Online Cloud Storage: Which One is Best?
Cloud storage is a flexible, off-site storage facility that you can access either via a private network or through the internet.
Documents, photographs, video and audio files can all be stored in the cloud, freeing up space on your device, and giving you a range of other benefits, like increased accessibility, sharing and collaboration tools, and greater scalability and flexibility. What’s more, it’s a lot cheaper than stocking up on hard drives, USB sticks, or even, for those with a fondness for the old school, a bunch of CDs.
Cloud storage offers a secure alternative to physical storage devices that are vulnerable to being dropped, broken, or damaged. Security is an important consideration when selecting the best cloud storage providers and the following four have all made it a priority, although each one has a range of other features that make it stand out from the crowd.
Best Paid Cloud Storage Providers
There are hundreds of cloud storage providers around, many of which offer free cloud storage options, although these are usually limited in terms of capacity, speed, or security. While some cloud storage providers focus on back-up and sync capabilities, others prioritize online collaboration tools.
Any cloud storage comparison also needs to weigh up each service’s integration capacity, media playback options, and secure sharing features. In other words, the best cloud storage service for one person may not be the best for another, depending on exactly what they want to use it for.
Nevertheless, the following four cloud storage providers are robust all-rounders, although some may be stronger in one sphere than another and others more suited to a restricted budget. Either way, they are, as far as we’re concerned, the best paid cloud storage services currently available so, without further ado, let’s announce our winners!
iDrive has a comprehensive set of cloud storage solutions, from a free service that gives you 5 GB of storage space, up to an enterprise solution that is designed to manage large numbers of users and meet the security standards set out by legislation like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
For home users, iDrive provides online cloud storage, continuous syncing, easing sharing on social media and via email, mobile apps, snapshots and versioning, and continuous data protection. Security measures include two-factor authentication (2FA) and 256-bit AES encryption for data both in transit and storage.
Any deleted files are stored in the trash folder for 30 days so are easy to retrieve, while the iDrive Express service, which comes as an optional extra, will send you a physical hard drive of all your data so you can quickly restore it to your allocated device.
With iDrive Docs, users can view or edit shared files, while its SmartDocs features means you can scan important documents like your passport, social security card, or driver’s license, and store the copies securely in the cloud. Not only that, but iDrive also uses Optical Character Recognition to create “an editable digital record of the document”.
Strong customer support enhances iDrive’s service, making it one of the best cloud storage providers, although it doesn’t have the same remote work tools or collaboration features of some of its rivals. iDrive’s prices, after its free 5GB offering, begin at $69.50 per year for 2TB, going up to $99.50 per year for 5TB. Few personal cloud storage providers offer this much space so, if you have a lot of large files you want backing up, iDrive is your best option.
Not only is Box one of the best free cloud storage providers, but it also includes a wide range of remote work tools and collaboration features. Box gives free users a generous 10 GB free storage and protects any data in the cloud with 256-bit AES encryption and a key-wrapping strategy that also utilizes 256-bit AES encryption. In transit, data is protected by the latest TLS encryption.
2FA is also available either in the app itself in the form of a one-time pin or by using a 2FA integrated service like Authy or Duo.
Box’s suite of online tools gives users the ability to create Microsoft Office documents online and edit files using Box Notes. It integrates with an impressive 1,400 different apps so you can maintain file consistency and automate your workflow across a variety of applications.
In addition to your Box cloud, this cloud storage provider offers a range of other tools, many of which are aimed more at their enterprise clients than their personal ones, but which nevertheless give home users the benefit of AI technologies that streamline file management and reduce security risks.
Box also has an in-built media player so users can store and stream movies, music, and audiobooks directly from the cloud. The biggest drawback of this cloud storage provider is that you must download an additional app, known as BoxSync if you want to access its backup and sync capabilities.
As a cloud storage solution, however, Box is secure and versatile, but not necessarily affordable. Although the 10GB free plan is generous, the next option up is 100GB for $11.49 per month which is double the cost of 1TB with iDrive. If you want more cloud storage space, you’ll have to consider a business plan which, at $16.43 per month, gives you unlimited cloud storage and a single upload limit of 5 GB.
If secure online cloud storage is your priority and you’re not too concerned about online collaboration, then pCloud is one of the most reliable and affordable cloud storage solutions. Based in Switzerland, pCloud exhibits the same commitment to user privacy as its host country is famous for. Its elegant user interface and clean design are also reminiscent of a Scandinavian approach to life.
pCloud uses the same 256-bit AES encryption and TLS protection as the other cloud storage providers we’ve already discussed. What sets it apart is its pCloud Crypto option that enables users to encrypt files on their devices so only encrypted versions are stored in the cloud. Zero-knowledge privacy means only the user who created the encryption key has access to that data.
Although pCloud is the best cloud storage option when it comes to security, it has little to offer in the way of collaboration. Users can give others access to their shared files and customize the type of access each one has according to the four tiers available – read, create, modify and delete. Users can also preview Office documents in the cloud but can’t edit them.
Uploading files is quick and easy with pCloud which uses block-level sync to boost speeds. pCloud also provides continuous back-ups and synchronization and stores previous versions of your files for up to 30 days.
As one of the few cloud storage providers still offering lifetime packages, pCloud manages to undercut many of its rivals, and lifetime access to 500GB of online cloud storage costs just $480, while an annual subscription costs $59.88, which is still excellent value for money. Meanwhile, pCloud’s Premium Plus plan will give you permanent access to 2 TB online cloud storage for just $980 or $119.88 per year.
Affordable and secure, pCloud is the best cloud storage option for users with a lot of sensitive data to protect. It’s not the best if you’re looking to create an online workspace, however.
#4 Google Drive
It’s hard to avoid Google Drive in any cloud storage comparison, largely because it’s fully integrated with a variety of third-party apps, from workflow management tools like Teamwork to the messaging service, Fleep. Additional tools like Google Photos, Slides, Sheets, and Docs mean you can work on Office files online and share them with others. Google Drive allows users to share publicly or privately and gives them the ability to set the level access so others can either view or edit those files.
Although the web interface isn’t as slick as the likes of pCloud, the drag and drop options make it easy enough to use. The biggest issue facing Google Drive is the lack of security. While the other providers in our list of the best cloud storage options use 256-bit AES encryption, Google Drive uses this only for data in transit, leaving the data in the cloud languishing shakily behind the less impressive 128-bit encryption.
Google Drive has introduced 2FA to boost security, but it’s also experienced data breaches that will make the more security conscious turn to the likes of pCloud every time. For those on a tight budget, however, Google Drive offers one of the most cost-effective online cloud storage solutions.
Every user gets 15 GB free online cloud storage space and, with the introduction of google One, can easily and cheaply upgrade to get more capacity. 100GB costs just $1.99 per month while 2TB is now just $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually. This capacity doesn’t even include files you create in Google Drive or files others have shared with you.
With streamlined mobile apps that are compatible with all common operating systems, Google Drive has gone far beyond simply being an automatic cloud storage provider for Android users, establishing itself as one of the best cloud storage solutions for storage and collaboration.
How to Choose the Best Cloud Storage Solution?
Performing a cloud storage comparison isn’t easy. The best cloud storage solution for security isn’t necessarily the same service that’s providing the best cloud storage for online collaboration. Having said that, there are a few features you should look out for when choosing your online cloud storage solution, including:
Automatic file syncing
You don’t want to have to manually upload every file to the cloud every time you make an adjustment, so automatic file syncing is a must, ensuring the data in your online cloud storage is up-to-date and consistent with the data on your device
This means you can access your in-cloud data from any device, be it an Android smartphone, an Apple tablet, or a Linux desktop
View and edit files
Edit a file in the cloud and have it updated across all your devices instantly
Share your work with others, and control their level of access to enable some to view your files and others to edit so you can work collaboratively online
Secure storage and encryption
How safe is cloud storage security? While Google Drive seems unwilling to let its 128-bit encryption go, most online cloud storage providers have switched to 256-bit AES encryption and galvanized it further with 2FA and additional encryption options. If you’re not sure what encryption is, check out this article.
Keep past versions of your work so you can revert to an earlier point should you wish to undo changes
Flexible and scalable storage
While you may start out only needing 5 GB of online cloud storage space, your needs could change so a cloud storage provider that can grow with you is ideal.
Free vs Paid Cloud Storage Solutions
If you just want to back up the data on your device and can squeeze it into just a few megabytes of online cloud storage space, a free service will probably suffice. The problem is, many free cloud storage services limit the space, download and upload speeds, access to online tools, and, in some cases, even the level of security. While they are an option, if you want to have complete flexibility and access to the latest online workplace tools, a paid cloud storage option is the only way.
If you’re not sure, you can always start with a free service, like Google Drive which will give you 15MB of online storage, and access to all its tools and features. Once you’ve given it a test drive, you can decide whether to upgrade or find an alternative cloud storage provider that offers better security for example.
Customer support services and troubleshooting options are also often scarce, if not non-existent with free cloud storage solutions which is all well and good while things are working seamlessly, but less ideal if you can’t access your cloud or if it suddenly burst and lost all your data.
Free cloud storage solutions are reliable enough but as always, you get what you pay for so you will have to accept some limitations if you do decide to go that route.
Cloud storage is the perfect place to keep back-ups of your most important files, treasured images, and favorite music. It reduces your dependency on physical storage options which are easily lost or damaged and means you can access information from multiple devices and locations.
Although there are some concerns about the safety of cloud storage, the best cloud storage providers, like iDrive and pCloud, for instance, use the latest, military-grade encryption and 2FA to protect your data, making it safer than anything you might store on a hard drive.
Not only do the best cloud storage services keep your data safe, but they also give you the ability to create and edit documents online and share them with others. Being able to work remotely has never been as important as it is today, and these features are worth looking out for when choosing the best cloud storage.
According to Forbes, not all cloud storage or cloud computing services are handling the additional burdens placed on them as a result of the COVID19 pandemic but believes the most cloud storage providers will cope. Having said that, a couple of days ago, Google announced that the outbreak could have “potential effects on service delivery and support”.
The best cloud storage may not transport you to Cloud Nine, but it will get you a lot closer than a thumb drive or USB stick can.