The Best Cloud Storage Services

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Whether you’re newly working from home, or simply want a single place to back up your online – and offline – life, picking the right cloud storage service can eliminate a lot of hassle. However, there’s a surprising amount of variation in the features offered by the numerous cloud platforms on the market. So, we went through the options to find the best cloud storage services for most people.

When comparing the options, these are the features we considered most important when choosing a cloud storage provider. Depending on your needs, some may be more necessary than others, and we’ll address that in our recommendations below.

Storage

Most people will want at least 100GB of storage to make sure you have plenty of space to store your photos, videos and documents. If you’re a serious photographer or plan to back up a lot of video content, we recommend going with 1TB of storage.

File upload limit

Most service providers have a cap on the size of an individual file. For our picks, we recommend at least 100MB for photos and at least 50GB if you’re backing up HD videos. 

Multi-user features

Our cloud storage service picks let you share your files with others and control what they can do with your files. For most people, we think that should also include being able to work in real time on either Microsoft Office or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides files. This should include managing who can view, edit, download, and share your files.

Security

We think your data should be protected with encryption on the cloud provider’s servers and when uploading or downloading. For those that need enhanced security, two of our picks also offer zero-knowledge or end-to-end encryption, which means the provider itself can’t decrypt or view the data. Your account should also be protected by two-factor authentication so that even if hackers get your user name and password, they can’t access your account.

Sync features   

The best cloud storage services aren’t just a repository for your files online; they also let you sync a computer folder so you can work on files without an internet connection. You should also be able to choose which folders you want to on your computer and which you want only online. They also will save versions of your files for at least two weeks, so you go back to an earlier version of a file if case you make a mistake or overwrite a file.

The Best Cloud Storage Services

 
Google Drive
OneDrive
Best for Microsoft Office Users
Dropbox
Best for Project Work
Sync.com
Best for Security
pCloud
Best for Music and Video
Price
From $1.99/month for 100GB ($19.99 per year)
$9.99/month for 2TB
From $1.99/month for 100GB
$6.99/month for 1TB (comes with Microsoft 365)
From $11.99/month
$119.88/year for 2TB
From $96/year for 2TB
From $47.88/year for 500GB or one-time payment of $175 for 500 GB
$95.88/year or one-time payment of $350 for 2TB
Free storage
15GB, unlimited for compressed photos as well as documents you create in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides
5GB
2GB (up to 18GB)
5GB
Up to 10GB
Storage limit
30TB
1TB
3TB
4TB
2TB
File size limit
5TB
100GB
50GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Multi-user features
Real-time collaboration on Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Advanced controls for what others can do with files, including sharing and downloading
Real-time collaboration  on Microsoft Office files. Link permissions, with password and expiry options for paid accounts
Real-time collaboration on Microsoft Office files. Can adjust access permissions for members of a shared folder.
No integration with third-party apps or real-time collaboration. Password-protected links for all accounts; paid accounts can add expiry dates and send link requests for non-users to securely upload files
Can share individual files, plus paid accounts can invite users to shared folders and view stats on file activity. No real-time document collaboration 
Sync features
Sync files from a specific computer folder, or from Android and iOS apps. Selective folder sync to computer
Saves 30 days of previous file versions, can save forever (up to 100 versions) for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
Save files direct from Office, sync from a specific computer folder, or from Android and iOS apps. Selective folder sync to computer
Saves last 25 versions of files
Upload files in the browser-based client, sync a specific desktop folder, or from Android and iOS apps. Selective folder sync to computer
Saves 30 days of previous file versions
Upload files in the browser-based client, sync a specific desktop folder, or from Android and iOS apps. Selective folder sync to computer
Saves 30 days of previous file versions for free accounts, 365 days for paid
Instead of putting files in a specific desktop folder, you can set any folder to be synced. Android and iOS apps offer auto upload from the camera
Saves 15 days of previous file versions for free accounts, 30 days for paid
Security
File and data transmission encrypted. No end-to-end encryption. Supports 2FA
File and data transmission encrypted. No end-to-end encryption. Supports 2FA
File and data transmission encrypted. No end-to-end encryption. Supports 2FA
End-to-end encryption for all accounts. Supports 2FA
File and data transmission encrypted. End-to-end encryption for an additional fee. Supports 2FA

Google Drive

The best cloud storage service: Google Drive

With its own web-based office suite and an excellent 15GB of free storage, Google Drive is the best cloud platform for most people, not only for saving your work but also for creating it online in the first place.

If you use Gmail or an Android phone, you already have a Google Drive account where photos and videos, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, automatically get saved. These web-based equivalents of the full-powered likes of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are lighter on features (so you may lose unsupported formatting), but they’re built for collaboration. Collaborators can simultaneously edit and make use of a real-time chat feature. What’s more, anything you create with Docs, Sheets, or Slides won’t use up any of your storage.

Controls for what collaborators can access are excellent, with extra features like disabling downloads for particular files and settings for who can comment, view, or edit. Although you can’t set passwords or expiration dates for links, you can head into particular shared files to cut off access. 

AI-powered search finds and suggests what you’re most likely looking for, while integration with a ton of third-party apps – including business tools like Slack and Salesforce – makes Google Drive a great option for teams, too.

One caveat: Gmail counts against your free 15GB of storage. If inbox zero isn’t exactly a personal goal, you might find your email has already eaten up several gigs worth.

Cost: Free for 15GB, plus unlimited compressed photo storage., $2.99/month for 200 GB ($29.99 per year), $9.99/month for 2TB ($99.99 per year)
Storage limit: 30TB (unlimited for compressed photos)
File size limit: Varies: up to 50MB for documents and 100MB for presentations (Google Slides); 5TB for all other files.
Collaboration: Excellent, with settings for fine-tuning who can edit, view, or comment on shared folders and documents, prevent collaborators from changing permissions and adding new people, and disabling download, print, and copy.
Sync features: Set and forget. Download a Drive folder to your computer and drag items to sync. Google Docs files already save here, of course.
Ease of use: Excellent, with intuitive sharing and collaboration features. Business accounts integrate with tools such as Salesforce and Slack. 
Security: You can add two-factor authentication to your Google account. Data and file transmission are encrypted but lack end-to-end encryption. 

OneDrive

The best cloud storage service for Microsoft Office users: OneDrive

Preinstalled on Windows 10 machines and included in Microsoft 365 subscriptions, OneDrive is an easy and ideal option if you’re already in the Microsoft camp.

Collaborators can simultaneously work on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files in web clients as well as desktop and mobile software. These programs have far more formatting features than Google’s alternative but retain similar online powers of sharing and access. That makes OneDrive handy for small businesses and groups in which some members may not have MS Office but can still view and edit using the free web versions.

A virtual hard drive feature (called “on-demand files”) lets you move your files online, saving hard drive space, while working on them as if they’re saved locally – and with the same high performance. If you will be without an internet connection, simply drag files into an offline folder. There’s also a two-factor protected “vault” where you can upload files – including photos direct from a phone camera – which is handy for sensitive documents like a passport scan.

OneDrive comes into its own with its 1TB and 2TB subscriptions, which include Microsoft 365. Skype is integrated and allows for shared files to go straight to OneDrive. You also get enhanced protection for your files, including expiration-dated links, password protection, and 30-day restoration if anything is corrupted or accidentally deleted. A file size limit of 100GB accommodates large uploads like HD video or RAW images.

Cost: Free for 5GB. From $1.99/month for 100GB and $6.99/month for 1TB (comes with Microsoft 365)
Storage limit: 1TB
File size limit: 100GB
Collaboration: Excellent, with real-time collaboration and the ability to set who can view and edit files. Premium accounts can set passwords and expiration dates for links.
Sync features: Easy. Save files directly from Word, Excel, OneNote or PowerPoint to OneDrive, or use the OneDrive folder on your computer and smartphone apps to sync other file types.
Ease of use: Excellent, with intuitive sharing and collaboration features.
Security: You can add two-factor authentication to your Microsoft account. Data and communications are encrypted, but without zero-knowledge encryption, Microsoft, in theory, could decrypt your data – say, if targeted by an NSA request. 

Dropbox desktop software

The Best cloud storage for project work: Dropbox

If you work remotely and often need to collaborate on projects, Dropbox is a great option. Dropbox integrates with both Microsoft Office and Google Docs, allowing you to create, open, and edit files from these two major office suites, all within the Dropbox interface in the browser or the desktop app. People with whom you’ve shared files can simultaneously make changes, too. You can also create shared folders for multiple people to upload content – handy if you’re working on a project with a few others. 

Unlike Google Drive, which accommodates changes from all parties at the same time, Dropbox creates two versions of the document while displaying a “conflicted copy” warning. This could be problematic, but old and deleted versions of files are saved for up to 30 days, allowing you to restore any lost jewels of communication.

Other apps that play well with Dropbox include its own document scanner, which would allow you to scan hard copies to instantly save to your Dropbox. And with a maximum file size upload of 50GB, Dropbox is equally useful for backing up large files like RAW image files.

Cost: Free for 2GB; up to 18GB if you refer friends; From $9.99/month or $119.88/year for 2TB
Storage limit: 3TB
File size limit: 50GB
Collaboration: Very good, although you can’t adjust different access permissions for members of a shared folder. Paid accounts get more control over file sharing, with password-protected and expiration-dated links.
Sync features: Fast and easy; download a Dropbox folder to your computer and drag items to sync; automatic backups available
Ease of use: Excellent, with intuitive upload, sharing, and collaboration features.   
Security: Files and data transmission are secured with 256-bit encryption, but without end-to-end encryption, Dropbox can, in theory, decrypt files. Accounts can be secured with two-factor authentication.

Sync.com online portal

Best cloud storage for security: Sync.com

If you’re dealing with sensitive data – or simply want enhanced privacy for your files – Sync.com is a great, security-focused option.

All accounts, both free and paid, are end-to-end encrypted so that Sync.com has no access to passwords or user data. (If you’re worried about forgetting your password, you can enable email reset at signup.) Free accounts get password-protected share links, while premium subscribers can add expiration dates, limit the number of times a file is downloaded, receive email notifications when links are accessed, and send file requests allowing non-users to upload files over an encrypted link to a shared folder.

And with no limit on the size of files that can be uploaded or downloaded plus a traffic limit of 8GB, Sync.com is also ideal for anyone who needs to send large video or audio files. The Vault feature lets you archive files you no longer need to access from multiple devices; saved to a folder on your hard drive, they’ll no longer count against your storage limit.

Cost: Free for 5GB. $96/year for 2TB, $120/year for 3TB, $180/year for 4TB
Storage limit: 4TB
File size limit: Unlimited 
Collaboration: Easy to share files with encrypted links; paid-for accounts can add expiration dates and receive email alerts on link activity.
Sync features Excellent. You can upload files to a web client, a desktop folder, or from Android and iOS apps.
Ease of use: Intuitive but dated interface compared to some other platforms.
Security: Excellent, with zero-knowledge encryption for free and paid accounts, enhanced security features for link sharing, plus two-factor authentication for making account changes and logging into the web client.

pCloud

Best cloud storage for music and video: pCloud

With a generous allotment of storage for a reasonable fee, pCloud is our choice if you want to store large files like HD video or raw audio. This platform includes a helpful file manager with a search feature and file format filter, plus built-in video and audio players that support playlist creation. You can stream HD video directly from your pCloud account, and make use of a virtual hard drive feature to save large files online-only, freeing up your computer hard drive.

Even better for those creating video and audio files, there’s no file-size limit for uploads. The traffic limit (the maximum number of gigabytes you can upload or download) is high – 2TB for the highest-storage account – making pCloud great for backing up video and music and sending links so others can access and download your stuff. You can also invite users to a shared folder. Stats on these links show you who’s downloaded, streamed, or edited content.

Should you delete or edit the wrong file – or they’re corrupted in some way – a handy 30-day archive lets you wind back the clock to restore files to the versions they were at a particular time, as well as restore the exact file and folder configuration then.

Cost: Free for up to 10GB. $47.88/year for 500GB or $95.88/year for 2TB, or you can go for a lifetime plan with a one-off cost of $175 for 500GB or $350 for 2TB.
Storage limit: 2TB
File size limit Unlimited
Collaboration Excellent. Along with sharing links, you can invite users to shared folders and view stats on the usage of the links.
Sync features Instead of putting files in a sync folder – like Dropbox, e.g., you can set any folder to be synced, maintaining your existing file system.
Ease of use Excellent. Desktop apps for Mac, Windows, and Linux, plus a pCloud virtual hard drive. Android and iOS apps additionally offer auto upload from the camera.
Security All data is encrypted using 256-bit encryption, as are upload and download connections, though pCloud retains the encryption key for standard accounts. For $47.88 per year or a one-time fee of $125, subscribe to its Crypto service to enable zero-knowledge encryption so that only your computer is able to decrypt chosen files.

Updated on 8/4/2020 with new picks and updated pricing and storage information

[Image Credits: Cloud storage via Shutterstock]

Natasha Stokes has been a technology writer for more than 10 years covering consumer tech issues, digital privacy and cybersecurity. As the features editor at TOP10VPN, she covered online censorship and surveillance that impact the lives of people around the world. Her work has also appeared on NBC News, BBC Worldwide, CNN, Time and Travel+Leisure.

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