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The Best Cloud Storage Services

posted by on November 29, 2017 in Computers and Software, Computer Safety & Support, Guides & Reviews, Top Picks :: 20 comments

The massive file size of photos taken by today’s smartphones rapidly depletes most device and backup storage, making pictures one of the most common things people want to save online.

But there are plenty of reasons to look into cloud storage for other files too. Cloud storage provides you with reliable backup in case anything happens to your hard drive. It allows friends and colleagues to edit shared documents. It makes it easier to share very large files like HD video that might not make it through email.

Not all cloud platforms are equal. We looked not only for the best all-around cloud storage services, but we identified which services best suit which needs. We searched for the services that offer the most free storage. We looked for services that concentrate on collaborative features for remote workforces that need robust file sharing. We looked for the best cloud storage services for photos, music and video, and we looked for the best services for storing and sharing documents.

Here are our top picks for cloud storage platforms.

Best all-round cloud storage

Box.com

Best all-round file storage site

All files are a go on Box, a full-featured platform that's as well-placed for personal as business use. Audio and video files can be played within the file manager. a downloadable add-on Box Edit lets you open saved files from within Box, edit them (as long as you have the software needed on your computer) and save them back to Box. Up to 100 versions of a document are saved. in the event of file disaster, you can revert back to older, happier versions.

Along with sharing files with anyone via email (or a sharable link), you can invite collaborators to shared “workspaces” where they must have an invitation as well as a link in order to view files. The file manager view offers good organization features. View files by name, file size or date created, in icons or a list, and rename, move or lock documents, including a dedicated link to “upload a new version” that may have been created offline.

For business accounts, Box.com integrates with Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs so that files can be worked on with remote collaborators. Business accounts get finer control over who can view and edit which files.

Cost Free for 10GB; $9.99/year for 100GB

File size limit? 250MB; 5GB on a 100GB account

Ease of sharing Excellent; files can be shared with password-protected and expiration-dated links

Ease of backing up Excellent; desktop app lets you pick a folder to automatically sync

Access across multiple devices Yes, with iOS, Android and web apps

Encryption Encrypted data and transmission but no end-to-end encryption; businesses can subscribe to additional encryption to hold their own encryption keys

Best cloud storage for documents

Dropbox

Best cloud storage for Documents

If you're not down with paying for cloud storage and mainly need an online hub for smaller files like work documents, Dropbox is a great option. Dropbox integrates with many apps, so you can easily save content from these apps into an online Dropbox folder. The only downside is comparatively little free storage, though you can bump up your volume by referring friends or purchasing certain phones during promotional periods.

Files shared in Dropbox can be edited simultaneously. Unlike Google Drive (see below), 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. Paid accounts can subscribe to a one-year version history for $39 per year and get more control over file sharing, with password-protected and expiration-dated links.

Cost Free for 2GB; up to 18GB if you refer friends https://www.dropbox.com/getspace; from $8.99/month for 1TB

File size limit? 20GB

Ease of sharing Very good, although you can't adjust different access permissions for members of a shared folder.

Ease of backing up Excellent; download a Dropbox folder to your computer and drag items to sync; automatic backups available

Access across multiple devices Yes, with apps for Kindle Fire, iOS, Android and Windows

Encryption Encrypted Data and file sending, but no option for end-to-end encryption

Best cloud storage for photos

Google Photos

Best cloud storage for photos

While you’ll find many photo storage options out there, we like Google Photos for the way it organizes your pictures. along with time and place, it'll collate burst-mode or similar photos in stop-motion animations and create collages and slideshows (with music!) from pictures taken over a set time period. Its algorithm controls seem to have smartened up recently, too. Our most recent auto-slideshow was named “Summer of Smiles” and contained photos from July and August with subjects who were indeed showing their pearly whites. Alternatively, search for keywords that may or may not turn up related photos. We suspect this function remains a work in progress.

An in-app editor lets you make minor adjustments such as exposure, saturation, sharpness and vignette as well as add filters and rotate photos snapped with a smartphone held the wrong way.

Cost Free for unlimited medium-resolution photos or 15GB of high-resolution photos; 100GB for $1.99/month; 1TB for $9.99/month (counts as Google Drive storage)

File size limit? 16 megapixels for photos and 1080p resolution for video; full-size photos and video count against storage, whereas compressed files do not

Ease of sharing Excellent; share folders or individual photos via email, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter; add pictures to a particular folder, though there's no option for others to add

Ease of backing up Excellent; Android phone pics automatically upload to Google Photos; other phone users can download Google Photos app and choose to automatically sync pics

Access across multiple devices Yes, any web browser and apps for Android and iOS

Encryption Yes, but not end-to-end

Best cloud storage for music and video

pCloud

Best cloud storage for music and video

With a generous allotment of storage for a reasonable fee, pCloud is one of the best options if you want to store large files like HD video. 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. stream HD video directly from your account, so you won't need to store anything on your hard drive.

There's no limit on how large a file you can upload. 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. If you happen to run low on storage, move files to an archive where they don't count against your allocation.

All data is encrypted, as are upload and download connections, though pCloud retains the encryption key for standard accounts. For $4.99 per month ($47.88 per year or a one-time fee of $125), subscribe to its Crypto service to enable client-side encryption so that only your computer is able to decrypt your files. You can decide which files and folders to protect with Crypto. 

Cost Free for 10GB (up to 20GB by referring friends); from $47.88/year for 500GV ($4.99/month if monthly); $96/year for 2TB ($9.99/month if monthly)

File size limit? Unlimited

Ease of sharing Excellent, with different access permissions

Ease of backing up desktop app for Mac, Windows or Linux lets you sync files automatically; auto camera upload feature for Android and iOS

Access across multiple devices Yes, with Android and iOS apps

Encryption Data and file transmission; an additional $4.99/month for client-side encryption for your most sensitive files

Best cloud storage for music and video with full encryption

Sync.com

Best cloud storage for music and video with full encryption

Sync offers a maximum of 2TB of data with no limit on the size of files that can be uploaded or downloaded and a traffic limit of 8GB, handy for anyone who needs to send raw video and music files. The Vault feature lets you archive files you no longer need access to from multiple devices; they'll no longer count against your storage. Pro users enjoy the added benefit of allowing non-Sync users they're sharing folders with to also upload files.

Where this service differs from Dropbox is top-end security. All accounts, both free and paid, are end-to-end encrypted so that Sync.com has no access to passwords or user data. The downside is that you really, really must remember your password. two-factor authentication is also available, and you can turn on notifications to let you know whenever anyone edits a file. Paid Pro accounts can remotely log out and wipe data.

Cost Free for 5GB; $60/year for 1TB; $96/year for 2TB

File size limit? Unlimited

Ease of sharing Excellent; Pro users can create upload links that allow non-Sync users to add files to a folder

Ease of backing up Excellent; desktop app lets you pick a folder to automatically sync

Access across multiple devices Yes, with iOS, Android and web apps

Encryption End-to-end, zero-knowledge encryption

Best cloud storage for collaboration

Google Drive

Best cloud storage for collaboration

If you use Gmail or an Android phone, you already have a Google Drive account where 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, but they're built for collaboration with support for simultaneous editing from all collaborators and a real-time chat feature. What's more, anything you create with Docs, Sheets or Slides won’t use up any of your storage.

save files from desktop programs to Drive as backup and collaborate on them within Drive, though you'll have to open them in Docs, Sheets or Slides, potentially losing some unsupported formatting. A handy tab distinguishes between your own files in the cloud and those that have been shared with you.

On shared folders and documents, you can adjust who can edit, comment or view. You can prevent collaborators with permission to edit from changing access and adding new people, and you can disable options to download, print, copy for commenters or viewers.

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; 100GB for $1.99/month; 1TB for $9.99/month

File size limit? Up to 5TB

Ease of sharing Excellent; email, Google+, Facebook and Twitter built in

Ease of backing up Excellent; install a Google Drive folder and drag items there to sync

Access across multiple devices Yes, mobile apps

Encryption Encrypted Data and communications, but no client-side encryption (so in theory, Google would be able to decrypt and view files)

Best cloud storage for collaboration for Microsoft Office users

OneDrive

Best cloud storage for collaboration for Microsoft Office users

if you use Microsoft Office, OneDrive is the unbeatable collaboration service. It also comes preinstalled on Windows 10 machines. While Office 2016 is running about $150, shell out $7 per month and get 1TB of storage plus your own copy of cloud-friendly work suite Office 365 (at least as long as you subscribe).

Collaborators can simultaneously work on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote from 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.

Cost Free for 5GB; $1.99/month for 50GB; $6.99/month for 1TB (with Office 365)

File size limit? 10GB

Ease of sharing Excellent; share files and folders and set different levels of permission (with less control than Google Drive)

Ease of backing up Excellent; desktop app automatically syncs files

Access across multiple devices Yes, with Android and iOS apps

Encryption Data and file transmission; word is that Microsoft is friendly to NSA requests for data, so if you have particularly sensitive files, you may want to consider a service with zero-knowledge encryption

Cloud File Storage Services Compared

 

  Best for Free Storage File Size Limit Ease of Sharing Ease of backing up Multi Device Access Encryption
Box.com All-round storage 10GB 250MB; 5GB on a 100GB account Excellent; files can be shared with password-protected and expiration-dated links Excellent; desktop app lets you pick a folder to automatically sync Yes, with iOS, Android and web apps Encrypted data and transmission but no end-to-end encryption; businesses can subscribe to additional encryption to hold their own encryption keys
Dropbox Document storage 2GB
up to 18GB if you refer friends; from
20GB Very good, although you can't adjust different access permissions for members of a shared folder. Excellent; download a Dropbox folder to your computer and drag items to sync; automatic backups available Yes, with apps for Kindle Fire, iOS, Android and Windows Encrypted Data and file sending, but no option for end-to-end encryption
Google Photos Photo storage Free for unlimited medium-resolution photos or 15GB of high-resolution photos 16MP photos, 1080p videos are free, otherwise none Excellent; share folders or individual photos via email, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter; add pictures to a particular folder, though there's no option for others to add Excellent; Android phone pics automatically upload to Google Photos; other phone users can download Google Photos app and choose to automatically sync pics Yes, any web browser and apps for iOS and Android Yes, but not end-to-end
pCloud Music and Video storage 10GB (up to 20GB by referring friends) None Excellent, with different access permissions Desktop app for Mac, Windows or Linux lets you sync files automatically; auto camera upload feature for Android and iOS Yes, with Android and iOS apps Data and file transmission; an additional $4.99/month for client-side encryption for your most sensitive files
Sync.com Music and Video Storage with encryption 5GB  None Excellent; Pro users can create upload links that allow non-Sync users to add files to a folder Excellent; desktop app lets you pick a folder to automatically sync Yes, with iOS, Android and web apps End-to-end, zero-knowledge encryption
Google Drive Collaboration 15GB 5TB Excellent; email, Google+, Facebook and Twitter built in Excellent; install a Google Drive folder and drag items there to sync Yes, mobile apps Encrypted Data and communications, but no client-side encryption (so in theory, Google would be able to decrypt and view files)
OneDrive Collaboration for Microsoft Office Users 5GB 10GB Excellent; share files and folders and set different levels of permission (with less control than Google Drive) Excellent; desktop app automatically syncs files Yes, with Android and iOS apps Data and file transmission; word is that Microsoft is friendly to NSA requests for data, so if you have particularly sensitive files, you may want to consider a service with zero-knowledge encryption

Updated on 10/29/2017 with new picks and updated pricing and storage information

[Image Credits: Cloud storage via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

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Emu4iOS for iOS 9.2

From Emu on January 30, 2016 :: 2:05 pm

I choosed Box sync above Dropbox, because it costs less while having more storage

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Cloud Storage the savior

From Angel Healy on February 26, 2016 :: 7:19 am

“Any computer linked to an account has access to all of the files, and changes to files are automatically synced across all of your computers.”

I most definitely agree with you on that. It is not only convenient when your computer crashed but also when you’re nowhere near your storage. Just like when I was far off some place for a vacation and my boss called for an emergency, I needed to get a hold of my files, thankfully I’ve been storing it through cloud.

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Google Drive

From Rahul on May 03, 2016 :: 9:25 pm

Google Drive is best among all cloud storage services.
Microsoft One Drive is also good for cloud storage.

Thanks.

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One Drive is better than

From Tony on May 03, 2016 :: 9:38 pm

One Drive is better than Google Drive for those of us who use Windows and Office. The behaviour of the storage folders, and the formatting of the documents is way more similar to what we experience with the original documents and folders.

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One Drive doesn't follow if you stop using the host computer.

From Patricia Partin on November 29, 2017 :: 4:06 pm

I learned this the hard way after a computer crash. One drive is only good on that one computer.

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Not true. OneDrive exists wherever

From Tony on November 29, 2017 :: 4:31 pm

Not true. OneDrive exists wherever you can sign in with the relevant email address and password. After a crash and you either repair or replace your computer, you configure OneDrive again and sign in when prompted, then your new device will sync with what’s stored “in the cloud”.

You also have the option of direct cloud access from anywhere if you don’t yet have your own new device up and running.

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Not so

From Patricia Partin on November 29, 2017 :: 4:42 pm

If your computer crashes, you lose all of your files on One Drive. Unless it has changed since June 2016, it is not available to move to another computer once the original computer has crashed and burned.

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Google Drive has been reported to stop in 2018.

From Patricia Partin on November 29, 2017 :: 4:03 pm

I cannot bring up a link right now, but there have been several mentions of Google Dive stopping in 2018, so if you choose it as I have, please have a serious backup!

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That's not quite accurate

From Josh Kirschner on November 29, 2017 :: 4:34 pm

Google is ending support for the Google Drive desktop apps for PC and Mac, but Google Drive isn’t going away. And the Google Drive app has been replaced by a new app called Google Backup & Sync. If you access Google Drive through your browser or phone, as most people do, nothing will change.

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Thank you

From Patricia Partin on November 29, 2017 :: 4:45 pm

I wasn’t aware of that information.

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I went and looked only to find I have Google Backup & Sync.

From Patricia Partin on November 29, 2017 :: 4:56 pm

Since the 6/2016 crash and burn and losing everything supposedly saved on Microsoft’s One Drive, I now have photos on Google and files on Dropbox. Since I wanted a further backup and security and to keep what is actually on my computer less, I have two external hard drives by Book.

One is a complete mirror of both my computers and the other has folders I want securing. Neither is attached to the computer when not in use. Any cloud storage is dependent on the company ownership rather than the user and something to keep in mind.

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That's good planning

From Josh Kirschner on November 29, 2017 :: 5:14 pm

We always recommend backing up files BOTH in the cloud (in case your house burns down) and on a local drive (in case the cloud service is unavailable when you need it). Redundancy is a good thing when it comes to backup.

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Comments are a bit irrelevant

From Cloud Storage on May 04, 2016 :: 12:39 am

The problem here… best cloud storage service. I do understand the discussion, but I bet most of the writers here do not have any idea what they are buying (if they are buying) comments like…. free cloud storage are the trigger. There is nothing like free in this world. So you might ask how cloud storage services operate and offer their free tier to the world, what privacy you are trading in, and how secure the big names like G+, MS and Dropbox really are. I am not imposing that you do have something to hide, but whatever you store on their service they - and subsequently security services from around the world can read.
I mean… you won’t go to the middle of the town you are living in and post your life publicly there… If you do… then it’s your own problem, but most people will not. So choosing a “secure” cloud storage solution is what matters, and I am sorry to say, none of the ones you named “Best cloud storage” is on the secure side of life!
You are discussing “who is better”. By what means and what criteria makes you give your opinion?
A trade secret… not so much a secret, but you need to read the small print! All big boys give you a TB on payed programs… right? Cool so far, but do you really get it or can you really use it?
Well here the story starts. 1TB for 9.99 - just taking the average smile
So all of them use a technique called File de-duplication. File de-duplciation means that they do not really store your files, but only the meta information (filename, size, location, date) when someone else has already uploaded the same file to their service. You should know that over 83% of all files circulating are “unique”, meaning even if you get a TB, and 83% of your files are the same with the files of other users, you get effectively to use around 150GB unique space.  Space that your unique files occupy, but - you are charged for a TB, even if you do not even use it because of de-duplication.
This is just one point - your files are not your files anymore, everyone can access them, no privacy.
So what makes the “Best Cloud Storage Service”,  should include some “requirements” and a “feature list” by which means you could effectively compare things. And non of the “loved ones” really gives you your own files. I guess you are not looking for features but for “free”. As long as you are on the free side of life, you won’t get the idea anyway!
Stay safe!

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IDrive

From Jim on October 30, 2016 :: 7:25 am

For company backup we use IDrive. For personal use I also use IDrive, One drive, Google Drive and Amazon. All my devices sync flawlessly.

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Carbonite ??

From Nan May on November 29, 2017 :: 5:31 pm

Hi, I can’t help but notice that you don’t mention Carbonite for backups.  I’ve been using it for years and love it. What am I missing? Can you tell me why it didn’t make your list?
Thanks, Nan

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Carbonite

From Tony on November 29, 2017 :: 9:56 pm

Yes Nan, Carbonite is a good product, and we use it on our business network. It didn’t work for me on my home computer, but perhaps I’ll try again sometime.

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CARBONITE

From Harriet on December 09, 2017 :: 3:12 am

I have used it for several years now and it was a real lifesaver when my old computer crashed.  When I got a new computer, I contacted Carabonite and they restored everything onto the new computer.

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Cloud Storage

From Ven Grollmus on December 11, 2017 :: 9:39 pm

The Cloud Storage article is well written, but doesn’t take into account deleting files by accident.  You’ll have a limited time with some of the services to recover the file, otherwise they’re gone.

While I do use DropBox and what was Google Drive, I also use a dedicated backup provider provided by Code42 (I am a managed service provider), as this will also give me some sense of security in relation to being able to recover files.

If you’re PC happens to be infected with Malware that encrypts the data, then the data in DropBox / Google driver will be encrypted as well.  And yes - with a off-site backup solution that I use.  But, at least with my off-site backup solution - I have a better chance of recovering data from a point in time prior to the encryption.

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That's partially true

From Josh Kirschner on January 02, 2018 :: 11:22 am

As you note, if you accidentally delete files, you will be able to recover them if you use Dropbox or another service that provides versioning. If you have a Dropbox Basic (free) or Plus account, you have 30 days to recover your files. If you have a Dropbox Professional or Business account, you have 120 days. So it is limited, but you have a fair amount of time. Also, the versioning of Dropbox should enable you to recover your files if you are impacted by ransomware, because only the current version would be encrypted, so it’s actually a great solution for that.

That said, having a secondary local backup is a wise idea. Since Dropbox syncs across multiple computers, each of our computers essentially acts as a local backup for the others. If you’re not using multiple computers, a basic backup drive (under $100) will serve that purpose.

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You should also try MyAirBridge

From Jacobo on December 21, 2017 :: 9:38 am

You should also try MyAirBridge (http://www.myairbridge.com). It is a gold middle way between saving and sharing the files.

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