Unless you’ve been snug under a rock for the last few years, you’d have heard about a little something called cloud storage.
And what’s there not to like? Cloud storage lets you access files from anywhere, across multiple devices. You’re protected from harddrive failure. You can share files in seconds.
No wonder so many businesses and individuals are switching over.
BUT, as the industry’s grown, so have your options. Picking the right cloud storage provider out of hundreds can now be a mental minefield.
For many people, picking a provider based on price seems obvious. But it’s an easy mistake. Sure, price matters, but it definitely isn’t the most important factor you need to look at!
What’s more, being based in the UK means there are a couple of special things that need to factor into your decision. GDPR compliance, for example.
So whether you’re making the leap to cloud or you’re looking to upgrade your current service, we here at Bitcatcha are here to help.
We’ve thrown in a mix of conventional cloud storage providers and those who also specialise in online backup.
We use an exchange rate of 1 GBP to 1.25 USD for all prices listed.
- Friendly interface
- Email support
- Remote wipe data
- HIPAA compliant
“Rock-solid security and zero-knowledge privacy that’s tough to beat.”
Starting off with our #1 pick – Sync.com.
The reason we think it’s the best pick for British users is because its focus is absolutely on security.
Formed in 2011. Its founders wanted to create a storage solution that put user privacy first – an approach that’s served 750,000 users so far!
What we love most about Sync.com
Simple – Sync offers users one of the most secure cloud experiences you can ask for.
All files uploaded in Sync are protected with end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption and enjoy zero-knowledge privacy.
For context – most cloud storage have terms that let their employees access and share files stored on the server. Not Sync – only you as the account owner control the data key. Since files are encrypted at source, you’re much safer from sketchy marketing schemes, malicious employees, legal data handovers, and data breaches.
More than that, Sync doesn’t allow for third-party access. You won’t be able to integrate third-party apps, but if security is your priority then this is great news. They also offer 2FA.
And whilst they aren’t based in the EU, Sync is based in a country who’s equally stringent on privacy – Canada. So, Sync is fully compliant with global data standards such as GDPR, PIPEDA and more. No wonder they’re so popular with small businesses!
They’re flair for security also extends to file sharing. It’s super easy to share files and folders of any size to non-Sync users. PLUS you’re armed with an arsenal of features to keep these files out of the wrong hands. From zero-knowledge encryption on file shares, to setting notifications for link activity
Other things we liked about Sync.com
- Multiple points of access
Aside from the software itself, it has an excellent mobile app and a handy web panel to access files from any web browser.
- Data vault functionality
Ultra secure storage that doesn’t automatically sync up. You can also rollback to any point in time.
Free Sync customers can restore any file or folder deleted within the past 30 days. Sync Pro & Business customers can restore any file or folder deleted within a very impressive 365 days. It’s another win against ransomwear and GDPR requirements to have a plan for data recovery.
- Functions to keep businesses secure
From remote file wipes to stolen file audits. Not to mention change tracking, detailed stats and file versioning that are great for collaboration.
What we don’t like about Sync.com
- Yearly contracts only
You’ll need to front up a minimum of £39.20 (for their 500GB personal plan) for a year. That said, prices are competitive, especially if you opt for the higher storage tiers.
- Not the best for collaborative things, or productivity
No file previews.
- Not the fastest
The high-level encryption combined with its datacenters in Canada means there may be slight delays with uploading and downloading bigger files.
Sync.com 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.
Check out our complete Sync.com review for more information!
- Integrated local drive
- Automatic upload
- File revisioning
- Lifetime plan
- Remote backup
“Airtight security meets great UX and an excellent lifetime value plan.”
Next to top our list is pCloud. A relative newcomer, pCloud’s quickly proved themselves a strong solution for personal and business users.
Don’t just take our word for it – ask Uber, Airbnb or Instagram! pCloud has a pretty stellar list of clients.
What we love most about pCloud
pCloud is perfect for UK users because it also offers top-notch data security – one that gives Sync a run for its money! Quite literally.
pCloud also uses zero-knowledge AES 256 for max protection. Its client-side encryption service is called pCloud Crypto and it encrypts files before they’re sent for storage.
pCloud users also enjoy a great data recovery system. They store 5 separate copies of every uploaded file in 3 different locations at their secure data center facility – so you can rest easy knowing you won’t ever lose a file again! pCloud Rewind also helps track your file history for 30 days so you can easily rewind to a previous version.
You know what else we REALLY love? It offers fantastic value! You can opt for monthly payments, or – best of all- a lifetime plan – saving you £103.50 in 5 years if you pay for the Premium Plus 2TB lifetime plan.
Lifetime memberships are very rare in the industry, and is perfect if you think you’ll be a long-term cloud user. You won’t need to worry about subscription renewals again!
Plus, a respectable company like pCloud is bound to be around for a long, LONG time.
Other things we liked about pCloud
- Compatible with pretty much all digital platforms (even Linux!)
And mobile systems like Android, iOS and Windows mobile. Did we mention we love the mobile app?
- Custom-sync relationships via its desktop control panel
Basically, this lets you link chosen folders within your file system to folders in your cloud and keeps things organised.
- Media preview
You can preview your documents and photos – and even resize images and make slideshows!
- Direct streaming
You can stream any music and video outside your Crypto folder.
- Free storage
A whopping 10GB storage to start with FOR FREE!
What we don’t like about pCloud
- Its data centers are in the US
That said, it is GDPR compliant.
- Some of its key services are paid add-ons
pCloud Crypto will cost you an additional £4.17/mo, though you can unlock it for one lifetime payment of £150.
- Only 15-day retention period for file versions (free user)
Or 300-days (paid user). If you want to increase your history retention period to a year, it’s an extra £28.80.
- No 2FA
pCloud plans & pricing
Pick between its Premium or Premium Plus plans – each offering different storage and download traffic space.
You can also get the same benefits on a permanent basis for an affordable one-time payment of £200 and £400 respectively.
- Unlimited file backup
- Private encryption
- Offline restore option
- Support HDD
- Restore files
“Cloud storage that’s refreshingly straightforward, secure and affordable.”
Backblaze’s stats sure are pretty impressive. It’s won a bunch of awards, including #1 cloud backup service by About.com.
The numbers sound great too, as they’ve supposedly stored over 800 Petabytes & recovered over 45 billion files, to date.
What we love most about Backblaze
We feel like its tagline speaks for itself: ‘Cloud storage that’s astonishingly easy and low-cost’.
And it seems to walk the talk. Backblaze offers the perfect mix of great value and no-frills functionality, all without sacrificing any of that good stuff we’ve come to expect.
Best of all – it offers unlimited backup! It’s a breeze to use and very affordable, especially as it is unlimited for one computer. Besides your computer, you can also backup external hard drives.
In all, Backblaze really is a great contender for UK users.
Other things we liked about Backblaze
- GDPR compliant
- Strong security features
Such as personal key, encryption, and 2FA!
- Backup by file type
It also intelligently selects files – for example excluding operating system files, applications and temporary files unless told otherwise.
- It’s fast!
Sure, their datacenters are in California and Arizona, however 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
An unusual feature that helps you locate your computer if it is lost or stolen.
- USB drive backup
You can even opt to have a USB Hard or Flash Drive shipped to your door with your data on it, which you send back for a refund.
What we don’t like about Backblaze
- It’s secure but not air-tight
Their private encryption isn’t end-to-end.
- File versioning is limited to 30 days
However you can extend this easily to a year for a modest £1.60 a month extra.
- No mobile backup
Backblaze plans & pricing
Their pricing plan is as straightforward as it gets.
Find out more in our review on Backblaze.
- Unlimited file backup
- Continuous backup
- Support all platforms
- Private encryption
“Affordable unlimited backup and great versioning & file recovery features on a simple price plan.”
Next on the list is CrashPlan. This one’s been geared at small business owners and it comes with plenty of the bells and whistles needed to backup, restore and protect data on a daily basis.
What we love most about CrashPlan
Sure, CrashPlan is a pretty well-rounded solution. It offers secure cloud storage for a very straightforward price.
But it’s biggest competing point is that it offers unlimited backup for cheaps. Most cloud storage providers cap your data at a certain point when being backed up, which can be a pain for those businesses with a huge amount of files. But CrashPlan really lets you do unlimited backup – the only catch being you’re limited to backing up just one computer.
On top of this, they do offer some solid security. We’re talking 24/7 surveillance of files and facilities to keep your files safe, versioning, backup systems and extensive failsafe measure built in.
You also have the option to set up private encryption to fully secure your files. It doesn’t come as default but is easily set up by tweaking your security settings.
So, that’s unlimited cheap backup that stays safe. Sounds pretty good to us!
Other things we liked about CrashPlan
- GDPR compliant
- Super straightforward plans
One set price per month, per computer. Doesn’t get more simple than that! Plus a 1 month free trial.
- Really impressive versioning and file recovery features
You can customise their versioning policy to the point it is almost infinite. For example, you can indefinitely retain file versions every 15 minutes… Or indefinitely keep deleted files, which is rare to come by.
What we don’t like about CrashPlan
- Possibly slow
Perhaps not helped by the distance to its US and Australian servers. They don’t offer multi-threaded backups to speed things up.
- Backup is done by file location not file type
Manually tagging files and folders can be a bit time consuming and messy.
- We found some reviews complaining about service
Also, their telephone and live chat are only available during US Central Time working hours, which means we’re a little off-sync. That said, they say they monitor emails 24/7.
CrashPlan plans & pricing
No need to worry about tiers and numbers. It’s a simple £8.00/month per computer, for unlimited backup.
Need we say more?
- GDPR compliant
- Servers everywhere
- Swift syncing of data
- File sharing
- Email support
“Cloud storage with its strengths more in productivity & collaboration tools than rock-solid security.”
A household name, Dropbox pretty much set the standards for cloud storage back in the day.
It unsurprisingly offers great speeds and is as simple as it gets to use, though it doesn’t quite offer the same standard of security as those we’ve seen on our list so far.
What we love most about Dropbox
Dropbox is unquestionably one of the best options around for those wanting to use the cloud alongside collaborative or productivity features.
Dropbox integrates Office Online, which means you can simply use it to create a Word, PowerPoint or Excel file directly in your Dropbox folders. You can edit documents after you upload them, too.
They’ve also got a native note-taking app called Dropbox Paper that also lets you embed media files. Plus an app called Showcase that lets you share your files on a professional-looking page – it’s a pretty sweet touch.
We also really appreciate its user interface. It’s friendly and non-intimidating for even beginners. Do 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 – though its audio-player is arguably a bit basic.
Other things we liked about Dropbox
- It’s GDPR compliant
Check out their GDPR policy here.
- Servers everywhere
Including in Germany, Australia, and Japan for some Dropbox Business users.
- Consistently excellent user experience
Across desktop, web or mobile app, with a sleek and attractive design.
- Folder sharing
It has permissions options to let other users edit content.
- Block-level copying
Allows for smooth and swift syncing of data across devices.
What we don’t like about Dropbox
- It’s not cheap
Sure, all of Dropbox’s many apps are free to download, however you’re limited to 2GB if you don’t pay.
- Versioning limited to 30 days
For the Plus plan. Extending this requires a plan upgrade.
- 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 discovered years later.
Dropbox has since improved its security, though we’d still say it’s better suited for those users not storing sensitive information.
Dropbox plans & pricing
You have an option to pay either monthly installments, or a lump sum of a yearly fee.
The below is the yearly rate. If you prefer the regular payments, it hops up to £8.00 a month for 2TB.
- Simple UI
- Private encryption
- Great transfer speeds
- Collaborative tools
- File versioning
“A newer provider that’s fast, easy and with backup on unlimited devices, though there’s room for improvement.”
Icedrive is also a very strong new contender in the cloud storage field, aimed at both individuals and businesses. It’s still an unpolished diamond of sorts – missing some functions from other providers on our list, but also bringing some unique features to the table. 2023 Update: Icedrive has since added many of them! See below for details.
What we love most about Icedrive
We found it a little hard to pick out our favourite thing – we’re torn between two big pluses.
Firstly you just can’t beat 10GB of free space. 10 whopping gigs!
Secondly, and just as impressive, Icedrive utilises 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.
Other things we liked about Icedrive
- Great speeds
Plus, with servers in the EU, UK users should enjoy even snappier times.
- Strong security
With totally private encryption for premium users. GDPR compliant.
- Good collaborative tools
They have a range of cloud storage apps for a wide variety of platforms – for example allowing users you share the file with, to comment on the showcase page. Plus they can preview Office and PDF files.
- Attractive web client interface
- Constantly adding features
The first time we reviewed Icedrive, we noted that they were missing some key features like file versioning, 2FA and certain syncing features. They’ve since added all these features – plus full sync via their drive mounted app!
What we don’t like about Icedrive
- You still need to have free hard drive space
Its caching system speeds up your access to files by saving them to your hard drive. You can’t turn it off, but you can limit the space it uses to 1GB.
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 £3.33.
Read our in-depth Icedrive review for more details!
- Many sync options
- Fast upload speeds
- Offline file access
- 24/7 chat support
“Offers advanced restoration & backup scheduling options though may be a little more confusing to use for some.”
Not to be confused with the above, IDrive has been around a heck of a lot longer – since 1995! And with age often comes wisdom – PCMag named it one of the Best Cloud Storage and File-sharing Services for 2019.
Though perhaps not the easiest to use, IDrive still makes our list thanks to its many features, decent pricing and very advanced restoration features.
Their website is a little confusing as it seems to list a huge amount of products, but we sifted our way through and ended up being huge fans anyway.
What we love most about IDrive
Easy – their restoration and backup scheduling options!
Which makes sense, since IDrive’s focus seems to be mostly on sparing you the devastation of hard drive failure. They offer a mixed bag of options, including:
- Advanced scheduling
- Notification options
- Disk-image backup
- File versioning
They also use ‘true archiving’. Which, in simple terms, means that even if you delete a file on your computer, it will be kept safe in the cloud unless you choose to manually get rid of it.
On top of this, IDrive also provides backup for an unlimited number of devices, including external hard drive backup. So you can really be pretty damn sure that your precious files aren’t going anytime soon.
Other things we liked about iDrive
- Strong security
With private 256-bit AES encryption.
- 24/7 live chat support
Plenty of support and tutorial pages if you don’t feel like talking to another human.
- Offline file access
To view files from your mobile devices, with or without internet access.
- Great value for money
Inexpensive unlimited device backup.
- Express upload service
If you want to backup a large amount in a hurry, you can opt to have them send you a temporary storage device, then send it back with your data loaded. And yes, it’s available in the UK!
What we don’t like about IDrive
- Potentially a little slow
We read some reviews about slow transfer speeds. Plus, their data centers are in the US.
- No unlimited backup plan
It caps your backup space, sure, but at least their plans are fairly priced and you get a sizeable chunk of storage capacity.
- No multi-threaded backup
IDrive plans & pricing
We personally like the sound of the 2TB IDrive Personal plan. It’s a sound storage amount for personal use, which can be used across unlimited computers.
What Should UK Users Look For In Cloud Storage?
At the title of this article, the first question you might be asking is… does location really matter?
After all, we’re talking about the cloud right? That floating, formless technological marvel, where being location-independent is kind of the point – right? You’re telling me my location still makes a difference?
Well – simple answer, yes. Location still matters.
Why? Because context matters. And in the context of the UK, there are two big things that you need to be aware of – the implications of GDPR, and the proximity of your cloud storage provider’s data centers to the UK.
Let’s get into the meat of this.
GDPR Compliance Means Privacy & Security Is Paramount
What on earth is GDPR?
In short, it stands for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It’s a set of standards that applies to anyone in the EU.
And whilst Brexit is now underway, GDPR still applies to Britain until the end of the transition period in December 2020.
2023 Update: We wrote the first version of this article whilst Brexit was still underway. After the UK left the EU, GDPR has been retained in domestic law as the ‘UK GDPR’.
GDPR exists to hold businesses more accountable for the personal data they collect.
If you’re not a business owner, and are just interested in cloud storage for your own personal use – know that it’s still ABSOLUTELY in your best interests to find a cloud storage provider that’s GDPR compliant. This means they are taking your privacy, and security very seriously. (OK, now feel free to skim-read to the next section).
But if you’re a business owner looking for a cloud solution – listen close! It’s imperative you’re GDPR compliant.
What’s GDPR compliance look like?
Under GDPR you’re expected to keep data secure, or suffer hefty fines for failure to comply, or serious data breaches. (Read up the specifics of GDPR in “Using personal data in your business or other organisation” from UK government.)
The best cloud storage providers can help by…
- Being fully GDPR compliant themselves. If the servers are beyond the EU’s borders, you need to know if they have data protection laws officially deemed compatible with those of the EU.
- Offering protection for your files both at rest and in transit. A good cloud storage’s encryption will likely be more robust and up-to-date. GDPR doesn’t consider leaks of encrypted data to be serious issues.
- Offering protection for file-sharing.
- Offering two-factor authentication (2FA).
- Enabling a disaster-recovery plan that meets GDPR standards (so, versioning is important).
Not only are you protecting your customers, you’re also protecting yourself.
Funny enough, the demands of GDPR have helped push more companies to forgo physical hard drives (that are easily damaged or stolen), in favour of cloud storage.
However, it’s not enough to simply hop on to the cloud bandwagon and call it a day. The cloud can still be vulnerable. It opens the possibility that you and your customer’s data might be stored outside the country, so you need to take greater responsibility for it.
In short, you need to make sure that your cloud storage provider supports your own GDPR compliance.
TLDR; It’s not enough to switch to any old cloud storage provider. How capable they are in upholding your security & privacy is HUGELY important for those in the UK.
Got it? On to our next point.
How Close Are Their Data Centers To The UK?
Whilst it’s easy to think of the cloud as this intangible thing, it’s very much grounded in the real world. Your data still needs to be stored in a physical location – a data center.
These days, many cloud storage providers use multiple datacenters around the world. And the location of these servers has implications for your user experience.
Generally speaking, the closer their servers are to where you live, the faster your upload and download speeds. And the quicker you’ll be able to backup or access your files.
So, the closer a cloud storage provider’s data centers to the UK, the faster speeds you should enjoy. Assuming you have access to a decent internet connection.
That said, we don’t want to totally limit ourselves to only cloud storage providers with European datacenters, as we’d be eliminating a lot of fantastic options.
So, we’re also looking at providers with features that let you optimise the speed of uploads/downloads, which should help offset latency.
What else makes a great cloud storage?
Aside from security and server location, there are a bunch of other important features we’ve come to expect from an excellent cloud storage provider.
- Ease of use
An intuitive and clean interface.
- Productivity tools
Tools that make it easy to work with your files – from file previews to handy third-party integrations.
- Sharing permissions
Easily and securely share files and folders with others.
- Value for money
Balance a ton of features and decent storage capacity, with a fair price.
- Any other special features
Any other useful features that help a cloud storage solution stand out from the crowd.
Verdict: Which cloud storage is best?
The ‘best’ solution is always going to depend on your individual needs.
But if you’re based in the UK, file security and GDPR compliance should definitely be at the top of your list.
In all, let’s recap our top 3 cloud storage providers: