file sharing, with several features that make it easy to share large files with other people, no matter whether they use Dropbox or not. 

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

Security is impressive without being exceptional. All files are encrypted at rest and in transit, but there is no end-to-end encryption. Accounts can also be secured with two-factor authentication. 

We think you could do much worse than Dropbox for your cloud storage solution. You can read our Dropbox review for more details.

How to choose a cloud storage service for business

Choosing a cloud storage provider for your business is similar to selecting one for personal use, with a few crucial differences. A professional cloud storage system will need to be highly secure and stable, ensuring your data is protected at all times. It will also need advanced collaborative features to ensure you can provide your employees with seamless digital workflows that increase productivity and facilitate deep collaboration. Powerful administrative features are also a plus, particularly for medium- and large-sized organizations.

Security is crucial for enterprise cloud storage systems, particularly if you operate in a privacy-sensitive industry. Cybercrime is a constant threat to businesses, so investing in a provider with state-of-the-art security policies is a non-negotiable. The best providers protect not only the data but also the infrastructure that houses it. 

To protect data integrity and privacy, you should look for a service providing end-to-end encryption, or AES 256-bit encryption at rest as an absolute minimum. Zero-knowledge architecture, which prevents the provider from accessing your data, even if compelled to by law enforcement, is another plus. 

However, business customers also need to consider the physical security of data because all cloud data is stored on a server somewhere. Consequently, data can be compromised if an unauthorized person was to access this server. To protect against this risk, the best cloud storage providers employ security guards 24/7. Most data centers also have strict requirements for entry, including compulsory biometric authorisation. 

For most businesses, the location of a data center will influence your choice of StaaS provider. By location, we generally mean the country in which the data center is located. 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. 

For example, the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe has increased businesses’ responsibility for the customer data they manage, and may influence the cloud storage provider you choose. 

Your cloud storage platform should come with administrator controls that enable you or your IT staff to manage access to the system and audit system usage. Think two-factor authentication, roles-based permissions, and auditing capabilities. These features will go a long way in ensuring you get the most out of the system. They also further enhance data security.

In addition to simple data storage, most business leaders invest in a cloud storage solution so that employees can work collaboratively on important documents, with changes appearing instantly across all connected devices. This is also referred to as cloud sync technology and is now a core component of most StaaS products. 

Therefore, look for a provider that includes both cloud storage and cloud syncing capabilities. This will enable you to increase productivity and streamline workflows.

Best business cloud storage solutions

Best cloud storage - 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

Max storage capacity: Unlimited | Encryption: End-to-end

End-to-end encryption with Personal Vault
Best-in-class integration with Microsoft 365
Less impressive as a standalone product 

Microsoft OneDrive is the perfect cloud storage platform for businesses that already use the Microsoft 365 suite of applications. Integration across a vast range of applications, such as Word, Excel, Teams, and SharePoint, enables users to collaborate dynamically and makes OneDrive our choice for the best cloud storage platform for business.

One of the platform’s greatest strengths is that it is both a cloud storage platform and a cloud syncing platform. Update a document on one device and the changes will automatically appear on other devices, including those of colleagues and collaborators. File versioning, tracked changes, and link sharing all operate seamlessly alongside OneDrive’s core functionalities, strengthening OneDrive’s credentials as the top cloud storage platform for businesses.

Security is another strength. Although AES 256-bit encryption is applied to all data at rest, Microsoft goes further with the Personal Vault, a subfolder that provides unlimited end-to-end encryption for all business customers. Data is backed up across several servers, so you can be confident data stored in OneDrive 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 also easy, with administrators able to enforce two-factor authentication and periodic password changes.

Read our full Microsoft OneDrive for Business review.

Best cloud storage - IDrive's homepage

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

2. IDrive

The best choice for server and device backup

Max storage: 12.5TB | Encryption: end-to-end

Options for end-to-end encryption
High-capacity storage options
Minimal cloud-syncing capabilities

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. 

Strengths include file versioning and file snapshots, as well as business-specific features such as user management and activity logs. Security is also a strength; business leaders can choose whether to employ end-to-end encryption or standard encryption. 

Speaking of collaborative features, this is an area where IDrive doesn’t excel. It simply doesn’t integrate with third-party platforms in the same way as competitors such as Microsoft OneDrive or Nextcloud. 

IDrive is instead oriented towards businesses that want high-capacity storage that is highly secure and able to back up several servers and devices simultaneously. Likewise, if your employees need access to a lot of static data, with less emphasis on collaborative editing features, then it is certainly one of the best cloud storage platforms for you.

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.

best cloud storage - Dropbox Business' homepage

Dropbox is one of Y Combinator's most successful properties to date (Image credit: Dropbox)

3. Dropbox business cloud storage

Unlimited storage for large businesses

Max file size: 100GB | Free trial: 30 days | Available storage per user:: Unlimited

Intuitive user interface
Feature-rich file sharing
Selective synchronization
No full device backup option 

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.

To find out more, read our Dropbox Business review.

Best cloud storage - 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

Max storage: potentially unlimited | Encryption: fully customizable

 affordable if you maintain on-prem storage infrastructure
best-in-class configurability
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. For businesses looking for an innovative and self-hosted cloud storage solution, Nextcloud is likely the best platform for you. 

Nextcloud enables business leaders to connect their on-prem storage infrastructure to a local area network (LAN). This creates what is essentially a private cloud. There are several benefits to such a system, as well as a few potential negatives. 

The benefits include enhanced control over security because you will always know exactly where your data is stored (on-prem). In technical terms, it reduces the attack surface area. 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 organization’s specific needs. 

Another strength of Nextcloud is the wide range of open-source software applications you can integrate 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 such as Microsoft, who offer extensive cross-platform integrations. 

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

Read our Nextcloud review.

best cloud storage - Backblaze's homepage

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

5. BackBlaze business cloud storage

Minimal solution offering encrypted backups

Max file size: Unlimited | Free trial: 15 days | Available storage per user: Unlimited

Unlimited storage space
No limits on individual file size
Super easy to set up 
Web interface is basic
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 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. 

Read our full BackBlaze review.

best cloud storage - Tresorit's homepage

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

6. Tresorit business cloud storage

Zero-knowledge service with a focus on security

Max file size: 10GB | Free trial: 14 days | Available storage per user: 1TB

Timed free trial
Extremely secure
Lots of options for enterprise users 
No add-ons or extensions 

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 a month when billed annually. This plan offers up to 1TB of storage space per user for three to nine users. The business plan is available for $24 per 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, but you’ll have to contact them for the pricing on that one. 

Read our full Tresorit review.

best cloud storage - SpiderOak's homepage

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

7. SpiderOak business cloud storage

Secure and straightforward encrypted cloud storage

Max files size: Unlimited | Free trial: 21 days | Available storage per user: 5TB | Encryption: End-to-end

Secure and encrypted storage
Clients for different platforms 
Limited free trial

SpiderOak One Backup is a multi-purpose cloud platform with a close to best-in-class security framework. The platform 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. 

End-to-end encryption is standard for all data managed on the platform, which is a standout feature. Few other platforms provide this. This kind of zero-knowledge architecture means no one at SpiderOak can access your company’s data, even if compelled by law enforcement.

If you’re looking for a highly secure and reliable cloud storage solution, you will do well to consider SpiderOak’s offerings.

Read our full SpiderOak review.

What you need to know about free cloud storage 

Thanks to the fierce competition among major cloud storage providers, many companies 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. 

The best free cloud storage

Best cloud storage - 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

Max storage: 12.5TB | Encryption: end-to-end

 Back up an unlimited number of drives and devices
 End-to-end encryption 
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 apps aren’t the most impressive, but perform as described. The web app is surprisingly useful and makes it easy to manage your various backups. 

IDrive offers high-capacity plans of up to 12.5TB, although these are expensive and are mostly oriented towards business customers. Nonetheless, if you’re a photographer, video editor, or pretty much anyone managing a lot of data, IDrive should be one of your top considerations. 

Editor’s note: IDrive is currently offering 5TB of storage for a hugely discounted price of $6.95 for the first year. This is the most affordable high-capacity plan we’ve ever seen.

Best cloud storage - OneDrive's homepage

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

2. Microsoft OneDrive

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

Max storage: 6TB | Encryption: end-to-end

Available in a Microsoft 365 bundle or as a standalone product
Impressive apps across all operating systems
Minimal backup functionalities

For personal use, we think Microsoft OneDrive is a great cloud storage option. 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’ve set up the platform, 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. If you want to subscribe to Microsoft 365, it costs $59.99 per year for a single user, or $79.99 per year for a family of up to six users.

Best cloud storage - Dropbox's homepage

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

3. Dropbox

A leader in file sharing over the cloud

Max storage: 3TB | Encryption: in transit and at rest

 Easy file-sharing
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 platform is a leader in file sharing, with several features that make it easy to share large files with other people, no matter whether they use Dropbox or not. 

However, one limitation of the platform is that you can’t back up external or network drives to your account. Dropbox only stores what you transfer to the Dropbox folder on your device. This isn’t a major issue, but differentiates the platform from competitors such as iDrive. 

Security is impressive without being exceptional. All files are encrypted at rest and in transit, but there is no end-to-end encryption. Accounts can also be secured with two-factor authentication. 

We think you could do much worse than Dropbox for your cloud storage solution. 

best cloud storage - Mega's homepage is a very popular cloud storage company based in New Zealand (Image credit: Mega)

4. Mega free cloud storage

Controversial, but very secure

Free storage: 50GB | Maximum file size: Unlimited

Client is easy to navigate
Generous free plan
Open-source client for file syncing 
Business support is barebones
Limited compatibility with third-party apps
No collaboration support 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. He 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.

Read our full Mega review for more details.

Best cloud storage - pCloud's homepage

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

5. pCloud

A reliable platform, but not particularly inspiring

Max storage: 2TB | Encryption: in transit and at rest

Lifetime purchase possible
Drive backup included
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 a cloud storage platform, pCloud is the best choice for you. 

However, pCloud does itself a disservice with a confusing pricing model. The lifetime and subscription-based prices are easy to understand, but the 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 servers and devices easy. There are typical features such as file versioning, file recovery, and link sharing. There are also some innovative features such as automatic upload of content shared to social media. 

In sum, we like pCloud because it balances third-party software integration with admirable backup features. However, it isn’t a leader in either category. 

Read our full pCloud review.

Best cloud storage - iCloud's homepage

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

6. Apple iCloud free cloud storage

Apple users’ favorite cloud storage service

Free storage: 5GB | Maximum file size: Unlimited

Reasonable prices on premium plans
Natively built into Apple products 
No official client for Android devices
Lacks advanced features
Power users may be disappointed 

If you use both 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 operating systems, nothing comes close to iCloud in terms of integration, functionality, and ease of use. The platform 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, 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. 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 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.

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

Read our full Apple iCloud review for more details.

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage is somewhat of a misnomer because there isn’t actually a cloud where data is stored. The term “cloud storage” refers to a storage model in which information is stored on a physical drive, but is made available to users via a software platform. This platform requires an internet connection and enables users to access stored files whenever they want them, from any connected device. 

Cloud storage systems can be self-hosted, using on-prem infrastructure, or externally managed using third-party infrastructure. This buying guide focuses exclusively on externally managed cloud storage providers, with the exception of Nextcloud. The service these companies provide is referred to as Storage as a Service (StaaS). 

There are several distinct benefits to purchasing a StaaS product.

Because StaaS providers manage expansive data centers with advanced storage infrastructure, they achieve an economy of scale and can provide large amounts of storage space at affordable prices. Compared to self-hosted cloud storage, StaaS products will almost always be more affordable on a per TB basis. 

Although cloud storage might not theoretically be as secure as local storage (because it is by definition a networked system), most providers nonetheless employ cutting-edge security frameworks. 

End-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture make the leading cloud storage providers almost hack-proof. 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. Likewise, zero-knowledge architecture and end-to-end encryption mean no one, not even employees of your cloud storage provider, can access your data. 

StaaS providers also ensure their data centers are secure. Expect 24/7 security guards, biometric authorization for site-entry, and frequent security auditing. 

In 2020, there is no reason to let security concerns deter you from using a cloud storage service for both personal and professional use.

Most cloud storage platforms are designed for collaboration, and most can in fact be described as both cloud storage and cloud syncing platforms. They enable users to upload and access data from any connected device and facilitate seamless sharing of files between colleagues. In 2020, with so many of us working from home, we all rely on cloud infrastructure in one way or another. 

The most common collaborative features you’ll find on a cloud storage platform include file versioning, which enables users to track changes to a document and easily visualize edits made by colleagues, and link sharing, which makes it easy to share documents far and wide. 

Suffice to say for now that cloud storage offers a much more integrated and cohesive digital environment than static, on-prem storage solutions. This is true whether you’re using a self-hosted cloud platform such as Nextcloud, or a leading StaaS product such as Microsoft OneDrive.

  • khelban
    The free 50GB that Zoolz offers is a 14 day trial.
    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.