A cloud storage provider is a company that lets you store your data on the cloud (itself a collection of servers located in a remote data center) in exchange for a fee.
What makes cloud storage awesome is the fact that you can access your data from anywhere in the world as long as you’re connected to the internet. Data stored on the cloud is protected and maintained by your storage provider, thus also keeping it safe from physical damage or third-party intrusion.
The best cloud storage providers are fast and secure. They are also easy to use, with an intuitive interface that lets you manage your stored data from a distance. Some cloud storage companies even throw in an array of additional features, including enhanced security via two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption, as well as file versioning and file retention.
Finding the right cloud storage and backup solution for personal use is hard, which is why we have put together this buying guide. Here, we have analyzed the best personal cloud storage solutions available in the market to help you figure out the right choice.
What are the best personal cloud storage solutions?
In our view, the best personal cloud storage solution right now is IDrive. The cloud storage provider combines excellent features, like continuous file syncing and drag-and-drop restore, with a license that works for an unlimited number of devices per user - making it the perfect choice for home users who own many devices. It also offers file versioning and file retention.
However, if you’d rather not pay for a monthly subscription and want to purchase a cloud storage service with a one-time fee, the best - and perhaps only - option that you have is pCloud. It comes with a large number of useful features, including file versioning and link sharing. pCloud’s one-time fees are expensive, but considering you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee, they actually come pretty cheap in the long run.
Then, of course, there are the cloud storage solutions offered by tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Google Drive is especially handy if you plan to make use of the company’s free online productivity tools like Docs, Sheets, or Slides. For people who prefer to work offline using Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, Microsoft OneDrive might be a better solution. Apple users will love seamless integration with iCloud, the company’s built-in cloud storage service.
The best personal cloud storage solutions you can buy today
IDrive is a robust and flexible cloud storage and backup solution that lets you upload data from all your devices and store it in a single account on the cloud. It offers an array of plans for personal, business, and enterprise users. IDrive is functional on a range of devices running Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
IDrive offers continuous file syncing for data stored on all your storage devices, including network drives. There’s a drag-and-drop restore feature that lets you recover important files that may have been accidentally deleted. IDrive automatically retains up to 30 previous versions of all files stored on its servers, so it’s very easy to roll back any alterations if you change your mind. And 256-bit AES encryption keeps your files safe from prying eyes.
A few other interesting features include a facial recognition service for images, support for unlimited devices per user, and a centralized dashboard to manage all your devices. The only downside to IDrive is the slightly outdated user interface (UI), which is scheduled to receive an update in the near future.
IDrive comes with a free basic plan that offers 5GB of online storage. Once you run out of that space, you can upgrade to a premium plan for $69.50 (5TB) and $99.50 (10TB) per year. The pricing is quite reasonable, but tends to get more expensive as you explore higher-tier plans for business and enterprise users.
pCloud is the only cloud storage solution that offers a lifetime subscription plan for its users, meaning no monthly fees. It is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, and as a browser extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
pCloud supports file versioning and file retention to recover accidentally deleted files on your devices and the cloud. It also offers a simple link-sharing feature for those who are interested in collaborating with other users. pCloud uses TLS/SSL channel protection and 256-bit AES encryption for all files. Previous versions of all files can be restored up to 30 days in the past.
With pCloud, there’s no limit on individual file size. There’s also a built-in audio and video player that can be used to stream files directly from the cloud. Another great feature is the ability to sync backups from other cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. pCloud can also synchronize photos and documents uploaded to social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram.
pCloud’s single-user plans cost $175 for 500GB and $350 for 2TB. These plans are one-off purchases, without the need for recurring fees or monthly subscriptions. If you need your cloud storage provider to support more than one user, pCloud also has family plans for up to five users for a one-time fee of $500.
Google Drive is the official cloud storage solution built into Android OS and integrated with productivity apps like Google Docs. If you own a smartphone running Android or prefer using tools like Google Docs and Sheets, Google Drive should be your first choice. Its downloadable client is available on both Windows and macOS, and mobile apps can be installed on Android and iOS.
Google Drive’s interface is clean and intuitive, if a little complicated for beginners. This is because the cloud storage platform also provides a slew of free and paid tools to enhance your productivity at work. With these tools, you can create, edit, view, and delete files directly from the cloud dashboard.
Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage to all new users. For now, you can sync an unlimited number of high-definition photos from your smartphone to Google Photos, and they don’t count towards your total storage. However, Google is changing its policy to include photos in users’ primary storage starting June 1, 2021.
Once you have exhausted the 15GB of free storage offered with Google Drive, you can upgrade to one of its many paid plans via Google One. These plans start at $1.99 per month for 100GB and go all the way up to $299.99/month for 30TB. Subscribers who are keener on using Google’s productivity suite for business reasons can also subscribe directly to Google Workspace, which also comes with cloud storage and starts at $6/user/month.
Microsoft OneDrive is the perfect cloud storage platform for users of Windows 10 and Microsoft 365. You can even use it to store video game save files on your Xbox. Additional clients are available for devices running macOS, Android, and iOS.
Where Google Drive has Google Workspace, OneDrive comes bundled with the online and offline productivity suite Microsoft 365. This package includes familiar productivity tools for home and office usage - such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint - which can be used to create, edit, and view files directly from the cloud.
A standout feature for Microsoft OneDrive is its ability to play well with both native and third-party applications, such as Outlook or AutoCAD. There’s also a personal vault feature that lets you store essential files safely behind two-factor authentication.
OneDrive comes with just 5GB of free storage, significantly less than competitors like Google Drive. However, you can easily upgrade to a premium plan with 100GB storage for just $1.99 a month. For even more storage, it’s possible to purchase a subscription to Microsoft 365 for $69.99 for personal use and $99.99 for family per year.
iCloud is the native cloud storage service offered by Apple on devices running macOS, iOS, and iPadOS. If you’re someone who uses Apple devices and doesn’t intend to migrate to Windows or Android anytime soon, iCloud might be the cloud storage provider for you. Because it’s built and managed by Apple, iCloud offers seamless integration and superb ease of use on any of the company’s devices.
iCloud doesn’t impose any limitations on individual file size. Moreover, any items purchased from the iTunes Store - be it songs, apps, or games - can be stored on its servers for free without counting towards your storage limit. For security, Apple offers 128-bit AES encryption and two-factor authentication to all users.
iCloud automatically backs up all data from your Apple devices onto its servers. You can also use a specialized service called iCloud Drive to store specific files on the cloud. iCloud is integrated to iWork, a productivity suite that - while not as extensive as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 - still works really well on devices from Apple.
Apple iCloud comes with just 5GB of free storage. However, you can easily upgrade to one of the paid plans for $0.99 a month for 50GB, or all the way up to $9.99 a month for 2TB.
How to choose the best personal cloud storage solution for you?
If you just want a powerful cloud-based service for backups and storage, IDrive and pCloud both offer excellent security, powerful features, and long-term affordability for personal users. However, IDrive requires a month-to-month subscription, whereas pCloud charges a one-off fee.
On the other hand, users who want more out of their cloud storage provider, such as a built-in productivity suite, should opt for Google Workspace or Microsoft OneDrive. The latter is preferred by the offline crowd who use Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, whereas online-based users tend to prefer Google’s offering.
If you use Apple devices only, however, iCloud should without a doubt be your first preference. The cloud storage service is not only flawlessly integrated with Apple operating systems, but also comes with its own lightweight productivity suite.