Best cloud storage services 2023on January 10, 2023 at 15:40 Tech Advisor

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You’ve almost certainly heard of, if not already used, some of the main cloud storage providers including Google, Microsoft, Apple and Dropbox. But which of these – or perhaps a company you haven’t heard of – is the best choice for you?

That’s the question we hope to answer for you here by explaining how each of the top cloud storage services compares.

Of course, the ‘best’ may be different for different people. That’s because it isn’t simply down to the amount of storage offered for a certain price.

At a basic level, cloud is simply a hard drive on the internet. That’s convenient for storing and sharing your photos, videos, Word documents, MP3s and more, but it’s how you can interact with those files that’s important.

If you use Microsoft Office, for example, Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage is baked in. And that means it’s easy to save files to OneDrive, and work on files already stored there.

It isn’t so easy if the files are stored in Google Drive or somewhere else.

Plus, can you open and view files, photos and listen to music in the cloud storage provider’s own app, or do you have to download them to your device first?

It’s easy to overlook these factors when choosing.

All cloud storage lets you send a link to friends, family or colleagues so they can access specific files or folders. That means you don’t have to attach those files to an email, and you can share much larger files than email can handle – which is ideal for sharing videos in particular.

Cloud storage also means you don’t have to worry about running out of space or losing files: you can just pay for more storage when you need it and the provider – Google, Microsoft, Apple, Dropbox or whomever you choose – is responsible for keeping your files safe and secure.

Not all cloud storage services offer the same set of features and not all offer the same level of security for your files. You might want end-to-end encryption, but don’t dismiss services that don’t have it because you can use a separate app to encrypt files before you upload them.

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1. Google Drive – Best Overall

Pros

15GB free storage as standard

Online office apps

Cons

Not end-to-end encrypted

RRP:



Free (more storage from £1.59 a month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Google

If you have a Google account then you already have 15GB of free storage available to you in Google Drive. This can be used to back up documents, photos, videos, and anything else you want to keep safe.

Drive’s interface is simple, clean, and takes about two minutes to master. That’s not to say it’s basic, as Drive has useful features such as sharing links to folders (while setting the level of control the recipient has), accessing a file even if it’s opened on another device, plus apps for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.

One of the real benefits is that Drive works seamlessly with Google’s free suite of office apps which you can use in a web browser or via apps on your phone and tablet.

If 15GB isn’t enough space then you can pay for the Google One service. There’s a choice of 100GB ($1.99 / £1.59 per month), 200GB ($2.99 / £2.49 per month), 2TB ($9.99 / £7.99 per month), right up to 30TB for a princely sum of $299.99 / £239.99 per month (and that is a fraction of what Amazon charges for 30TB!).

The best part is that Google One can be shared by up to five family members.

Bottom line: Google Drive is an excellent, reliable, and affordable cloud storage service.

Get Google Drive

2. Microsoft OneDrive – Best for Windows + Office users

Pros

Deep integration with Microsoft services

Can free up space on your devices

Cons

Only 5GB free storage

Not end-to-end encrypted

RRP:



Free (more storage from £1.99 a month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Microsoft

The cloud storage service that’s seamlessly integrated into Windows 10 is Microsoft’s OneDrive. Although the initial free tier of 5GB will quickly fill up, it’s still on a par with many other services.

Features include automatic photo backups, advanced search facilities, mobile and web access to OneDrive, plus the Files On-Demand settings that can keep files stored solely online rather than taking up space on your device.

Stepping up to 100GB of storage costs $1.99 / £1.99 per month, but even this doesn’t give you access to Microsoft Word or other Office apps.

To use those, you’ll need to sign up for Microsoft 365. This monthly subscription gives you all of the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, etc.) plus 1TB of OneDrive storage for either $6.99 / £5.99 per month (one user) or $9.99 / £7.99 (six users).

This brings with it a number of extras such as restoring the entire drive back to any point in the past 30 days, ransomware detection, password protection on shared files, expiration dates on shared links, offline folders on mobile devices, and ten times the allowed amount of content that can be shared each day.

If you need 1TB of storage, Microsoft 365 is good value, but Google is more generous with completely free access to its office apps.

Bottom Line: If you already use Windows 10 and Microsoft Office, or plan to, then OneDrive is the obvious choice for storage.

See OneDrive plans

3. pCloud – Best for Lifetime plans

Pros

Good-value lifetime plans

10GB free storage

Cons

Charges extra for end-to-end encryption

RRP:



Free (more storage from £4.99 per month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at pCloud

pCloud doesn’t have the office suites, video content or other extras offered by the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Instead the Swiss company sticks to what it knows best: keeping your files safe, secure, and available across all your devices.

The free tier gives you 10GB of storage, although 3GB needs to be unlocked by completing tasks such as downloading the mobile app, uploading a file, or sharing the service with friends.

There are no restrictions on file size, so you can upload anything that your storage space allows, and versioning means files can be restored back as far as 30 days.

You can preview common file types in the browser version of pCloud, and use it to listen to stored music.

Security is strong with pCloud stating that it keeps five copies of each files, distributed to different servers, with 256-bit AES encryption applied on the servers. Additional client-side encryption is also on offer (meaning your data is encrypted before it leaves your device) for a fee of $49.99 / £49.99 per year or for a lifetime fee of $150 / £150. 

Pricing is unusual, in that you can pay a yearly fee for 500GB or 2TB, but the focus is on the Lifetime plans which cost $199 / £199 for 500GB or $399 / £399 for 2TB. It means that the service is effectively free after you’ve used it for about four years.

Bottom Line: pCloud is a stable, fast storage service with optional encryption. The lifetime pricing makes it good value.

See all pCloud plans

4. Mega – Most free storage with end-to-end encryption

Pros

15GB+ free storage

End-to-end encryption

Cons

Used to be 50GB free

High-capacity plans available

RRP:



Free (more storage from £4.27 per month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Mega

New Zealand based Mega used to offer a generous 50GB to new users, but that’s now changed to 15GB with additional capacity rewarded for something Mega calls ‘achievements’.

These include validating your account, installing the Mega apps, and inviting friends to the service. This is complicated further by the fact that the bonus storage is different for each achievement and only temporary, with a range of expiration dates from 30 days to a year.

That being said, you still get 15GB free, which is as much as any other service, and there are premium tariffs that include 400GB ($4.90 / £4.40 per month), 2TB ($9.80 / £8.81 per month), 8TB ($19.61 / £17.62 per month), and 16TB ($29.42 / £26.44 per month).

Mega’s main selling point is security, with end-to-end encryption protecting your files even when in transit between your device and its servers. The key to the encryption is your password, meaning even Mega can’t access your data, although if you lose it you’ll be in trouble as you, too, won’t be able to access those encrypted files.

The service offers extensions for Chrome and Firefox, secure chat with other Mega users, plus a mail add-on for Thunderbird so you can easily and securely exchange large files.

Bottom Line: Fast, easy to use and good value if you need to store masses and masses of data in the cloud.

See Mega plans

5. Sync.com

Pros

End-to-end encryption

Great sharing options

Cons

Limited choice of paid plans

Limited support for personal plans

RRP:



Free (more storage from £6 per month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Sync.com

Sync.com is based in Canada and offers plans for individuals as well as businesses. It’s a ‘zero knowledge’ platform, which means data is encrypted on your own device before being uploaded to the cloud, where it remains encrypted. So it’s like Mega and Tresorit.

One of the slight drawbacks is a limited choice of paid plans. Sync offers 5GB for free, but the cheapest paid plan is for 2TB (Solo Basic), and there’s nothing in between. However, the price for this is very reasonable at $8 / £6 per month – but note that you pay annually, not monthly.

As the name suggests, you can sync files from your device to the cloud and there are apps for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. If you want to save space locally, you can also specify which files exist only in the cloud and which are also available on the device itself.

The mobile apps will automatically upload photos and videos, and it’s possible to preview office and PDF documents in the apps and on the web version. 

If you go for the Solo Basic plan, you get 180-day file history for undeleting files and also accessing previous versions. 

For sharing files in the cloud, there are plenty of options such as password protecting links, and granular permissions to limit access to viewing documents, for example, and not downloading them.

Unlike the Teams plans, Individual subscribers have limited support, but if you’re ok with VIP email support, then you may get along just fine with Sync.com

6. Dropbox – Best for compatibility

Pros

Works with many other apps & services

Good for businesses

Cons

Only 2GB free

RRP:



Free (more storage from £7.99 a month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the biggest names in cloud storage, helping popularise the concept during its early years. Today it has grown into a business-orientated service with powerful tools such being able to collaborate on PowerPoint and Photoshop files in real-time, create mood boards and team-based plans on its own Paper platform, plus the usual online file storage options.

Massive third-party app support (including Google Docs), plus integration with Windows and macOS, means that if you’re looking for a service you can rely on and know that works with pretty much everything, then Dropbox is a solid choice. 

Individual users face more of a dilemma, with the free tier being a lowly 2GB of space, restricted to three devices, and hampered by a lack of even the most basic features such as setting the permissions someone can have to a shared file.

Moving up to the paid tiers improves matters and compared to a couple of years ago, it’s better value now at $9.99 / £7.99 per month for 2TB.

Businesses will need a Business plan, which starts from $16.58 / £16.58 per user per month (that’s $199 / £199 per year per person). 

Bottom Line: For small teams and businesses Dropbox has a lot to offer, and it’s not bad value for individuals who need 2-3TB of storage.

See Dropbox plans

7. Apple iCloud – Best for iPhone & Mac users

Pros

Seamless integration with Apple devices

Automatic backups from apps

Cons

Only for Apple devices

Stingy 5GB of free storage

RRP:



Free (additional storage from 79p per month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Apple

Apple’s iCloud works a little differently to other cloud storage services in that it is effectively part of both macOS and iOS. You can access it via Windows computers, but really it only makes sense if you’re using it primarily with Apple hardware.

As well as files, photos and videos from your iPhone or iPad, your messages, calendars, contacts, and various other data are also stored in iCloud.

The advantage of this is that so much of it is happening behind the scenes, that you’ll never need to fiddle with it once the service is up and running. Plus, when you come to move to a new Apple device, you’ll instantly be able to sync all the information from your old one in a few minutes.

Of course, the 5GB that comes free with iCloud isn’t going to be anywhere near enough, especially if you like to take photos and videos, but there are reasonable prices for extra storage.

These are as follows, 50GB ($0.99 / £0.79 per month), 200GB ($2.99 / £2.49 per month), and 2TB ($9.99 / £6.99 per month), with the latter two options also eligible for inclusion in Apple’s Family Sharing feature.

Bottom Line: If you use only Apple products, then iCloud is well worth your attention.

See iCloud plans

8. Box – Best for business

Pros

Wide range of platforms supported

Good set of features

Cons

Free users limited to 250MB files

No versioning support for free users

RRP:



Free (more storage from £8 per month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Box

While Box offers personal storage options, it’s primarily aimed at businesses. Nevertheless, the free package still gives you 10GB of free space, although there is a limit of 250MB for file sizes. This is fine for most documents, spreadsheets, and even hi-res photos, but not video. 

The free account doesn’t support versioning either (being able to restore previous versions of a file) and neither does upgrading to the Personal Pro plan that costs $10 / £8 per month for 100GB of storage and a file size limit of 5GB. 

On the business side there’s a range of options, kicking off with the Starter plan for $5 / £4 per month, which also offers 100GB, a slightly lower 2GB file size, works with teams of 3-10 people, supports document encryption, granular permissions and stores previous versions of any file.

Functionally, Box is very good. The interfaces on the desktop and mobile apps (available on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android) are slick and well designed, with plenty of options for creating, uploading and sorting files.

Bottom Line: For documents and photos it’s a good service, but the best experience is the one for business users.

See Box plans

9. Tresorit – Best for security

Pros

Zero-knowledge, end-to-end encrypted service

Choose where data is stored

14-day free trial

Cons

Quite expensive

RRP:



Free (more storage from £8 a month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Tresorit

Swiss-based Tresorit takes security and privacy very seriously indeed. There’s end-to-end encryption as standard, zero-knowledge authentication (meaning Tresorit doesn’t know your password and can’t access your data), multiple copies of files kept on multiple servers for backups, 2-factor authentication and servers based in the EU so that they benefit from rigorous privacy laws.

This means it’s quite a compelling package if you want to be assured that no-one will be prying into your business.

All of these precautions cost money of course, but Tresorit does offer a 14-day free trial. There also a free tier called Tresorit Basic which lets you connect two devices and gives you 3GB of storage (500MB max. file size) and up to 50 share links per month.

Realistically, you’ll want to go for the Personal package which costs $12.50 / £7.99 per month for 1TB.

Solo is a package aimed at freelancers and professionals that costs $30 / £20 per month and includes 2.5TB of storage plus password-protected files sharing, granular permissions, Outlook integration, and unlimited file versions (as opposed to the 10 on the Premium tier).

Tresorit now lets users receive files in an end-to-end encrypted environment without requiring the sender to be a subscriber. Plus, there’s a choice of ‘residency options‘ which lets you pick where your data is stored, allowing local teams to store data on servers located in their own region.

Desktop and mobile apps are available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android.

Bottom Line: While more costly than some other services, will appeal to those who put a premium on security and privacy.

See all Tresorit’s plans

10. MediaFire – Best for high-capacity plans

Pros

Up to 50GB free storage

Good for sharing large files

Cons

Ads in free version

RRP:



Free (more storage from £2.70 per month)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at MediaFire

MediaFire is an easy-to-use service that gives new users 10GB of free storage to begin with. This can be expanded up to a whopping 50GB by completing bonus tasks such as friend referrals and connecting your social media accounts. The latter can also prove useful, as MediaFire allows files to be shared directly to sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The service promotes the fact that its users will not be subject to bandwidth or download restrictions, which is made possible through Mediafire being ad-supported. Should you prefer that to not be the case, or just want to boost your storage capabilities, then there’s the Pro tier that includes 1TB of space, the ability to upload files directly from a website by pasting in the link, bulk downloads, and One-Time Links to prevent people sharing files you’ve made available to them.

At the time of writing Pro will set you back $3.75 per month (approx. £3.30), or there’s a Business tier with up to 100TB for $40 (approx £35).

Bottom Line: A good cloud storage option for most people, with plenty of free space on offer.

See all MediaFire plans

11. Internxt – Best free end-to-end encrypted cloud storage

Pros

End-to-end encrypted, zero-knowledge storage

Cons

Very basic features

No versioning or undelete

RRP:



Free (more storage from 89p per month)

Internxt is one of the newest cloud storage services, having been around since 2020. Unlike many rivals, it’s built with privacy at its core and doesn’t store your files in a centralised data centre where they could be vulnerable to hacking.

Instead, they’re split up in to small pieces and distributed over many different devices on what’s called a peer-to-peer network. It’s all end-to-end encrypted, and Internxt itself has ‘zero knowledge’. This means only you can access your files, and no-one else – not anyone hosting bits of your files on their hard drive and certainly not Internxt.

The code used to run Internxt is open source, and the system is built on a blockchain.

You don’t need to understand all the jargon: Internxt works just like other cloud storage services: you can upload files, access them on your other devices, share them with other people and more.

There is a downside, though. Internxt is very basic. Beyond uploading and sharing files, there’s really not a lot else you can do. Click on most types of files (including Microsoft Word documents) and you’ll see a message saying “No file preview available”. You can, however, view JPG and PNG images.

As well as using the service in a web browser, you can download apps for mobile and desktop.

These allow you to choose whether to sync or backup files from your devices. Sync is the default: it means if you delete a file from the corresponding folder on your device, it will be deleted in the cloud – and vice versa.

Backups, on the other hand, let you pick specific folders and files to back up: these won’t be deleted if you intentionally or accidentally remove them from your device.

There’s now a Photos service included alongside Internxt Drive. It’s pitched as a secure alternative to Google Photos, syncing your photo library across your devices.

Unfortunately, the only similarity between the two is that it displays your photos in date order. There’s no search, no way to edit photos, and certainly no advanced features like face recognition or the ability to see where a photo was taken or any of the photo’s details.

At the time of writing, there wasn’t even background sync, so photos don’t upload from your phone (or iPad or laptop) in the background. The app has to be open on screen. It’s coming soon, we’re told.

The other thing to bear in mind is that it can be quite slow to view a photo, presumably because of the way files are stored on that peer-to-peer network. The company says upload speeds have been improved recently.

In terms of pricing: 20GB costs $0.89 / £0.89 per month, 200GB is $3.49 / £3.49 per month, and 2TB $8.99 / £8.99 per month.

You can also use Internxt completely free. You get 2GB as standard, with the ability to increase to 10GB by downloading the mobile app, getting friends to sign up – you know the drill.

Bottom line: A very secure, but very basic cloud storage service.

See all Internxt plans

FAQ

1.

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage sounds a bit mysterious, but really it’s just a hard drive on the internet. Instead of the traditional method of storing documents on your computer (or a USB drive) you save them to “the cloud”. In reality, your files are stored on hard drives in a data centre somewhere. You won’t always know which country they are in, but some cloud storage providers let you choose.

2.

Is cloud storage the same as a backup?

No. Most cloud storage services copy files from folders on your computer and store them in the cloud. When you delete the local copy of a file (on your computer), the cloud version is also deleted. It’s the same the other way around: delete a file in the cloud (via the provider’s app or website) and the file will be removed from your computer or phone. So cloud storage is not the same as backup. Some cloud storage services let you choose whether to sync or back up, and some will keep older versions of files, but not all do. 

You may want to look specifically for cloud backup services, such as Backblaze and the UK-based LiveDrive, instead of cloud storage.

3.

Is cloud storage safe for my files?

If the thought of storing your files only on a server somewhere on the internet makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, then know that the way most cloud storage works is by ‘syncing’. That means there’s a local copy of all the files on your laptop, PC or Mac as well as in the cloud.

On phones and devices with limited storage, you can usually mark which files should be available locally, which saves precious storage space.

4.

Which cloud storage is best?

With so many providers to choose between, it can be hard to pick one. But that’s where we come in. We’ve done the hard work of sifting through the options and have narrowed them down to what we consider to be the best cloud storage services out there.

We’ve reviewed other services including SugarSync, SpiderOak and KnowHow, but they didn’t make the cut.

5.

Is cloud storage encrypted?

Not all cloud storage services are encrypted. If you want to store sensitive documents, look for a cloud storage service that offers end-to-end encryption.

Others, which don’t offer this, usually encrypt your files once they arrive in the cloud, but these files could be vulnerable while being uploaded or downloaded.

We’ve reviewed other services including SugarSync, SpiderOak and KnowHow, but they didn’t make the cut.

In most cases the services below offer a free trial or a completely free plan, so you can try them out before spending any money.

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