Thanks to a wide array of cloud storage solutions, you no longer have to travel around with a handful of USB sticks or a clunky external drive. Cloud storage allows you to backup your files and access your data from nearly any device as long as you have internet access. Most big services feature free tiers, letting you get a full taste of what's possible through the cloud without having to spend a penny.
However, with so many services out there, it can be overwhelming to make a decision about which one to subscribe to. While the free tiers help you try each one out, we've compiled a short guide on the biggest and best cloud storage solutions out there to nail on the basics.
But for those who need a TL;DR we've crafted a handy chart...
|Google Drive||Microsoft OneDrive||Dropbox||Box||Amazon Cloud Drive||SugarSync||iDrive||Apple iCloud|
|Free Storage||15 GB||5 GB||2 GB||10 GB||5 GB||None||5 GB||5 GB|
|Yearly Price for 1TB||$100 for 2TB||$70||$120 for 2TB||$180 for unlimited||$60||$550||$15||$120 for 2TB|
|Paid Plans||$20/yr for 100GB
$30/yr for 200GB
$100/yr for 2TB
$100/mo for 10TB
$200/mo for 20TB
$300/mo for 30TB
|$2/mo for 100 GB
$70/yr for 1TB
$100/yr for 6TB
OneDrive for Business plans start at $5/mo with 1TB per user
|$120/yr for 2TB
$200/yr for 3TB
$150/yr for 5TB
$240/yr for unlimited storage
|$10/mo for 100 GB
$5/mo per user for 100GB
$15/mo per user for unlimited storage
|$20/yr for 100GB
$60/yr for 1TB
$120/yr for 2TB
$180/yr for 3TB
|$7.50/mo for 100 GB
$10/mo for 250GB
$18.95/mo for 500GB
$550/yr for 1 TB
|$5/yr for 100 GB
$15/yr for 1TB
$80/yr for 5TB
$100/yr for 10TB
|$1/mo for 50GB
$3/mo for 200GB
$10/mo for 2TB
|Supported OS||Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, MacOS, Web Browser||Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, Windows, Web||Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, Windows, Web||Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, Windows, Web||Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Web||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web||Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, Windows, Web||iOS, Mac, Web|
|Other Features||Web Apps Collaboration OCR||Web Apps, Photo Tagging, OCR||Document signing, Third Party Integration, Password Manager||Collaboration features||Unlimited Photos with Amazon Prime||Remote Wipe||Disk Imaging||Disk Optimization Third Party Integration|
Google Drive is part of every Google account along with 15GB of free storage space. Drive is accessible through a web browser at drive.google.com, or with a dedicated app for Android and iOS. The companion desktop apps for Windows and Mac can also sync with your local drives.
Google Drive includes some handy features like the ability to backup smartphones messages, or the ability to convert PDF and photo files into text through an integrated OCR function.
Now, that space is shared with your Gmail account and Google Photos, so it can fill up surprisingly quick. Google Drive also integrates with a suite of Google's office web apps, including Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. However, some users may be concerned about Google's privacy and security, leading them to find more secure, but lesser known alternatives. For example, one of the biggest disadvantages to Google Drive is that you can't password protect a shared item or folder.
If you want more space, you'll have to subscribe to Google One, which features the following pricing:
- $2 a month / $20 a year for 100GB
- $3 a month / $30 a year for 200GB
- $10 a month / $100 a year for 2TB
- $100 a month for 10TB
- $200 a month for 20TB
- $300 a month for 30TB
Google Drive Pros:
- Decent amount of free storage
- Available on a wide variety of platforms on desktop and mobile
- Suite of productivity apps, free real-time collaboration
Google Drive Cons:
- Limited security and privacy options
- Tied into Google ecosystem
- Lots of included apps, all sharing the same storage capacity
Users of the latest versions of Windows should be familiar with OneDrive, which is integrated into the File Explorer (for better or for worse). But OneDrive isn't exclusive to Windows as there are clients that cover Apple Mac, iOS and Android.
OneDrive comes with a few smart features that allow you to better organize your files, or automatically tag your photos. The dedicated desktop apps will also sync your files and folders with your local storage.
OneDrive is more useful if you're a Microsoft Office user, as the cloud service allows you to share documents with others in your workgroup, provide notifications about edited files, secure files with passwords, and more. The mobile app can even scan physical documents using your phone's camera, allowing you to sign and email them. Those concerned about security should be happy to know that the service also includes a Personal Vault feature, which requires identity verification in order to access them.
OneDrive comes with 5 GB of free storage, and offers a few paid plans:
- $2 a month for 100 GB of storage
- Microsoft 365 Personal: $7 a month / $70 a year, for 1TB of storage and includes Office Apps
- Microsoft 365 Family: $10 a month / $100 a year for 6TB of storage
Users can also switch to a OneDrive for Business Plan
- $5 a month per user with 1TB for each user
- $10 a month per user for unlimited storage
- $6 a month per user for Microsoft 356 Business Basic with 1TB per user
- $12.50 a month per user for Microsoft 365 Business Standard with 1TB per user
Microsoft OneDrive Pros:
- Integrates fully into Windows and Office
- Easy to share files and collaborate
- Security features
- Cool features like mobile document scanning and auto tagging photos
Microsoft OneDrive Cons:
- Not a lot of free storage
- Security isn't as robust as other options
With a seamless and easy-to-use interface along with plenty of features, Dropbox has grown to become a favorite in the world of cloud storage and syncing files. Along with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android clients, the service also supports Linux.
Like other services including Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox features file recovery, which allows you to restore anything you've deleted over the past 30 days, but there's also a version history feature that allows users to revert edited items to their original form.
Dropbox provides 256-bit AES encryption for your data as well as two-step authentication to help keep data secure. Users who value Dropbox's privacy and security features can opt to use this service in other ecosystems like Slack, Adobe, Microsoft Office, Autodesk, Canva and more. Dropbox has also been expanding. It recently acquired HelloSign, allowing paid Dropbox users to sign and request signatures on documents. Dropbox offers a password manager, too.
Free Dropbox accounts come with 2GB of storage and a 100 MB size limit per transfer, while paid plans go from $12 month for 2TB and the highest tier includes an unlimited storage option:
- Dropbox Plus: $12 a month / $120 a year for 2TB
- Dropbox Professional: $20 a month / $200 a year for 3TB
- Standard Team Plan: $15 a month / $150 a year for 5TB
- Advanced team Plan: $25 a month / $240 a year for unlimited storage space
- Strong integration with various apps and services
- Available on several platforms and operating systems
- File versioning
- Limited features, storage capacity with free tier
- Can be a bit simple to power users
Box has proven to be popular with enterprise users thanks to smart features that promote collaboration and make working with other users in different places easier. For example, you can use Box to assign tasks, leave comments on files, change privacy controls, or set expiry dates on shared items.
One of the biggest advantages to Box is security: not only does it offer AES 256-bit encryption, but it offers full end-to-end encryption (not even Box can get at your files) as well as two-factor authentication.
Box also features integration with the Box Notes collaboration app, Box Relay workflow app, and Box Sign e-documents app. However, in comparison to other services on this list, Box doesn't feature the strongest document editing features.
The free tier of Box comes with 10GB of storage, but a 250MB file upload limit. There are several ways to upgrade your Box storage limit:
- Personal Pro Account: $10 a month for 100 GB with 5GB file uploads
- Starter Business Plan starts at $5 a month per user and includes 100GB
- Standard Business Plan is $15 a month per user and includes unlimited storage
- Generous Space for Free Accounts
- Strong collaboration emphasis
- Security options
- Low upload limit for free accounts
- Paid accounts seem expensive in comparison to others
Not to be outdone by their rivals at Microsoft, Google, and Apple, tech giant Amazon offers its own cloud storage solution as well. But you should know, Amazon is phasing it out, so we don't recommend using it now but rather moving over one of the alternative platforms if you currently use it for your files.
Every Amazon account comes with 5GB of free storage on Amazon Cloud Drive, which is also shared with the Amazon Photos service (which is limited to image formats, and will continue to exist). However, Amazon Prime users get unlimited Amazon Photo storage, which is handy for those seeking a solution just for their albums.
Amazon's Cloud Service was strictly designed to be focused on documents, photos and videos, so it was never a true cloud storage solution like others on this list. Furthermore, it lacked two-way syncing, file versioning or backup features.
Amazon Cloud Drive Pros:
- Unlimited photo storage for Prime users
Amazon Cloud Drive Cons:
- It's shutting down in 2023
- Limited file support
- Poor security options
- Limited space with free tier
SugarSync focuses on secure file sharing, collaboration, and syncing and even features a remote wipe feature in case of loss, theft, or damage. Along with just a few other options on this list, SugarSync offers file versioning, though it's limited to just five previous versions of a file. There are a few concerns with the web app, as it only allows for uploads of files up to 300 MB.
SugarSync lacks a free tier, offering a 30-day free trial before asking you to subscribe to one of the following plans:
- $7.50 a month for 100 GB
- $10 a month for 250GB
- $18.95 a month for 500GB
- $55 a month or $550 a year for 1 TB of storage for a business account which comes with additional admin controls and support for more users
- Remote wipe feature
- File versioning
- No free tier and pricey paid options
- Poor web app
For those seeking a solution tailored to backing up files, consider iDrive, which works with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, as well as support for connecting and imaging external hard drives. Like other services, there is also file versioning support, which saves 30 different versions of the same file. The service also offers end-to-end encryption, though this isn't available with shared files.
iDrive comes with 5GB of free storage and offers both personal, team, business, and enterprise plans. Here's what you need to know about how much you'll need to budget:
- $80 a year for 5TB
- $100 a year for 10TB
- Disk imaging support
- File versioning
- End-to-end encryption
- Limited collaboration and sharing features
- No unlimited storage tier
Specific to those on Apple's ecosystem, iCloud syncs seamlessly with iOS and Mac devices, and even allows some access on other platforms through a web browser. It offers deep integration with Apple devices similar to how Microsoft has built-in OneDrive into Windows, iCloud allows users to optimize their on-device storage as needed to free up space.
iCloud is a little less annoying on your MacBook, but very pushy on iPhone and iPad where it offers to backup all your photos and data seamlessly, but that convenience comes at a price. iCloud features a polished and easy to use interface, though power users may be frustrated with the lack of options and advanced features.
It includes 5GB of free storage, but Apple offers several plans starting at:
- $1 a month for 50GB
- $3 a month for 200GB
- $10 a month for 2TB
Apple iCloud Pros:
- Strong integration with Mac and iOS devices
- Nice, easy to use interface
Apple iCloud Cons:
- Limited advanced features for power users
- No support for Android devices