Cloud storage is an easy way for individuals and businesses to keep their documents safe and accessible from a variety of devices. The market expanded dramatically throughout the 2010s, and users now have a wide range of providers to choose from.
In our iCloud review, we’ll take a close look at the platform’s tools and overall value to see how it compares to other top cloud storage services. While iCloud is particularly convenient for Mac and iOS users, alternatives like Google Drive and pCloud have unique features that could make them better options for some users.
- The best cloud storage options
iCloud: Plans and pricing
Like many other cloud storage providers, iCloud offers a small amount of free storage. The 5 GB available for free is more than the 2 GB you would get from Dropbox, but it’s significantly less than the 15 GB available with Google Drive.
Additional storage is available at different prices, depending on your region. American users can get 50 GB for $0.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99 per month, or 2 TB for $9.99 per month.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any long-term subscriptions, which could be a significant disadvantage for some users. pCloud, for example, provides 2 TB of lifetime storage for a one-time charge of $350. You would pay $350 for the same amount of iCloud storage after just three years and nearly $1,200 over 10 years.
Depending on your needs, iCloud can act as either (or both) a backup platform for your iOS devices or a cloud storage app for all your files across devices. iOS devices can be set up to automatically sync local files to iCloud Drive, as long as you have space in cloud storage.
That said, iCloud doesn’t support real-time collaboration on online documents. This is available with both Google Drive and OneDrive, and it’s extremely convenient for organizations that need to make seamless changes to a shared copy of a document.
Similarly, while Apple’s Time Machine makes it easy for users to access older versions of their files, this feature isn’t available with iCloud Drive. That said, you can restore Pages, Keynote, and Numbers documents if you’ve enabled iCloud Drive for those applications.
Interface and in use
You won’t have any trouble getting used to the iCloud Drive interface if you’ve used other Apple services. Files can be managed from the iCloud website, where you can also access your mail, contacts, calendars, and more. iCloud Drive is convenient for those who are already in the Apple ecosystem—it comes with every new install of macOS, enabling users to quickly move files in and out of iCloud without installing any other applications.
On the other hand, there’s no iCloud Drive app for Android devices, making the platform less flexible for organizations with both Android and iOS users. You can still access these features through the website, but this is significantly less efficient. With that in mind, we aren’t as quick to recommend iCloud Drive if you’re using Windows, Android, or another operating system.
The iCloud Drive FAQ page provides basic information about the service and its features and settings. It isn’t quite as detailed as some competitors, with only a short list of points that link out to other pages on the Apple website.
If the FAQ doesn’t have the answer that you’re looking for, you can also browse the community forums or post a new question. The forums are highly active, so you shouldn’t have much trouble getting a response. Unfortunately, you can only contact the support team over the phone, and you’ll need to provide the serial number of an Apple device in order to proceed.
iCloud uses a minimum of 128-bit encryption for most information. You can make your iCloud account even more secure by enabling two-factor authentication. That said, Apple’s two-factor authentication is limited to devices running at least iOS 9 or Mac OS X El Capitan. You’ll need to use two-step verification instead if you’re using an Android phone, for example.
While we don’t have any reason to doubt the security of iCloud Drive, it is missing helpful features such as the option to set file passwords or expiration dates.
Certain competitors may offer more utility than iCloud Drive, depending on your use case. Google Drive, for example, supports real-time collaboration with up to 100 users rather than requiring each user to upload a new version of the document. Drive users get 15 GB of storage for free, and while the 2 TB plan is also priced at $9.99 per month, you can get a slight discount by paying $99.99 per year.
Similarly, pCloud has a few of the tools missing from iCloud Drive, including robust file versioning, file passwords and expiration dates, and an optional lifetime license for roughly the cost of three years of iCloud Drive.
iCloud Drive isn’t a bad service, and it’s especially convenient for users in the Apple ecosystem. That said, cloud storage is an intensely competitive field, and iCloud Drive doesn’t do much to stand out from the top competitors.
Whether or not it’s the right choice for you ultimately depends on your needs. It could be the most efficient option if you value integration with iOS and macOS.