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Best cloud storage in 2021

woman stood with laptop outside server room
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The best cloud storage provides both individuals or businesses with the ability to securely back up important data and files. While debate still rages about the differences and merits of cloud storage vs local storage, clear advantages persist, such as high-end security: pivotal in the modern online world.

When looking for cloud data storage services, so many offer what appear to be similar features that it can be overwhelming. However, premium providers tend to also offer and thus feature among the best business cloud storage and best free cloud storage services, so you might find choosing the right one now benefits you in the long run as things change for you or your business.

You must ensure a provider offers the right amount of data storage and top-level customer support, and in ranking the best cloud storage providers, we examined how each performs in regard to these, as well as their ease of use and ability to provide file access anywhere, anytime, and from any device; their file size limits; their various pricing plans; and any additional features.

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The top 3 best cloud storage services 

1. IDrive: the best cloud storage provider
IDrive delivers lots of storage for an incredibly reasonable price. It supports unlimited devices, and provides an extensive file versioning system, competitive prices, and a series of other top features that make it the best cloud storage provider available.
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2. Google Drive: Workspace integration and great features
Google Drive is the go-to storage solution for Google Workspace and Android users, due to its seamless integration and versatility. Competitively-priced paid plans with more storage mean it's ideal for both personal and business use.
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3. Nextcloud: self-hosting leader in the market
Nextcloud's self-hosted file sync and content collaboration platform provides free, open-source cloud storage you can install and administer on your own server. It offers experienced users complete control, faster performance, and great savings.
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Which is the best cloud storage service?

IDrive is our pick for the best cloud storage provider of premium plans. Its extensive range of great-value features are packaged within a high-quality, highly secure solution, and it has an impressive range of competitively-priced plans. It's ideal for those with smaller storage needs, and in terms of features relative to cost, it's unmatched.

Google Drive is the go-to cloud storage solution for Google users, via seamless integration and versatility, as well as well-priced subscriptions. Nextcloud's self-hosted file sync and content collaboration platform is free, open-source software that can be installed and administered on your own server.

We also recommend pCloud, Box, Microsoft OneDrive, SpiderOak, iCloud, and MEGA when considering purchasing premium cloud storage services, as each offers high-performance features or unique tools that mark them out from the crowd.

The best cloud storage platforms, compared
Cloud storage platformsLowest-price planStorage capacityNumber of devicesEncryption
IDrive$79.50 a year (IDrive Personal)Up to 10TB (up to 50TB for business plans)UnlimitedEnd-to-end
Google Drive$1.99 a month (Google One)Up to 2TBUnlimitedEncrypted transfer
Nextcloud$42.60 per user a year (Basic)Potentially unlimitedPotentially unlimitedFully customizable
pCloud$4.99 a month (Premium)Up to 2TBUnspecifiedIn transit and at rest
Box$11.50 a month (Personal Pro)Up to 100GB (unlimited for business plans)Unlimited (for business plans)End-to-end
Microsoft OneDrive$1.99 a month (OneDrive Standard)Up to 6TB30AES 256-bit
SpiderOak One$6 a month (150GB Plan)Up to 5TBUnlimitedEnd-to-end
iCloud$0.99 a month (50GB plan)Up to 2TB102FA
MEGA$5.88 a month (Pro Lite)Up to 16TBUnlimitedZero-knowledge

The best cloud storage providers available

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IDrive logo

Click through this slideshow to view IDrive's cloud storage features in use (Image credit: IDrive)
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IDrive's user interface in use

IDrive's settings menu offers a wealth of options for configuring backups (Image credit: IDrive)
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IDrive's user interface in use

IDrive can scan local networks for NAS devices to back up to (Image credit: IDrive)
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IDrive's user interface in use

As well as file backups, you can back up servers and virtual machines (Image credit: IDrive)
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IDrive's user interface in use

IDrive offers a useful backup app for Android and iOS (Image credit: IDrive)

1. IDrive

The best cloud storage for premium users

Storage capacity: 5TB | Number of devices: Unlimited | Encryption: End-to-end

Support for many platforms
NAS and server backups
File versioning support
Unlimited devices
Relatively slow upload and download speeds
Interface eclipsed by more modern alternatives

IDrive is, in our opinion, the best cloud storage service available to premium users, offering great value for money as well as highly secure storage. Arguably the biggest advantage is that it applies to network drives too, meaning everything from servers to mobile devices is covered. Users can share files via email, Facebook and Twitter, and restore up to 30 previous versions of back-ups.

Speaking of backup, IDrive Express provides a physical hard disk drive in case you lose all of your data, making a backup quick and painless (disk image backup is also covered). The service doesn’t automatically delete cloud files if you delete something on your hardware, so there’s no risk in completely erasing valuable data by accident. 

IDrive also ranks first among the best cloud storage for photos, and photo-minded users will be happy to hear there’s a facial recognition feature that automatically organizes images, and syncs them across all linked devices. Plans start at $79.50 a year for one user, unlimited devices and 5TB of storage (the IDrive Personal plan), while IDrive Team offers five users, five computers and 5TB for $99.50 a year.

Read our comprehensive IDrive review to find out more about the platform; take a look at our interview with CEO Raghu Kulkarni; and check out our comparison feature pitting IDrive vs Backblaze.

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Google Drive logo

Click through to see Google Drive's features covered in detail (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing collaborative features

Google Drive provides collaborative tools for efficient workflow (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's homepage

Google Drive provides a free storage options as well as competitively priced paid options (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing its third-party app integrations

You can integrate several apps into your Google Drive (Image credit: Google Drive)
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Google Drive's webpage discussing its security features

Google Drive offers 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption (Image credit: Google Drive)

2. Google Drive

The best cloud storage for Google-minded users

Storage capacity: 2TB | Number of devices: Unlimited | Encryption: Encrypted transfer

Best-in-class collaboration tools
Generous storage offering
AI and search technology
No password protection on files
No file expiration

For personal and professional projects, Google Drive is the natural go-to for Google Workspace and Android users, due to seamless integration and versatility. You can use the office suite to create and store documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more; and store mobile-based high-quality photos via Google Photos

While the web interface is somewhat poorly executed and not as user-friendly as elsewhere, native clients allow Windows and Mac users easier file storage through drag-and-drop. There's a 15GB free storage plan, and you can buy more via Google One, starting at $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year for 100GB (when paid annually). 

Each subscription can be shared for free with up to five others, but everyone will have to share the same amount of storage. Upgrading to 200GB costs $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year, with 3% cashback in store credit from the Google Store; 2TB of storage and 10% cashback costs $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.

While this isn’t always clear online, additional storage is also available through Google Workspace. 30GB is available for $6 per user a month, while unlimited storage for teams of five or more users costs $12 per user a month. For $25 per user a month, you’ll also get priority support, data loss prevention, and other perks.

To find out more, read our Google Drive review, and our comparison features pitting Google Drive vs OneDrive and Google Drive vs Dropbox.

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Nextcloud logo

Click through to see Nextcloud's cloud storage in use (Image credit: Nextcloud)
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Nextcloud's file sharing interface

File sharing is easy on Nextcloud (Image credit: Nextcloud)
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Nextcloud's Collabora Online work app

Collabora Online enables you to collaborate and edit with others in real-time (Image credit: Nextcloud)
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NextCloud Calendar in use

Nextcloud Calendar makes it easy for you to schedule team meetings (Image credit: Nextcloud)
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Nextcloud's app store

Nextcloud's app store features a huge collection of apps that integrate seamlessly with the service (Image credit: Nextcloud)

3. Nextcloud

The best cloud storage "provider" for DIY users

Storage capacity: Potentially unlimited | Number of devices: Potentially unlimited | Encryption: Fully customizable

Open-source platform
Secure storage and top security features
Highly configurable
24/7 support only comes with higher tier plans
May be time-consuming to set up

Technically speaking, Nextcloud is not an online cloud storage provider on its own. Rather, it's a self-hosted file sync and content collaboration platform, which provides free software you can install on your own server, and administer cloud storage services yourself. 

The benefit of a self-hosted product is that you get to keep your data on your servers, offering complete control and faster performance. While this might seem intimidating for beginners, or futile for serverless users, the service offers preconfigured hardware that runs Nextcloud out of the box.

As free open-source software, you can download and install it at no cost, but need to factor in the cost of setting up, running, and administering your own servers. However, if you already have infrastructure in place, using Nextcloud instead of a commercial cloud storage solution could save you money.

There are three pricing plans as an alternative, namely the Basic, Standard, and Premium plans, which are pre-configured and ready to go. These are billed annually, with no monthly payment plans available: Basic costs $42.60 per user a year (based on 100 users) or $33.72 (based on 200 users); Standard costs $76.90 or $57.38; and Premium $112.99 or $88.14.

Third-party providers can deploy, optimize, and maintain your Nextcloud installation for you, and if you have at least 50 users, you can choose Nextcloud Enterprise,  a pre-configured, production-ready version. Read our Nextcloud review for more information.

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pCloud logo

Click through this slideshow to see pCloud's main features highlighted (Image credit: pCloud)
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pCloud's Rewind feature demonstrated

pCloud Rewind prevents accidental file deletions (Image credit: pCloud)
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pCloud's Social Backups feature being demonstrated

pCloud's Social Backups automatically saves your photos from platforms like Instagram and Facebook (Image credit: pCloud)
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pCloud's interface in use

It's easy to share files and folders on pCloud (Image credit: pCloud)
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pCloud Crypto in use

pCloud Crypto is offered free for all business users (Image credit: pCloud)

4. pCloud

The go-to provider for large files

Storage capacity: From 500GB | Number of devices: Unspecified | Encryption: In transit and at rest

File-versioning and advanced file-sharing 
Built-in media player
Speedy performance
No real-time collaboration
Free version lacks many tools
Limited customer support

Hailing from Switzerland, pCloud offers no file size limit, making it ideal for storing large media files, although there are some bandwidth limits. You can also send up to 5GB for free with pCloud Transfer, which covers all desktop and mobile platforms, and also has a web-based login. You can also spend more on a monthly, annual or lifetime basis for pCloud Crypto, which can encrypt individual files. 

It’s worth noting that pricing plans include lifetime subscriptions, a fairly unusual sight when it comes to cloud services. Each plan comes with unlimited remote upload traffic and 30 days trash history, with the difference being the amount of storage and download link traffic: 500GB for the Premium package, and 2TB for the Premium Plus package, which cost $4.99 or $9.99 a month, or $47.88 or $95.88 a year respectively.

For more information, read our pCloud review, and take a look at our interview with the company's Digital Marketing Manager Ivan Dimitrov.

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Box logo

Click through to see Box's cloud storage demonstrated (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface

Box lets you upload your files to the cloud (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface in use

Share files for easy collaboration (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface in use

Choose from a huge range of integrated apps with Box (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface in use

Easily create automated workflows (Image credit: Box)

5. Box

Business-oriented storage from a long-standing service

Storage capacity: Unlimited (for business plans) | Number of devices: Unlimited (for business plans) | Encryption: End-to-end

Huge range of app integrations
Easy-to-use workflow builder automates key processes
Strong business focus alongside individual plans
Some aspects of user experience are confusing
Individual plans are quite restricted

One quick look at pricing, and it’s clear Box is prioritizing businesses as its key demographic. However, it offers both individual and business plans, and Box's pricing structure is very simple for the former.

You pay nothing for up to 10GB of storage, with a maximum file size of 250MB, or $10 a month for the Personal Pro plan, with up to 100GB of storage and a maximum file size of 5GB. Box apps for desktop cover Windows and Mac, while mobile users can use the official Android client. 

With almost 15 years in the sector, Box is a mainstay in cloud content management and file sharing. Its strong points include broad management abilities and an emphasis on security, while its UI is easy to navigate, making you feel you at home immediately. It's supported by a variety of commonly used app packages, including Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. 

To find out more, read our Box review, and to learn more about its business cloud storage, read our Box for Business review.

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OneDrive logo

Click through this slideshow to see OneDrive's features explained in more detail (Image credit: Microsoft)
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OneDrive's encryption features described

OneDrive's encryption framework is solid without being exceptional (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing data center safety

All Microsoft data centers are heavily protected by both physical and network security policies (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing its document scanner tool

The Document Scanner is one of our favourite OneDrive features (Image credit: OneDrive)
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OneDrive's webpage discussing its On This Day feature

On This Day is a feel-good feature that makes using OneDrive an enjoyable experience (Image credit: OneDrive)

6. Microsoft OneDrive

The best Windows-first option for cloud storage

Storage capacity: 6TB | Number of devices: 30 | Encryption: AES 256-bit

Unlimited end-to-end encryption with premium plans
Works well on most operating systems
More expensive than competitors
Not as deeply integrated as other services

Ever since the switch to Windows 10, OneDrive has been the Microsoft cloud storage solution of choice. It's directly integrated into the file explorer, providing immediate access for users who want to jumpstart their online backup. There are also Android and iOS apps for mobile uploads, as well as an improved app for Mac users. 

As a Microsoft platform, OneDrive works closely with Microsoft 365, which is helpful if you're looking to boost productivity. The Photos app can sync images across all your devices, and you can selectively sync files stored on your hard drive. The mobile app offers interesting features, such as multi-page scanning that allows you to save them as a single document, and access anywhere from any device. 

OneDrive has plans for home and business use, with four for home: two of these are OneDrive only, while the others incorporate Microsoft 365. Prices range from the free Basic plan offering 5GB of storage, up to $9.99 a month ($99.99 a year), to 6TB with the Microsoft 365 Family plan, which accommodates up to six people (1TB per person). Microsoft 365 plans offer Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Skype. 

The most expensive plans also come with a one-month free trial. For more information, read our Microsoft OneDrive review.

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SpiderOak logo

Click through to see SpiderOak's cloud storage demonstrated (Image credit: SpiderOak)
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SpiderOak's user interface

Create new sync folders to use alongside the SpiderOak Hive (Image credit: SpiderOak)
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SpiderOak's user interface demonstrated

Secure sharing rooms can be used to share files and folders with anyone you need to (Image credit: SpiderOak)
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SpiderOak's webpage detailing its data protection features

SpiderOak has advanced data security policies designed to protect your files (Image credit: SpiderOak)
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SpiderOak's backup process demonstrated

SpiderOak enables you to schedule backups as required (Image credit: SpiderOak)

7. SpiderOak

Zero-knowledge storage for privacy-minded users

Storage capacity: 5TB | Number of devices: Unlimited | Encryption: End-to-end

Excellent focus on data security
All plans include unlimited device connections
Attractive desktop user interface
Quite expensive compared to some alternatives
No phone support
Slow file upload speeds

Zero knowledge cloud storage pertains to encryption, which, according to SpiderOak, takes place before syncing, so it has no idea what you're storing. You're the only one who knows what's being encrypted and saved, which makes your data utterly private. The source code isn’t public though, so you’ll just have to take SpiderOak’s word for it. 

There's a 21-day free trial available, so you can see how the service works and test it before buying, and considering the focus is on security and privacy, it has a simple and straightforward interface, which utilizes a convenient drag-and-drop feature to help with quick and efficient file organization.

There is native support for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS, although the mobile apps are read-only and don’t allow you to upload files. SpiderOak One has four pricing plans, with the cheapest at $6 a month including 150GB of storage and support for unlimited devices. 

For $11 a month, you get 400GB of storage, and 2TB for $14 a month, while $29 a month gets you 5TB, with a small discount of around 5% if you pay annually. Find out more by reading our SpiderOak review.

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iCloud logo

CLick through this slideshow to see iCloud's main elements explained (Image credit: Apple)
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iCloud's webpage discussing its security features

All iCloud data is encrypted, but end-to-end encryption platform wide is lacking (Image credit: iCloud)
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iCloud's webpage discussing its backups

iCloud backs up your device automatically every night (Image credit: iCloud)
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iCloud's webpage discussing its backups

iCloud Drive enables users to upload and organize all their files directly in iCloud (Image credit: iCloud)

8. iCloud

Apple’s solution for iOS and macOS users

Storage capacity: Up to 2TB | Number of devices: 10 | Encryption: 2FA

Integrates with macOS and iOS
Active support forums
No Android app
No real-time collaboration
No file passwords or expiration dates

Right on the heels of Microsoft, Apple’s own cloud storage delivers a sound service. Even if 5GB of free storage won’t back up your iPhone or iPad entirely, the paid subscriptions are competitively priced. 

The standout feature is how easily accessible the service is across Apple’s platforms. For instance, you can store anything through the Mac Finder app, which integrates with iCloud Drive, and also sync iWork documents across all your devices, which are saved to iCloud

If you’re a Windows user with an iPhone, you can also sync files with iCloud Drive via the official client, as well as use the iCloud website to access iWork apps. iCloud's 5GB for free is better than other providers, but significantly less than the 15GB available with Google Drive.

Additional storage is available at different prices, with 50GB for $0.99 a month, 200GB for $2.99 a month, or 2TB for $9.99 a month. Unfortunately, there aren’t any long-term subscriptions, which could be a significant disadvantage for some users. To learn more, read our full iCloud review.

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MEGA logo

Click through to see MEGA's cloud storage in action (Image credit: MEGA)
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MEGA's user interface

File sharing is easy and secure on MEGA (Image credit: MEGA)
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MEGA's user interface in use

MEGA has a built-in communication channel that supports video and phone calls (Image credit: MEGA)
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MEGA's user interface in use

MEGA saves older versions of your files automatically (Image credit: MEGA)
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MEGA's security policies discussed

MEGA places great emphasis on security and offers zero-knowledge encryption (Image credit: MEGA)

9. MEGA

Cloud storage with enhanced security features

Storage capacity: Up to 15TB | Number of devices: Unlimited | Encryption: Zero-knowledge

Zero-knowledge encryption
Built-in chat function
Intuitive interface
Limited support options
Below-average speed

A 50GB free plan is a real rarity in cloud storage, so MEGA delivers right from the start. Add in an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, and you have one of the best cloud storage solutions. A mobile app allows uploading of files and photos, while desktop users have sync clients at their disposal.

The invention of the infamous Kim Dotcom, MEGA allows you to upload files via an encrypted connection, and maintain control over your encryption key. That effectively prevents others, including MEGA, from scanning your content. In addition, its sync client is open-source and open to vulnerability checks. 

For those seeking a paid option, there are four tiers ranging from Pro Lite to Pro III: the only main difference being storage and transfer amounts (all four maintain the same additional features). There's also a Business plan with 15TB of storage, unlimited data transfer, and other features, starting at $5.89 per user.

Pro Lite has 400GB of storage and a 1TB transfer limit per month for $5.88, with the others offering 2TB storage and transfer (Pro I at $11.78 a month), 8TB storage and transfer (Pro II at $23.56 a month) and 16TB storage and transfer (Pro III at $35.35 a month). 

Learn more by reading our MEGA review.


What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage stores data on a physical drive, and makes it accessible to users whenever and wherever they want to view it via an online software platform. There are three main forms:

  • self-hosted, using on-premises (on-prem) infrastructure
  • storage as a service (StaaS), using externally-managed infrastructure in data centers, allowing for economy of scale and large, affordable storage levels
  • hybrid cloud storage, combining on-prem infrastructure and cloud networking

StaaS products are almost always more affordable per TB, and are often known as storage and syncing platforms as they're designed for collaboration. Their services give users the ability to seamlessly upload, access, edit, and share data from any connected device, thanks to cloud sync technology.

This encompasses file versioning and link sharing, allowing for file sharing, tracked document changes, edit incorporations, and more. Accordingly, StaaS cloud storage products provide a cohesive, integrated digital environment, and rank among the best apps to share files.

How secure is cloud storage?

The best cloud storage services provide leading security and encryption, despite theoretically not being as secure as local storage. Two highly-desirable features to look for are end-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture: respectively meaning providers are essentially hack-proof, and that not even staff can access your data, even if law enforcement compels them to. 

It's also worth looking for in-transit and at-rest encryption if end-to-end isn't offered: data is totally indecipherable even should a cybercriminal intercept it. StaaS organizations utilize highly-secure data centers, protected by 24/7 security, biometric entry authorization, and frequent auditing. 

Make sure to look out for extra features like 2FA: while it's only natural to have concerns about data security, the best cloud storage services' strong features and security tools are cutting-edge.

How we review the best cloud storage platforms

When we review cloud storage providers, we test upload and download times for files, as these speeds are integral to performance and usage. We also look at how each provider's security stacks up, how responsive their customer service teams are when there's a problem, at pricing, and at any additional features offered.

Our comprehensive reviews also make a point of comparing each cloud storage service to competitors, across key features and pricing, so you can benefit from as much information as possible before you make your choice.

How to choose the best cloud storage for business

When looking for the best cloud storage for business, there are key differences to personal cloud storage. Business cloud storage has to be stable, highly secure, and able to protect sensitive and important company data. As a result, look for services offering end-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge architecture. 

Most business cloud storage providers are StaaS services, providing collaborative functionality and seamless digital workflows to facilitate and increase collaboration and productivity. These elements are particularly important to businesses with a blend of remote and office workers in a hybrid workspace.

Cloud sync technology allows for document edits to be immediately visible across all connected devices, and to all users given access. Business cloud storage providers also usually provide important administrative tools for access management and system usage auditing, such as roles-based permissions and 2FA.

What you need to know about free cloud storage

Because of the constantly changing market in cloud storage, many services offer free plans for users seeking basic storage, or with little to no budget. While these offer lower maximum storage capacities and fewer features, they're often ideal for the average person's needs, such as backing up documents or photos.

Even a small amount of storage makes a huge difference to the majority of users, who can securely save copies of important files for quick and easy access. If you require more space, it's simple to upgrade to premium plans offered by many free providers.

Another benefit of the best free cloud storage is the ability to utilize it for collaboration on small projects, which is ideal for freelancers, for example. However, take into account that while free plans are ideal for some, their limitations can be an issue.

Further reading on cloud storage

If you're set on purchasing cloud storage, but need to cut costs, read our feature exploring reducing cloud storage costs and what you need to know.

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years of experience in writing various types of content, from blogs, whitepapers, and reviews to ebooks, and many more, across sites including Al Jazeera Balkans, TechRadar Pro, IT Pro Portal, and CryptoNews.