If you’re not storing your data in the cloud, you’re missing out! Today, we’ve shortlisted the 5 best cloud storage providers that are truly user-friendly, secure and affordable. Read our detailed comparison below!
Looking to store your files and photos in the cloud?
After months of testing, our top pick is pCloud thanks to its outstanding versatility and one-time payment plan (perfect if you’re sick of paying for subscriptions!)
However, cloud storage comes in many different forms, so we’ve included 4 other superb products that really wow-ed us.
As file sizes keep growing bigger, switching to cloud storage just makes sense.
By storing your data on remote servers, cloud storage lets you free up valuable space on your laptops and mobile devices. Most importantly – cloud storage can help protect you against harddrive failure, and let you access and share files from anywhere in the world.
Thing is – when choosing a cloud storage provider, many people jump straight to names like Google Drive and Dropbox without realizing there are far better alternatives out there.
Here are the best 5 on the market – all scrutinized and tested by our review team.
- Integrated local drive
- Automatic upload
- File revisioning
- Lifetime plan
- Remote backup
“An outstanding cloud storage all-rounder with an excellent lifetime plan.”
After our tests and comparisons, we’re happy to give pCloud the crown as THE #1 best cloud storage provider.
Based in Switzerland, pCloud has been around since 2013. They’ve come a long way since!
What do we love most about pCloud?
If you’re looking for a complete cloud storage solution for the long-term – pCloud is, hands down, our favorite.
For one – it’s so damn versatile. This all-rounder covers every feature you could need from a cloud storage service – whether that’s online backup, file syncing, or a virtual drive to help you free up storage space on your computer. They also do it extremely well.
Yet not only is it a high-quality product – pCloud can also sort you out for life. They offer the option of ‘lifetime’ plans, where you can pay a single fee to unlock lifetime access to your plan, as well as any future improvements. No more monthly fees!
For context – lifetime memberships are pretty rare in the industry. Most providers follow a subscription model where users pay ‘rent’ for as long as they use it. Those costs can really add up over time, so it’s obvious why many people prefer making a one-time investment.
As cloud computing continues to explode in popularity (especially post-pandemic) we’re expecting to see more people and businesses turn to cloud storage. If you’re planning to be a long-term cloud user, a lifetime plan can help save you big bucks.
Given pCloud’s solid features and security, it’s a product we’d be happy to commit to. We’ve written more on their lifetime plan here.
Other things we liked about pCloud
- Hands-off for users pCloud’s a great example of a product that you can set up and forget about. Their easy interface makes it easy to keep your stuff safe and synced, with minimal effort from your side.
- Unique virtual drive featurePerfect for anyone who’s always running out of disk space. Plus – it works with both MacOS and Windows!
- Plays nice with all devices and platformsNot only does pCloud work on unlimited devices, but it’s compatible with most platforms, including Linux! Their mobile app is great, and there’s even a useful remote upload feature that lets you upload from other sites like Dropbox or Google Drive.
- Never lose a file againpCloud stores your files on at least 3 server locations in a highly secure data storage area. Your data stays safe even if one server goes down.
- Easy to organize and accesspCloud lets you set up custom-sync relationships via its desktop app. You simply link chosen folders within your file system to folders in your cloud, and this helps you keep things organized. You can access files offline, preview documents – even resize images and make slideshows!
- Unbeatable data securityYou can add on a client-side encryption service (pCloud Crypto) which encrypts files before they’re sent for storage. This uses cutting-edge tech and ensures no one – including pCloud – can access your files.
- Ideal for web hosting If you understand HTML, you can build and store static web pages or even use your cloud storage account for website hosting. This is perfect if you want to feature your work on a simple website without having to own a separate website hosting account.
Possible downsides to pCloud
There’s not much we dislike about pCloud, but be aware that some features cost extra. Their client-side file encryption, via pCloud Crypto, will cost you an additional $49.99 a year (or a lifetime payment of $150).
In addition, file versioning only goes up to 30 days. It’s the industry standard, but some brands like Sync do offer 180-days. You can increase pCloud’s period to 365 days for an extra fee, if you need it.
pCloud plans & pricing
pCloud’s free plan is impressive – unlocking a 10GB storage to start with.
However, their best features come out in their Premium and Premium Plus plans – each offering different storage and download traffic space at a very fair rate. It comes up to about $4.99 (500GB) or $8.33 (2TB) per month, which is very fair!
You can also get the same benefits on a permanent basis for a one-time payment of $200 and $400 respectively.
By our calculations, you’ll save $149.95 in 5 years if you pay for the Premium Plus 2TB lifetime plan. Read our in-depth pCloud review to learn more!
- Friendly interface
- Email support
- Remote wipe data
- HIPAA compliant
“Sync provides rock-solid security and zero-knowledge privacy to ensure your files are safe as can be.”
Formed in 2011, Sync’s founders wanted to create a storage solution that had privacy protection built-in. This unique approach has served 1.8 million individuals and businesses so far!
What do we love most about Sync?
Sync’s greatest feature is its obsession with security.
Headquartered in Canada, Sync has to make sure it meets very strict privacy laws, including HIPAA (US), PIPEDA (Canada), PHIPA (Ontario) and GDPR.
All files uploaded in Sync, on any of its paid plans, are protected with end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption and zero-knowledge privacy. Files are encrypted at source and only YOU hold the data key, which helps keep you safe from rogue employees and data breaches.
Other ways Sync keeps your data safe include:
- Secure file sharing featuresAdd password protection on shared files, set notifications for link activity or add expiry dates.
- Features to keep businesses safePerform remote file wipes as well as monitor change tracking, detailed stats and file versioning.
- 2-factor authenticationAdds an extra layer of security when you log in.
In a nutshell – Sync makes it easy to keep your files safe, confidential and out of the wrong hands.
Other things we liked about Sync
- Impressive file rollbackProtect your files from ransomware, hardware failure and human error! Pro & Teams Unlimited customers will let you restore any files deleted within 365 days.
- VersatilityLike pCloud, Sync can serve as an online backup tool as well as a file-sharing tool for teams and families.
- Simple user-friendly interfaceSync’s interface is easy to understand and lets you easily keep files organized.
- Multiple points of accessAside from the Sync desktop software, they have an excellent mobile app and a handy web panel.
- Data vault functionalityTheir data vault gives you an area for ultra-secure storage that doesn’t automatically sync.
Possible downsides to Sync
Whilst we love Sync’s emphasis on security and privacy, it can sometimes slow things down. Literally. For example, their high-level encryption can make it slow to upload and download large files.
Oh – and Linux users will need to look elsewhere.
Sync plans & pricing
Sign up for an instant 5GB of free storage, or opt for one of their paid business or personal plans. They have varying levels of storage space and users per account, all of which are well priced.
Read our detailed Sync.com review for more info.
- Unlimited file backup
- Private encryption
- Offline restore option
- Support HDD
- Restore files
“Online backup that’s refreshingly straightforward, secure and affordable.”
Established in 2007, Backblaze has a very clear specialty – online backup. Impressively, they’ve stored over an exabyte (a billion GB) of data storage so far!
They’re a popular choice for both business and personal use, and were nominated #1 cloud backup service by About.com.
What do we love most about Backblaze?
Simple – Backblaze offers unlimited backup for cheap!
For a flat rate of $7 a month, you get unlimited storage space that can be used to backup one computer.
Backblaze will automatically back up all your files including documents, photos, music, movies, and more. It’s insanely good value, especially since they will also backup any external hard drives that are plugged into your computer.
But not only is their backup unlimited, it’s ‘astonishingly easy’ (true to their tagline) .
Everything about their service is simplified and streamlined. From their refreshingly simple price structure, to their clean user-interface that contains all the bare basics you need. When you want to restore your files in future – the process is also foolproof!
In a nutshell, Backblaze’s no-frills approach and low price is ideal for anyone looking for a no-fuss way to keep their files safe.
Other things we liked about Backblaze
- Hands-offOnce installed on your PC or Mac, Backblaze automatically backs up all files in your computer with all extensions, except for system and temporary files. Alternatively, you can schedule backups.
- Fast online customer service supportOnline chat is available on weekdays from 9am – 5pm US Pacific Time. They also have an efficient email ticket system where you get a response within a few hours.
- Strong file security Files that are uploaded to Backblaze servers are encrypted securely with encryption keys kept by Backblaze. You have the option of private encryption and you can also include an extra security code option for good measure.
- Great backup insuranceIn the event that your computer (HDD) crashes, you can download your files again. You can make 5 simultaneous requests for 500GB worth of data which will be given in .zip file format. There’s also an option where Backblaze can FedEx you an external pendrive or hard drive to restore data fast
- It’s fast! Backblaze doesn’t limit your speeds. You can increase the number of backup threads you use, use block-level backup or use speed throttling if necessary.
- Locate computer featureThis unusual feature helps you locate your computer if it’s lost or stolen.
Possible downsides to Backblaze
Whilst $7 is very affordable, bear in mind it’s on a per-computer basis. If you’re using multiple computers, that fee multiplies too.
Also, mobile applications can access the backup files remotely but cannot be used for syncing. That means you can’t back up your mobile data.
Lastly, file versioning is again limited to 30 days. However you can extend this easily to a year for a fee.
Backblaze plans & pricing
Their pricing plan is as straightforward as it gets. For $7 you’ll get unlimited backup per computer!
See our full Backblaze review and find out more!
- Simple UI
- Private encryption
- Great transfer speeds
- Collaborative tools
- File versioning
“An up-and-coming cloud storage provider that’s secure, modern and offers unique features.”
Icedrive is a very strong new contender in the cloud storage field, aimed at both individuals and businesses.
It’s still an unpolished diamond – missing some functions from other providers on our list, but also boasting some unique features. Most excitingly, they’re evolving quickly and we’ve already seen them improve in leaps and bounds.
What do we love most about Icedrive?
Aside from their impressive 10GB free plan – Icedrive stands out to us for its revolutionary desktop software.
Basically, they let you access and manage your cloud storage space as if it were a physical hard disk or USB stick you’ve plugged in.
They’ve replicated what they call a ‘native OS feel’, to mimic the user experience of editing, uploading, deleting and opening files that are offline. Thanks to their smart caching system, it doesn’t gobble up bandwidth or time syncing.
This is awesome because you can access your online files from your computer without syncing them first. Just install the app and your files are at your fingertips. Just note that this virtual drive feature is only available for Windows… for now.
Other things we liked about Icedrive
- Strong securityALL paid Icedrive plans use client-side encryption, and it’s the ONLY encrypted cloud storage solution to use the bulletproof twofish algorithm – accepted by cryptographers as a more secure solution to AES/Rijndael.
- Frequently updated and improvedThe first time we reviewed Icedrive, it was brand new and we noticed it lacked some features. It’s since added most of these things – for example, 2-factor authentication and a file versioning system. Just check out their Facebook page – they’re constantly explaining the latest updates!
- Virtual drive on desktopYou can free up space on your computer’s hard drive by using their virtual drive!
- Attractive interface Control everything from their very sleek and minimalist user interface – whether via their mobile or desktop app, or web interface.
Possible downsides to Icedrive
Whilst Icedrive continues to impress us with its constant evolution, it’s still not quite as fully-fleshed out as some cloud providers like pCloud that have been in the game for longer.
There are still some features missing. For example, there’s no option to choose selective sync or block-level sync, and their virtual drive feature can’t be enjoyed by Mac users. However, we won’t be surprised to see that fixed in future.
Icedrive plans & pricing
We think the Pro Icedrive plan is perfect for homeusers and small businesses, as it comes with 1TB of monthly storage for a modest $4.17.
We were also happy to see they also offer a lifetime plan!
Read our full Icedrive review and find out more!
- GDPR compliant
- Servers everywhere
- Swift syncing of data
- File sharing
- Email support
“Cloud storage with strengths more in productivity & collaboration than security.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably already heard of Dropbox. It’s one of the most well-known cloud storage brands out there.
Whilst we can’t help but wish it was cheaper, we’ve included Dropbox on our list thanks to its top-notch collaborative features and usability!
What do we love most about Dropbox?
Dropbox is a fantastic option for anyone wanting to use the cloud alongside collaborative or productivity features. It’s got a ton of features that are perfect for sharing and syncing. Seriously – A TON. It’s no wonder that Dropbox is popular with teams.
For one – file sharing with Dropbox is as simple as it gets. You’ll also get real-time updates that can help you track file edits made by others, and these changes are automatically synced for all team members.
Plus, it’s very easy to keep shared folders organized and you can set granular file permissions to make sure that only the right people have access.
Dropbox also integrates Office Online, which lets you do things like create Word or Excel files directly in your Dropbox folders. They’ve also got a native note-taking app (Dropbox Paper) and an app called Showcase that lets you share your files on a professional-looking page! The list goes on…
Other things we liked about Dropbox
- Consistently excellent user experienceAcross desktop, web or mobile app, with a sleek and attractive design. It’s friendly and non-intimidating, even for total beginners.
- Easy to navigateDo full-text searches through your files (including docs scanned with the mobile app!), view your photos quickly, and play music and videos by streaming directly.
- Block-level copying Allows for smooth and swift syncing of data across devices.
Possible downsides to Dropbox
Dropbox isn’t cheap. Their free plan limits you to a measly 2GB, but the next size jumps up to 2TB, and will cost you $9.99 a month. We wish there was some sort of middle ground. You’ll also need to pay more if you want to extend the file versioning past 30 days.
Slightly more worrying however is that Dropbox has a rocky history with security. Whilst it uses strong encryption for both files at rest and in transit, it isn’t zero-knowledge. Your metadata stays in plain text on a separate server.
Dropbox ran into scandal after a security breach of 68 million stolen passwords in 2012. Dropbox has since improved its security, though we’d still say it’s better suited for users not storing sensitive information.
Dropbox plans & pricing
You have an option to pay either monthly or yearly installments. Here’s what the monthly fee looks like if you pay in an annual lump sum.
If you prefer to pay on a month-by-month basis, the price increases slightly to $11.99 a month for 2TB.
Visit Dropbox official website to learn more.
What can cloud storage do for you?
There are two main reasons why people use cloud storage.
1. Personal backup tool
The first and primary use is to store things online like a data vault. You need a secure place where you can store your valuable information that you may or may not access everyday, and protect yourself from data loss.
2. File sharing & productivity tool
The second and more social function of cloud storage is to provide easy access to your files from any device or other people who may need access to these files – whether for fun or to synchronize working projects. This is particularly helpful for businesses and teams.
To hit these needs, ‘cloud storage’ providers often come in many different shapes and sizes. Some brands focus on back-up, whilst others are more about syncing.
Backup and syncing can get confusing, so here’s a simplified take on it:
|Online backup||File syncing|
|How they work||True online backup services can back up ALL your computer’s files in bulk, not just those in a synced folder structure.||Focuses on managing and syncing select files. You choose which folders/media you want ready access to via the cloud.|
|Higher priority||Specialize in backing up your precious files. They focus on security and privacy to give you peace of mind.||Focus on making it easy to share files and collaborate in real time.|
|Lower priority||Quick syncing and immediate access is less important.||Don’t always have features to bulk-backup files.|
|Example||Most top cloud storage brands have back-up features, but Sync and BackBlaze specialize in it.||Dropbox lets you keep folders synced for all users and accessible everywhere.|
Lastly – many of our favorite cloud storage services are all-rounders.
Brands like pCloud offer a well-balanced combination of backup and syncing functionality – plus handy extra features like virtual drives. They can also offer special features like media-streaming and productivity apps.
Looking for a mix of cloud storage and external drives?
Many users are turning to Networked Attached Storage (NAS) devices to store their files securely. Here’s our round up of the Best NAS for home users!
Free Vs. Paid cloud storage – Which is best?
Many of us get our first taste of cloud storage for free – often through Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud. However, free cloud storage usually comes with important limitations that shouldn’t be overlooked.
As these providers know very well – having 5GB or 15GB of space isn’t realistic for most everyday users. This is soon eaten up, and you’ll then need to either start deleting files to make room for new ones, or pay to unlock the next tier of storage.
Opting for paid cloud storage is when you can really start enjoying the possibilities of the cloud. Not only will you have a lot more storage space to work and play with (usually in the TBs), but you’ll often get nifty features and higher security standards.
Having said that – there are 2 cloud providers on this list that offer a very generous free plan of 10GB. Both pCloud and Icedrive are fantastic products, and it’s a great idea to sign up for their free plans to test them out before you commit your coin.
What to look for in a cloud storage provider
When choosing a cloud storage provider for yourself, look out for considerations such as:
- Function versatility
Unless you have a specific need, the ideal cloud storage service gives you the best of both worlds and allow you to safely store your files while giving you the freedom to share them with whomever you please.
It’s always nice when cloud storage is compatible with apps and services, making the experience of viewing and editing your files feel natural
- User and platform friendly
From the serious user to those who aren’t so tech-savvy, the programme should be intuitive and easy to use. Also, for those who use multiple digital devices on multiple platforms, it always helps to be able to use your saved files on the different devices you are handling.
- Data integrity and security
Files stored in cloud storage are not floating in the air but saved on a data server. The question is what security measures are being done to ensure your data is safe from illegal access or deletion? What backup measures are in place in case you happen to lose your important information? Do they just password protect or do they include encryption services so that your files are doubly safe?
Every premium service provider comes at some sort of cost. Essentially, depending on what you are looking for, you need to consider if you are getting the value you desire from them.
- Customer service
When you pay for a subscription service, how helpful the provider is to troubleshooting any concerns you have is also important.
We kept all of this in mind when choosing what cloud storage providers to feature in this list. And of course, we made sure to test them all first-hand!
We signed up for an account and used the services to assess their pros and cons. By assessing their performance against price and features, we were able to draw conclusions on which are the best value for money.
Other notable mentions
Finally, if none of the above 5 are taking your fancy – here are a couple of other highly-rated storage providers that we’ve used in the past, and are worth checking out:
Affordable unlimited backup and great versioning & file recovery features on a simple price plan.
Offers advanced restoration & backup scheduling options though may be a little more confusing to use for some.
- Zoolz BigMIND
Budget cloud storage with AI tools, great for personal use! Explore more in our detailed review of Zoolz BigMIND.
Final Verdict: Choose Based On What You Need
Before we go, let’s recap our top cloud storage providers for most users:
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for an all-round solution that works across all platforms with all the necessary tools to backup, sync and share files conveniently, look no further than pCloud.
If, however, you don’t mind sacrificing some benefits for higher security, especially if you are dealing with data-sensitive or confidential projects, then Sync.com may be what you need.
For simple backing up of computers at a competitive rate, look no further than Backblaze.