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Best cloud storage in 2021

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

Choosing the best cloud storage service for your important files is a tough task, thanks to a competitive sector. If you know what to look for before you start, though, it can be so much simpler!

It's worth trying to find a cloud storage and backup provider that offers you the scope for future growth, and with most services offering not only personal or premium plans but also free and business packages, the right choice at the start could be beneficial and optimal going forward.

Our advice is to keep your needs in mind at all times, and we recommend considering affordability, versatility, and storage capacity and file size limits, as well as cloud storage security, a given providers' ease of use, the customer support they offer, and any additional or specific features you might need.

In our guide below, we've ranked and reviewed the best cloud storage premium plans. These sit between the best cloud storage for business and free cloud storage, offering some top-level features like file syncing and high-standard secure cloud systems for reasonable prices, for smaller businesses and individuals.

We begin by exploring and explaining what cloud storage is, and then evaluate and interrogate top premium services against the key areas identified earlier. Read on, and let us help you find the best cloud storage provider for your storage needs!

What is cloud storage?

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Cloud storage stores data on a physical drive, and makes it accessible online for users via software from any internet-connected device, whenever and wherever a user wants to access them: hence the term "cloud". Some users utilize multiple cloud services in what is called a multi-cloud service.

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Self-hosted cloud storage works by using on-premises (on-prem) infrastructure to provide storage, rather than managed, remotely-based servers. You need to manage these types of services yourself.

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Storage as a service (StaaS) uses externally managed, third-party infrastructure and data centers, and offers large, affordable amounts of online storage. Designed for collaboration, they can also be described as storage and syncing platforms.

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Hybrid cloud storage combines cloud and local storage (or public and private storage) together to give you the benefits of both types. This is aimed more at businesses than individuals.

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Cloud sync technology encompasses link sharing and file versioning, and is offered by many StaaS providers, allowing larger businesses to undertake inter-colleague collaboration, file sharing, and much more.


The top 3 best cloud storage solutions available

IDrive: the best cloud storage available

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.

Google Drive: high-performing, seamlessly integrated

Google Drive: high-performing, seamlessly integrated
Google Drive's wealth of useful tools elevate it beyond cloud storage. Slick apps and tight integration with Google Workspace make it easy to fit into workflows, while seamless integration with third-party apps and swift performance make it an easy sell.

Dropbox: affordable and the file sharing leader

Dropbox: affordable and the file sharing leader
Dropbox remains one of the leading premium cloud storage solutions, with a simple dashboard ensuring it remains easy to use. In turn, the freedom to choose third-party apps for integration should not be underestimated in comparison to its competitors.

Which is the best cloud storage service?

IDrive is top of the best cloud storage premium solutions, as it offers great value for money throughout a range of highly secure plans. It's also the best free cloud storage, the best cloud storage for photos, and the best personal cloud storage

Google Drive provides leading integrations with Google Workspace and slick mobile and desktop apps, while Dropbox continues to be one of the best cloud storage solutions thanks to its ease-of-use, as well as its third-party app integrations.

Microsoft OneDrive provides integration with Microsoft 365, premium plans for individuals, families, and businesses; Zoolz' high-quality cloud storage boasts excellent security, a great free trial, and 24/7 support; and pCloud competes with the industry giants via a lifetime subscription across family and business plans, secure file-sharing, and widespread app support across mobile and desktop platforms.

The best cloud storage providers, compared
Cloud storage platformLowest-priced planStorage capacityNumber of devicesEncryption
IDrive$79.50 a year (IDrive Personal)Up to 10TB (up to 50TB for business plans)UnlimitedEnd-to-end
Google Drive$199 a month (Google One)Up to 2TBUnlimitedEncrypted transfer
Dropbox$11.99 a month (Plus)Up to 5TBUnlimitedIn-transit and at-rest
Zoolz$9.99 (1TB plan)Up to 50TBUnlimitedEnd-to-end
Microsoft OneDrive$1.99 a month (OneDrive Standard)Up to 6TB30AES 256-bit
pCloud$4.99 a month (Premium)Up to 2TBUnspecifiedIn-transit and at-rest

Check out these exclusive cloud storage deals:

Get Backblaze for free with every ExpressVPN purchase

Get Backblaze for free with every ExpressVPN purchase
ExpressVPN, Tom’s Guide’s #1 VPN provider, is offering free unlimited cloud backup courtesy of Backblaze for a whole year with its annual subscription. Secure, business-grade online backup for everyone, no strings attached.

Backup bundles and much more from Zoolz

Backup bundles and much more from Zoolz

For a limited time only, until 31st December, Zoolz is offering its Ultimate Backup Bundle for just $54.99 a year!, including the G Cloud mobile backup Unlimited plan (usually $59.99 a year), the Polarbackup cold storage Home Unlimited plan, and the Genie Timeline Home local backup service.

In addition, G Cloud’s three annual plans have 75% off, and enable backup of multiple Android and Apple mobile devices to one account. The Polarbackup Home Unlimited plan is available for only $0.99 a month, offering one user and computer (PC and Mac) unlimited cold storage, and an upgrade to hot storage if needed.

Get lifetime cloud storage for less with Icedrive

Get lifetime cloud storage for less with Icedrive

Until 2nd December, Icedrive is offering huge discounts on its lifetime 3TB and 8TB Pro III and Pro VIII plans! You can get Pro III for $459 (usually $689), and Pro VIII for $799 (usually $1,119), and take advantage of responsive, drive-mounted storage to back up important files.

Carbonite: Get 40% off cloud storage

Carbonite: Get 40% off cloud storage
Until 31st December, get 40% off Carbonite's Safe backup cloud storage plans! This limited time deal covers Carbonite's Personal Basic, Plus, and Prime plans, respectively costing $4.17, $6, and $7.50 a month.


The best cloud storage premium solutions

IDrive logo

(Image credit: IDrive)

An excellent all-around choice for all users

Specifications
Storage capacity: Up to 10TB (up to 50TB for business plans)
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+Affordably priced
Reasons to avoid
-Unlimited storage isn’t available-No two-factor authentication-Slow download speeds

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 it. Personal plans that support one user and unlimited devices cost $59.62 a year ($79.50 on renewal) for 5TB or $74.62 a year ($99.50 on renewal) for 10TB of storage. IDrive is also currently offering 5TB for a hugely discounted price of $3.98 for the first year — one of the most affordable high-capacity plans available, though you need to prove you're using a competitor as part of the signup.

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.

Read our full IDrive personal cloud backup review, and our IDrive business review.

IDrive's pricing plans
FreePersonalTeam**Business**
Cost per month/yearFree$5.79* / $79.50$8.29* / $99.50$8.29* / $99.50
Storage capacity5GB5TB5TB250GB
Number of usersOneOneFiveUnlimited
File versioning✔ (30 versions)✔ (30 versions)✔ (30 versions)✔ (30 versions)

*All prices are based on the undiscounted rate of the cheapest available annual plan. Monthly plans are only available on Business plans with 1.25TB of storage or more, starting at $49.95 a month.
**Entry-level Team and Business plans shown: plans go up to 100TB and 100 users /  50TB and 50 users.

Google Drive logo

(Image credit: Google Drive)

All-in-one solution powered by Google Workspace

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

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, Google Drive’s UI is clean and intuitive. It is worth remembering, however, that this is more than cloud storage. 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 files via 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.

Read our full Google Drive review and our Drive Enterprise review.

Google Drive's pricing plans
Free100GB200GB2TB
Cost per month/yearFree$1.99 / $9.99$2.99 / $29.99$9.99 / $99.99
Storage capacity15GB100GB200GB2TB
Number of usersSixSixSixSix
File versioning✔ (30-days)✔ (30-days)✔ (30-days)✔ (30-days)

Dropbox logo

(Image credit: Dropbox)

A leader in file sharing over the cloud

Specifications
Storage capacity: Up to 5TB
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-Only a file storage service that allows for app integrations, unlike the competition

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).

It has a free plan with 2GB of storage, as well as two other personal plans. Of these, the Plus Plan is $9.99 a month for 2TB of storage, and enables you to send files up to 2GB per transfer. The Family Plan has the same storage and transfer capabilities, but for six individual users, for $16.99 a month. Despite its limitations, we think you could do much worse than Dropbox for cloud storage. 

Read our Dropbox review and our Dropbox Business review.

Dropbox's pricing plans
BasicPlusFamilyProfessionalStandardAdvanced
Cost per month/yearFree$11.99 / $119.88$19.99 / $203.88$19.99 / $1,198.96$15 / $150 (per user)$25 / $240 (per user)
Storage capacity2GB2TB2TB3TB5TBUnlimited
Number of usersOneOneSix (maximum)OneThree (minimum)Three (minimum)
File versioning✔ (30-days)✔ (30-days)✔ (180-days)✔ (180-days)✔ (180-days)

Zoolz logo

(Image credit: Zoolz)

A popular cloud backup platform with an excellent reputation

Specifications
Storage capacity: Up to 50TB
Number of devices: Unlimited
Encryption: End-to-end
Reasons to buy
+Streamlined platform with minimal system impact+Attractive, intuitive user interface+Smart file search across hybrid storage
Reasons to avoid
-No live backup options-Pricier than competitors-Clunky and frustrating mobile apps

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 our Zoolz BigMIND review.

Zoolz's pricing plans
1TB2TB5TB10TB20TB50TB
Cost per month/year$9.99 / $99.99$19.99 / $199.99$49.99 / $499.99$99.99 / $999.99$149.99 / $1,799.99$449.99 / $4,499.99
Storage capacity1TB 2TB5TB10TB20TB50TB
Number of usersUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
File versioning✔ (10 versions)✔ (10 versions)✔ (10 versions)✔ (10 versions)✔ (10 versions)✔ (10 versions)

OneDrive logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Built-in cloud storage for Windows 10

Specifications
Storage capacity: Up to 6TB
Number of devices: 30
Encryption: AES 256-bit
Reasons to buy
+Free with Microsoft 365+Integration with Microsoft and Windows+Comprehensive support
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks advanced features-No zero-knowledge encryption-Quite pricey

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. It's 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.

Read our full Microsoft OneDrive review and our OneDrive for Business review.

Microsoft OneDrive's pricing plans
OneDrive Basic 5GBOneDrive Standalone 100GBMicrosoft 365 PersonalMicrosoft 365 FamilyOneDrive for Business (Plan 1)OneDrive for Business (Plan 2)Microsoft 365 Business BasicMicrosoft 365 Business Standard
Cost per month/yearFree$1.99$6.99 / $69.99$9.99 / $99.99$5 (per user) / $60$10 (per user) / $120$5 (per user) / $60$12.50 (per user) / $150
Storage capacity5GB100GB1TB6TB1TB (per user)Unlimited1TB (per user)1TB (per user)
Number of usersOneOneOneUp to sixPotentially unlimitedPotentially unlimitedPotentially unlimitedPotentially unlimited
File versioning✔ (30-days)✔ (30-days)✔ (500 versions)✔ (500 versions)✔ (500 versions)✔ (500 versions)

pCloud logo

(Image credit: pCloud)

Secure storage with a lifetime subscription

Specifications
Storage capacity: Up to 2TB
Number of devices: Unspecified
Encryption: In transit and at rest
Reasons to buy
+Powerful media sharing and playback tools+Impressive lifetime license available+10GB free storage
Reasons to avoid
-Pricing options are very confusing-No document editor or collaboration options-Limited support

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. 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. On the flipside, it lacks competitors' collaboration tools, an in-built document editor, and a smoother interface.

Read our full pCloud review.

pCloud's pricing plans
FreePremiumPremium PlusFamilyBusiness
Cost per month / year / lifetimeFree$4.99 / $47.88 / $175$9.99 / $95.88 / $350$500 / $1,000 (lifetime only)$9.99 per user / $7.99 per user (no lifetime plan)
Storage capacity10GB500GB2TB2TB/4TB1TB per user
Number of usersOneOneOneUp to fiveUnlimited
File versioning✔ (15-day)✔ (30-day)✔ (30-day)✔ (30-day)✔ (180-day)

Cloud storage FAQs

How secure is cloud storage?

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When we compare on-prem vs cloud storage, or even cloud storage vs external hard disk drives, security is key. Cloud storage may not theoretically be as secure as local, but the best cloud storage uses cutting-edge security and encryption. So is cloud storage secure, how secure is it, and how does it protect your data?

When it comes to enterprises, cloud storage security is crucial, particularly in data and privacy-sensitive sectors, and so investing in secure cloud storage that offers state-of-the-art policies is non-negotiable. End-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture mean services are almost hack-proof, and that not even a provider's staff can access your data. 

In-transit and at-rest encryption mean that even in the unlikely event of a cybercriminal intercepting data, it would be indecipherable. The very best providers not only protect data, but infrastructure housing it. StaaS data centers have 24/7 security guards, biometric authorization for entry, and frequent security auditing. 

Data center locations are also key for most businesses, as different countries have different data privacy laws. You'll need to make sure data is stored in a nation that complies with your data privacy obligations.

The best cloud storage for business: what you need to know

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Identifying the best cloud storage for business means looking for highly stable, secure systems that protect data at all times. End-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture are particularly important, but also look for StaaS products, as they offer advanced cloud sync and collaborative features for seamless digital workflows, increased employee cooperation and productivity.

Powerful administrative features provided, such as access management, system auditing, 2FA, and roles-based permissions, are also worth keeping an eye out for, particularly for medium- and large-sized organizations.

What you need to know about free cloud storage 

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If you've got less complex storage requirements, or have a tight budget, most providers offer free plans. While less feature-rich, with smaller storage allowances and other limitations, they can be more than sufficient for personal needs. You can store important documents and images, but should you want more capacity, you'll have pay to upgrade. However, the advantage is that you can try out different platforms for free before you do.

How we review the best cloud storage

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When we review cloud storage providers, we test upload and download times for files, as these speeds are integral to performance and usage. We also look at how each provider's security stacks up, how responsive their customer service teams are when there's a problem, at pricing, and at any additional features offered.

Our comprehensive reviews also make a point of comparing each cloud storage service to competitors, across key features and pricing, so you can benefit from as much information as possible before you make your choice.


Next steps with cloud storage

Make sure to follow a cloud storage checklist when looking for a provider, and consider top factors when selecting online storage, as well as top tips for data backup and recovery. If you're unsure about the differences between cloud storage, cloud backup, and cloud sync, ensure you're well informed. 

If you're buying cloud storage on behalf of a small company, research the best cloud storage for small business, but also learn the top reasons you should use small business cloud solutions; find out why small businesses should use cloud services; and understand why a multi-cloud strategy benefits businesses.

Darcy French

Darcy is a freelance copywriter, and a candidate for the dual master's program between the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in France and Peking University in Beijing, China. His academic and professional areas of interest include human rights and development, sustainable agriculture and agroecology, Pacific Islands diplomacy, and Sino-Australian relations.

  • 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