You need a safe digital space to store and protect photos, videos, presentations, and documents. Cloud storage offers storage space on the Internet, aka the cloud. A provider operates and manages the storage for a fee, though there are some free plans out there.
The best cloud storage options may have apps for easier uploading and downloading, access, and file sharing. Many providers have a free tier but provide more storage space for a fee. You can base your storage needs on what and how much you need to store. Photos eat up space, and some providers limit file sizes, creating problems for photographers and other creatives. Other storage services focus on documents rather than media. Still others are primarily for backing up computers.
Check your file sizes, media, and connection speeds, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you need. Keep an eye on your budget though, because services can get pricey if your file number and sizes keep growing.
How We Picked the Best Cloud Storage
The type of cloud storage you need depends a great deal on what you need to back up or store. We took that into consideration while evaluating the different options.
Free Storage: We compared how much storage each service offered in its free tier, if it had a free tier. More storage space can give you more time to decide if it’s the right service for you.
Security and Encryption: Sensitive information needs extra protection. We checked to see what kind of security and encryption each service included and the upgrades needed to access the best security (end-to-end encryption).
Sharing and Collaboration: Some cloud storage services are designed for sharing and collaboration, while others are more bare-bones or lean toward backup services. However, most people and businesses will eventually need to share something they’ve got on the cloud, so we checked to see how easy that is.
Third-party Integrations: Third-party integrations can make it easier to upload, download, and edit documents and photos in cloud storage.
Upload and Download Speeds: All the storage in the world won’t mean much if it takes 10 minutes to upload a single photo.
The Best Cloud Storage: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: iDrive
Why It Made The Cut: This service made the cut for its ease of setup, disk image backup, and restore options, as well as the ability to connect unlimited devices to a single account.
— File size limit: 2GB
— Free storage: 5GB
— Mobile app: Yes
— Fast, simple setup
— Ability for bulk uploads
— Fast upload speeds
— Unlimited devices on a single account
— Storage isn’t unlimited
— Basic sharing
The iDrive service offers the best cloud storage service with its reliable backup and access to stored information for personal, team, and business purposes. It has plans that cover these bases, as well as a photo plan that caters to creatives.
You also get the option of a private inscription key or an iDrive management key. A private key offers the best security, but if you’re prone to losing passwords, stick with the latter. iDrive’s dashboard is fairly easy to navigate with self-explanatory tabs; the organization makes it easy for everyone to use. You can have an unlimited number of devices on each account.
From the dashboard, you can select which files to back up or choose all your data. You can also set the backup frequency. iDrive has a mobile app for both iOS and Android, so you can back up mobile devices too. The downside is that storage isn’t unlimited, and you’ve got only basic sharing abilities. But overall, it’s a robust option that’s simple to use.
Best for Photos: Amazon Photos
Why It Made The Cut: Amazon offers automatic photo uploading, unlimited storage, and photo printing, along with no photo size restrictions.
— File size limit: None
— Free storage: Yes, with Prime membership
— Mobile app: Yes
— Free with Prime membership
— No image size restrictions
— Automatic uploads
— Unlimited storage
— Requires Amazon Drive desktop app to download photos over 2GB
— Fee if you’re not a Prime member
If you’ve got Amazon Prime, there is no reason not to use their photo storage to protect and print your pics, because it’s one of the best cloud storage for photos. Prime members get unlimited storage with automatic uploads. There are also no image size restrictions, which pros can appreciate. One of the downsides is that when you download photos over 2GB, you can’t use the mobile app or Drive website. It’s the Amazon Drive desktop app only.
This photo-storage option from Amazon includes editing and tagging features to help you organize and find your photos. There’s also a fun feature that uses AI to locate specific photos based on search terms.
There are some downsides to this service, especially if you don’t have a Prime membership. You’ll pay a monthly fee to access all the features, and that fee goes up the more storage you need. However, even if you don’t have a Prime membership, it’s a good deal for storing and accessing photos.
Best Personal: Sync
Why It Made The Cut: Sync offers excellent security for personal users and includes easy setup and access.
— File size limit: Unlimited
— Free storage: 5GB
— Mobile app: Yes
— Excellent security for personal use
— Can store “older versions” without eating up storage space
— Great price per terabyte
— Simple, efficient interface
— Few third-party integrations
— Single-folder sync
Sync offers an excellent bang for your buck as far as paid services go and the best personal cloud storage. The free service stores up to 5GB, which won’t take you very far. However, it’ll give you a good idea of whether this is the cloud storage service for you. The monthly fee for an individual plan isn’t prohibitive, and it comes with excellent security features, with encryption when you download and upload.
The setup is simple, and the interface doesn’t require an advanced degree to navigate. You keep a Sync folder on your computer, where you put everything you want backed up or saved. The service offers versioning, where you can store older versions of files, but those old versions don’t count toward your storage limit.
It’s got basic folder and file sharing, though not as robust as some services. It doesn’t have the third-party integrations of larger services like Google Drive and Dropbox, but for the price, you get better security. There’s also the issue of single-folder syncing, which doesn’t let you back up files outside the folder.
Best for Business: Google Drive
Why It Made The Cut: Google Drive lets businesses share documents, photos, and a whole lot more with simple access and generous storage.
— File size limit: 5TB
— Free storage: 15GB
— Mobile app: Yes
— Generous free storage
— Wide range of third-party integrations
— Great collaboration suite
— Store, share, sync, and collaborate from one place
— Security isn’t as tight as it could be
— No password protection on files
If you’ve got a team working on the same documents and using the same media, Google Drive makes the best cloud storage for business. If you’re not sure if this is for you, consider that you can get 15GB of free storage space to test things out, which is pretty substantial. Granted, it will work better for a smaller team than a corporate one. Once you hit that 15GB storage mark, you enter paid subscription territory.
Google Drive has a 5TB file size limit, which could be an issue for some creatives in certain industries. However, for most offices, that’s a generous file size. Where businesses really benefit is in the creation, editing, and collaboration that can take place on documents, sheets, and presentations. Google Drive includes an entire suite for working and collaborating with people all over the world. Plus, there are other Google services that can go along with Drive, like Gmail, calendars, and meetings.
On the downside, it’s not the most secure platform for storing files. You can control who sees documents with the right settings. However, there is no way to set a password for a document.
Best Free: Degoo
Why It Made The Cut: The free tier storage size coupled with an intuitive interface make Degoo the best free cloud storage for photos.
— File size limit: 512MB (free plan)
— Free storage: 100GB
— Mobile app: Yes
— Intuitive interface
— High storage limit in the free tier
— Works with several mobile platforms
— Photo storage maximizer
— Free tier limits security
Degoo offers a large storage space of 100GB, which is more than most of the competitors. However, it’s geared toward photos, which eat up space faster than other file types. Once you get it set up, the interface is bright and intuitive, giving it a shallow learning curve.
Degoo offers a surprising amount of security, even in the free tier. Information gets encrypted in transit and while hanging out in storage. There’s also an end-to-end encryption option in which data is spread onto different servers for added protection, but it’s available only via subscription.
In short, Degoo offers accessibility with minimal effort on the part of the user. But if you want added security and more storage space, you’ll have to jump into the paid tiers.
Things to Consider Before Buying Cloud Storage
Free vs. Paid
It can be tough to fork over your hard-earned cash for a storage space you can’t even see with your own eyes. There are free cloud storage services, but they usually require some compromises on the amount of storage space and file size limits. Most providers have a free tier in their pricing, but storage limits can range from as low as 2GB to as high as 200GB if you refer new customers. Storage services can charge from as little as a few dollars a year to a heftier one-time fee for a lifetime subscription with unlimited storage.
Media and Compatibility
Check the details of the storage agreement. Some providers offer unlimited storage but shrink the size of archived images. That’s a problem if you’re a photographer who might need to print older images. In that case, look for a service that stores images at their original size.
However, others may primarily need to store and share documents rather than photos or videos. Some services can handle both, while others specialize in one type of storage or another.
Finally, you have to think about the compatibility of cloud storage. Does it have an app for iOS, Android, and Windows? How easy is it to upload or download files? Will you use cloud storage for backing up your laptop, or only certain types of files?
Security and Sharing
Do you need to share files with family or a team? And how secure do you need those files to be? Some services offer encryption on the way in and out, while others are more about sharing the love than hiding your info. Services that offer end-to-end encryption and passwords on folders or files boost the security of sensitive information. Take some time to figure out how and if you want to share information.
Q: How secure is cloud storage?
Stories of hackers breaking into cloud storage are not uncommon. Certain features definitely increase security. Two-step authentication, encryption in transit, passwords on files or folders, and end-to-end encryptions (which doesn’t even allow the service employees access to files) are all features that improve security. While it might be scary to send your information for storage elsewhere, it’s probably safer than information on your hard drive, which is vulnerable to malware and spyware.
Q: How does cloud storage work?
Cloud storage sends your files over the internet to a remote server or storage host. The servers connect remotely to any device with the right access information. Most providers host the information on several servers so that if one server goes down, the information doesn’t get lost.
Q: How much does cloud storage cost?
Price ranges are pretty varied, from free plans that offer anywhere from 2GB to 200GB of storage to paid services that are several figures with unlimited storage for large businesses. Decide on how much storage you need, what you need to store, and your budget to help you narrow down the provider that will work best for you.
Final Thoughts on the Best Cloud Storage
For overall backup and storage, iDrive offers competitive pricing, security, and storage space. If you have a small business that needs lots of collaboration and document sharing, Google Drive provides some of the easiest options, though you’ll have to be careful about security if your documents have sensitive information.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.