Best Cloud Storage Services

The Best Cloud Storage Services in 2021

Last updated on April 5, 2021

In a world where most of us snap photos daily, download huge files and work from home as standard, there’s rarely enough space on our devices to contain all the documents we need (or want) to keep.

What’s more, as we jump between computers and phones, we want the latest versions of files and folders to follow us – and if these devices get broken or stolen, to know we can restore our documents, too. That means backing up and storing files in the cloud.

The Best Cloud Storage at a Glance

BrandBest ForPriceVisit
pCloud
Military-grade encryptionStarting from $175 (one-off fee)Visit pCloud
Google DriveFree cloud storageFree up to 15GBVisit Google Drive
Microsoft OneDriveMicrosoft Office usersStarting from $6.99/monthVisit Microsoft One Drive
iDrive Automatic backups to cloud storage 
Starting from $149.25 (for 2 years)Visit iDrive
IceDriveUnbreakable securityStarting from $59 (one off payment)Visit IceDrive

What is Cloud Storage and Why Use it

Cloud storage involves uploading files and folders to a remote server, hosted online. This means you can delete the files from your hard drive to free up space. However, the best cloud storage providers can also sync selected files, so that when you work on the document on your computer and save it, it also updates in the cloud – and on any other linked, synced devices.

Other cloud storage providers let you work on documents through web apps, so they never need to be downloaded. Combining cloud storage with collaboration tools is great for value and productivity. However, it also means one of the biggest headaches when choosing a cloud storage provider is second-guessing what your clients or other collaborators might use.

Best Cloud Storage Services

pCloud – Best cloud storage with military-grade encryption

Storage: 500GB | 2TB

What We Like

There’s no upper limit for file size or speed, and built-in video and audio players help you view all kinds of files without downloading them. You can set up auto-upload of your camera roll, and can backup from Instagram, Facebook, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox. There’s a data recovery tool and file versioning, giving you the chance to restore previous versions of any document for up to 30 days.

You can share links to files with non-users and they with you, without accessing your account, via a file request upload link. There’s even a feature to add your branding to any links you share, to give it a professional sheen.

Your files are secured with military-grade encryption and TLS/SSL channel protection. pCloud stores 5 copies of your files on different servers, just in case. If you’re super worried about privacy or need to store sensitive files, you can splash out $125 for pCloud Crypto, which allows you to encrypt certain files, which can only be unlocked with a decryption key.

The Downsides

While you can preview documents online, you can’t edit them, so you’ll need to download or sync them whenever you want to work on anything.

Best Pricing Plan

Whereas most cloud storage providers charge a monthly or yearly subscription, pCloud also offers a one-off fee option. This looks expensive at first glance, but if you keep using the service for years, $175 for 500 GB or $350 for 2 TB starts to look very reasonable. Especially compared to something like DropBox, which charges around $99 per person per year for 1TB.

Visit pCloud

Google Drive – Best for free cloud storage

Storage: 15 GB

What We Like

Google Drive is the best cloud storage option for frequent users of cloud-based Google tools, as it integrates seamlessly with Docs, Sheets, etc. You can edit and collaborate on documents as you go, and that kind of convenience is a huge draw.

The Downsides

Google Drive has a clunky interface, especially when previewing photos and videos. There are lots of buggy annoyances. Making copies of documents or moving things from place to place is fiddly. File and folder permissions are easy to mess up as things get reorganized. And when you have problems, it’s not like you can contact support.

If you’re privacy-conscious, think carefully about hosting all your documents with Google – especially for free. Unless you remember to log out, Google keeps tracking you and could potentially connect the picture it’s building with your private documents.

Best Pricing Plan

Google Drive is free up to 15GB, but you can upgrade by switching to a Google Workspace account. This includes all Google’s tools, business email and 150 video calls + recordings. The best-value plan is $12/month, which gives you 2 TB of storage.

Visit Google Drive

Microsoft OneDrive – Best for Microsoft Office users

Storage: 100 GB | 1TB

What We Like

OneDrive is great for editing documents in real-time, online, without having to download or sync anything. This makes real-time collaboration a breeze.

However, it does of course mean you always have to be connected to the internet to do anything. Luckily the system allows for that, giving you the option to make files available offline and sync them between all devices. Just remember to do this before you get cut off from the internet. You can also set up automatic file backups and save your camera roll to the cloud.

Depending on the plan you choose, security features include the ability to set up password protection and time-limited access on files you share with others, to restore files for up to 30 days if they are accidentally deleted or corrupted, and to get ransomware protection and alerts, including the ability to return encrypted files to an earlier state. You also get a personal vault for your most sensitive files, requiring identity verification to access them. The great thing about this is that you can use your phone or other devices to scan important documents directly to the personal vault and continue to access them on any device you like, but they remain completely secure – you will need your fingerprint, facial recognition, or a code to unlock them.

The Downsides

Note that many of the best security features are only available if you opt for a Microsoft365 subscription, with OneDrive included (see the pricing plan information below).

Best Pricing Plan

If you just want the storage, you can get 100 GB super cheap for $1.99 per month. There’s a free cloud storage option, too, but you only get 5GB of storage, so it’s not really worth it.

However, the best value option is to pay $6.99 per month for the complete Microsoft365 package. Even better, pay $69.99 per year, which gives you the equivalent of two months free. This includes 1TB of storage, but also gives you the complete suite of Microsoft Office products, plus Skype. Oh, and if there’s more than one of you, you can pay $9.99 per month / $99 per year for up to 6 people, all of whom will get 1TB of storage each.

Visit Microsoft OneDrive

iDrive – Best for automatic backups

Storage:  5TB | 10TB

What We Like

iDrive offers the most cloud storage of just about any individual subscription we’ve seen and at a very reasonable annual price. You can also back up from as many devices you like, including Windows PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

One thing we love about iDrive is that, even though the system is constantly backing up everything on your device, deleting a file on your device won’t delete it from the cloud storage. This removes the risk that you’ll accidentally lose something permanently while clearing up space on your hard drive – or that someone with shared access to a file tries to delete it just for themselves, but deletes it for everyone in the process.

Even better, iDrive syncs to the latest version of each file, meaning you can always get to the most up-to-date copy online or from wherever, but also keeps up to 30 past versions archived. As someone who has had important shared files inadvertently overwritten by a colleague in the past, this would certainly give me peace of mind.

Plus, if you were ever to really mess up, you can request a physical hard drive of all your backed-up data, allowing you to restore all those files much faster than downloading 10 TB all over again.

The Downsides

There’s no escaping the fact that iDrive looks like it was designed in 1997. It’s also primarily aimed at business users, meaning that some of its support resources and how-to guides can feel a bit intimidating if you’re not an IT girl (or boy).

Also, one downside of iDrive backing up up every version of every file rather than overwriting them permanently is that 1TB of data can end up being several terabytes of backed up data. Some customers say they were not warned of this or told they had exceeded their 5TB limit (for example, after backing up a 4TB hard drive) and were simply hit by hefty overcharges.

Best Pricing Plan

The cheapest option right now is to pay for two years upfront, which gives you 50% off the first year. This will set you back $149.25, auto-renewing for $199 at the end of the two years.

Visit iDrive

IceDrive – Best for unbreakable security

Storage:  150GB | 1TB | 2TB

What We Like

IceDrive is great for use with mobile devices and uses a client-side type of encryption that’s even stronger than the military-grade AES encryption types favored by most cloud storage providers. Everything, right down to your file names, is encrypted, so no one can ever access your files but you.

There’s a great interface and native media player built-in too, making it easy to navigate, organize and view your files. It’s also designed around backups, rather than file syncing, which means it won’t dent your device performance or take as long to back up your files as a result.

The Downsides

One thing that does make us nervous about IceDrive is the way the team deals with customers that complain. Negative reviews on public forums are met with personal insults or flat-out denials, which doesn’t bode well if you ever have a problem and need to contact their support team.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of companies cease trading – a couple of cloud storage providers that attracted glowing reviews a few years ago no longer exist today, in fact. While this isn’t a reflection on the quality of IceDrive’s offering, it is still a young company and you may want to take that into account before you put all your eggs in one basket (especially if you’re paying upfront for a lifetime subscription).

Best Pricing Plan

IceDrive offers three sizes of storage plans for individual users: 150 GB, 1TB and 5TB. At $499, the biggest of these is a hefty one-time payment, but depending on how much data you have to back up and protect, a one-off payment of $59 or even $149 is incredibly reasonable.

Visit IceDrive

Conclusion

While there are some excellent low cost and free cloud storage options out there, remember that changing providers once you’ve backed everything up is an enormous hassle.

It’s important to consider not just the price tag but also how the service will reflect your priorities. Are you looking for easier ways to collaborate on and share work between members of a team? Are you primarily worried about the privacy and security of the cloud? Are you just looking for an enormous depository to offload image and/or video files into, but won’t need to use these on a regular basis? Think very carefully about what you need and pick the cloud storage service that’s the best fit.

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