Best cloud storage services: Back up, share, and collaborate more easily

Why should you store your files in the cloud? In a word: security.

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By Jennifer Allen

Remote based storage is nothing new, but there’s never been a busier time for cloud-based services. With the growing trend for more and more businesses working remotely and more individuals than ever storing increasingly large amounts of essential files, it’s vital that you have some form of backup and the ability to work collaboratively via the internet courtesy of a suitable cloud storage service. 

There are dozens of different cloud services out there, so how do you know what’s best for you or your business? We’ve taken a look at seven of the best cloud storage options, evaluating the services they offer, and finding the best solution for every scenario, no matter your budget. 

Why should I store my files in the cloud?

In a word, security. Your personal PC or Mac likely contains a lot of valuable files. These might be photos of loved ones, important documents relating to your studies, or vital tax documents that you don’t want to lose. Whatever the files may be, they’re essential to you, so it makes sense to have copies in multiple locations. That’s even more crucial for businesses, given that losing vital files could cost them a lot of money as well as credibility amongst their customers. It’s undoubtedly essential to back up data on other physical hard drives, but a cloud-based storage solution means that someone else is keeping them secure and safe. A cloud backup can make a world of difference if something awful happens at your physical location, such as a fire or burglary.

What should I look for in cloud storage solutions? 

Cloud storage options can be confusing. When it comes to maintaining stored files, what do you need? Do you simply need a secure place to leave your files, or do you require collaboration tools so that other users can make adjustments? 

Collaboration tools might sound like something only a business needs when editing documents, but it can be useful for families to be able to join together to add photos to a folder for a special event. If you’re planning on storing multiple media files, consider file size limits and storage space requirements. For personal use, free cloud storage can be the best option too, giving you many of the benefits and none of the bills. We’ve covered all the main reasons why you might want to use cloud storage below, and have outlined our top picks for the best cloud storage services.


Simple to use interface • Mobile apps available • Free package option

You need to pay for the best service • Only one user • No collaboration

Suitable for pretty much all cloud backup needs, iDrive is a great all-rounder for personal use and small businesses alike. Just don’t expect to collaborate.

iDrive

Only got time to consider one cloud storage option? This is the one to go for.

    iDrive is like a checklist of everything most people could want from a cloud storage service. It’s fast, incredibly simple to use, and it offers excellent security so you know your files are secure at all times. A basic package provides 5GB for free to get you started but most users will find they need the iDrive personal plan at minimum, offering 2TB or 5TB depending on the price you pick. It only allows for one user so if you want someone else to interact with the files, this isn’t the service for you. iDrive focuses on being a secure place to store backup data in case of disaster, rather than focusing on collaborative needs of any kind. 


    Business plans are also available and these allow for unlimited users. However, the focus is still squarely on backing up files rather than changing them, with features such as online file sync and snapshot tools in case you need to return to an earlier point on your system. You can quickly backup your entire drive here with 256-bit AES encryption ensuring your files are safe from harm. 


    Speedy setup • Great for sharing files • Useful desktop app

    Limited free version • Expensive

    One of the pioneers of cloud storage, Dropbox is simple to use but a little limited in places compared to the competition.

    Dropbox

    Quick to get started, Dropbox is perfect if you just want to share a few files fast.

      One of the oldest names in cloud storage, Dropbox is still a popular favorite for a reason. It’s effortless to get started and offers a great mobile app and an intuitive desktop app. It’s smart enough that it’ll even provide you personalized suggestions, cutting down your need to search around. The ability to edit files directly, including Microsoft Office files, is a big help to speed up your workflow, along with integration with Slack and Zoom, among other productivity apps. If you’re simply sharing files with loved ones, you might not need all the features, but it’s handy that everything is simple to use. Businesses will hugely appreciate a straightforward team management page too for ensuring they know what’s going on.


      However, Dropbox is a little stingy with storage space. The free basic plan only offers up 2GB and prices for larger storage aren’t particularly competitive. Switch to one of the business plans and it’s a similar story. That’s why Dropbox comes across as the best service for only a handful of files via the free service. That way, you get all the benefits of its excellent user interface without paying too much. 


      Integrated into Windows 10 and Office 365 • Great interface • Good for browsing photos

      Not much free storage • Mac app isn’t great

      If you’re an avid Windows 10 user or already use Office 365, Microsoft OneDrive is a great way to keep your files safe and synced with minimal effort.

      Microsoft OneDrive

      It doesn’t offer as much storage as some competitors, but Microsoft OneDrive is great for Windows users.

        Integrated deeply within Windows 10 and Office 365, you probably already have access to Microsoft OneDrive without realizing it. Via a Microsoft account, you get 5GB cloud storage for free with 100GB available for only a few bucks. Own an Office 365 subscription and the storage capacity goes way higher than that. Whatever the plan you choose, Microsoft OneDrive covers all the bases while not quite being a master of any of them. For instance, it has a personal vault feature where you can store your most valuable files with identity verification securing them. It also allows you to view photos in an attractive way from within your browser. For collaborative tools, you can easily edit Office documents alongside others too. Windows 10 users can also use Microsoft OneDrive to back up device settings so that whichever PC they switch to, everything is set up how they like it.


        Somehow though, Microsoft OneDrive doesn’t quite do everything as well as another service. It’s a jack of all trades but a master of none. That still makes it worth trying, but if you have a specific need, somewhere else probably serves it better. As an all-rounder though, it’s appealing, especially if you’re already a Windows 10 user. 


        Fantastic collaboration tools • Lots of free storage space • Extensive third party integration

        Storage space includes Gmail as well • Some productivity tools are a little unintuitive

        When nearly everyone has a Google account, Google Drive is a nearly unbeatable option for small businesses looking for an inexpensive cloud storage option.

        Google Drive

        Easy to use and well-integrated within Android, Google Drive is an appealing option for those looking for collaborative features.

          By now, it may feel like everyone has a Google account — that’s what makes Google Drive so appealing. Simple to use, it offers extensive productivity tools all through your web browser or via one of its well-supported mobile apps. Simply put, you won’t have to worry about your company PCs having productivity software installed as it can all be conducted via the cloud. Powerful collaboration tools mean you can easily make changes remotely, while also providing extensive feedback through the system. The only mild issue here is that certain parts of Google Drive aren’t as well-realized as others, with products such as Google Slides and Google Sheets not quite as intuitive to use as their competitors. 


          That’s a minor gripe though when Google Drive is so straightforward elsewhere. It’s newbie-friendly in its approach to sharing files so everyone can get to grips with it. It’s also a generous service when it comes to free storage with 15GB bundled in, although bear in mind that this space does also include any emails you may have stored on your Gmail account. 


          Well integrated with all Apple products • Low prices • Stylish web interface

          Limited free storage • Only handy for Apple owners

          Apple iCloud isn’t as refined as something like Google Drive but if you already extensively use its products, it’s a worthwhile free endeavor.

          Apple iCloud

          Cheap and stylish, Apple iCloud lacks some useful features but is a good starting point.

            Apple iCloud is extensively tied to iOS and MacOS. iPhones and iPads are keen to back themselves up to iCloud, which means the 5GB you get for free upon signing up soon vanishes. Fortunately, additional space only costs a buck or two and even 2TB is much less than other services charge. There’s also the added benefit that you don’t have to think about backing up your phone or tablet — iCloud just does all the hard work for you. Head to the iCloud website and things look initially very appealing. Everything is laid out like an iOS product, so it’s immediately intuitive and straightforward to use. There’s the addition of Find iPhone as a security feature if you’ve misplaced your beloved gadget. iCloud Drive contains everything you could need and is simple to add new files to. It’s also useful for browsing photos in a clear manner. 


            Where things falter a bit is with productivity apps like Pages. It’s just not as good as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, and sharing files is very limited in comparison. The greatest strength here is that if you’re solely focused on storing your own files and don’t have to worry about other users, iCloud is quite attractive. And, of course, if you already have Apple products, you have iCloud at your disposal. Consider it best as a cloud storage option rather than anything more complicated than that. Particularly for iOS devices, it’s near unbeatable here. 


            End-to-end encryption • Extensive security features • Free file sharing for individuals

            Expensive plans • Overkill for some

            If security is everything for your business or individual needs, Tresorit is the solution for you. Expect to pay for the protection though.

            Tresorit

            Powerful security features make Tresorit a great option if privacy is vital to you.

              Swiss-based cloud storage firm Tresorit tackles things from a slightly different angle. It’s reasonably intuitive to use with syncing and collaboration tools, but not quite as straightforward as other services here. Instead, its strength lies in its security. It offers end-to-end encryption and the ability to keep a very close eye on who is accessing your files. You can implement user restrictions so that you always have full control over who does what with extensive logs that track what happened and when. You can even choose where to store your files with a choice of eight international locations. 


              Of course, that’s overkill for many people’s needs. Individuals merely wanting to share family photos don’t need what Tresorit offers and that’s reflected in individual price plans being expensive. Still, for businesses where security and privacy are essential, it’s an appealing proposition even if you will need to pay more for the services than those elsewhere. 


              No file size limit • Lifetime pricing plans available • Simple to use

              Bandwidth limits apply • No collaborative features

              Simply want to exchange large files easily with friends or colleagues? pCloud is a great option here, even if it’s limited elsewhere.

              pCloud

              Conveniently unlimited when it comes to file sizes, pCloud is excellent for sending that awkwardly large file to someone.

                An unfamiliar name to many, pCloud is fast growing in popularity when it comes to exchanging large files. That’s because there’s no limit to how large the file is other than the plan you’ve chosen. For instance, free users could theoretically send a 10GB file through the service, although they might wish to be aware of the 500GB bandwidth allowance each month. Still, it’s very flexible and great if you need to send a large video file to a family member. They don’t even need to have a pCloud account to receive it. 


                pCloud also offers lifetime accounts which can be useful if you know you’re going to exchange files often. They work out to be an excellent value too. A built-in video and audio player encourages you all the more to use pCloud for media files, which makes sense. After all, its collaborative features aren’t as strong as others, keeping things fairly rudimentary with shared folders. The service also offers useful desktop and mobile apps that are pretty easy to use. Throughout, you’ve got decent AES 256 encryption keeping your data secure.  

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