No matter what you’re looking to do with your files online, there is probably a decent option for you. And most cloud storage services really aren’t a one size fits all, no matter how hard they try to be. One will be better at security while another is better at sync and yet another has better pricing. So I’m going to break this down into six categories: best free offer, largest storage options, best platform support, best pricing, best sharing options, and best security.
Not everyone cares about all of these features as a whole, and that’s a good thing, since very few cloud storage options are great in all six categories. However, if one of the storage services you’ve been considering pops up in one or two of your important areas, you know it’s probably the cloud for you.
No less, here are the best cloud storage deals around.
Who gives you the most for free?
Shared.com used to be one of the leaders in this space, offering 100GB for free. All you had to do was register with a Facebook account, and the 100GB was yours. Now shared.com redirects to sendvid, which is like a safe for work version of Imgur, only for video. Next in line is SurDoc, which still offers 100GB for free. But the site seemed very slow and I’m not at all familiar with the brand.
If you want a more recognizable service, the most storage you’re looking at for free is 50GB through Kim Dotcom’s MEGA, which is a cloud sharing site, but it can be used simply for storing just as well. Not to mention, there are often promotions in which you can earn additional free storage by referring new customers. I did this using Copy and earned 342GB for free for life. This sort of promotion is common, but they usually cap the extra storage at 40 or 50GB. But it’s still worth keeping an eye out for all those extra bits of storage.
If all you’re looking for is a place to store and backup your photos online, Google Photos is the way to go. Google offers truly unlimited storage of photos 16MP or less. Photos larger than 16MP, however, will count towards your Google Drive storage.
Also, there are a handful of China-based storage services which offer up a tasty 10TB and even 37TB – yes, terabytes – for free, but there is a lot of skepticism over their security and the safety of your personal files. I won’t link those here, but they aren’t difficult to find either.
Who has the largest storage options?
No matter how you look at it, online storage is an increasingly popular way to store files – be it backups, media, or simply documents. And if you have a lot to store, you’re going to need a lot of space. By and large, Google Drive is the clear winner in this area, offering up to a whopping 30TB. But you are going to pay a pretty penny for 30TB of online storage – $299.99 plus applicable taxes every month.
SurDoc lists Unlimited as a storage option for just $8.33 per month, but I’m not certain if “Unlimited” truly means unlimited or if there is a fair use clause in the terms and conditions. Frankly, it seems too good to be true and I always hesitate to recommend something I haven’t tried for myself, but SurDoc definitely seems to have a lot to give and offer in exchange for far less cash than its competitors.
Who has the best cross-platform support?
A major reason to use cloud storage is so you can have access to your files while on the go – or on any device, for that matter. Last year and definitely the year before that, I would have said Dropbox wins in cross-platform and mobile support, hands down. But the times are changing and many cloud storage providers are stepping up their games when it comes to platform support, especially mobile. Copy, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box are all exceptional on mobile and work on practically any device with a web browser, though they also offer native apps on Windows and Mac.
Google Drive also has native apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, and again supports about anything with a web browser, but with Drive now only working as a hub for Sheets and Docs, the user experience has definitely dipped quite a bit.
At the end of the day, I give the slight edge to Dropbox – not for its apps or design, but the sheer reliability and speed of its sync. Copy comes in as a very close second.
Who has the best bang for your buck?
If you’re looking for the most storage for the least amount of cast and you carry an iPhone, iCloud Drive is a definite winner, offering 20GB for just $0.99 per month. However, if you’re outside the ecosystem and are looking for a better per gigabyte price, Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive, and Dropbox are the better options anyway with $1.99 for 100GB.
The absolute best deal around, however, is OneDrive’s 1TB plan for $6.99 per month. Not only is that the most affordable 1TB plan available, but it also includes access to Office 365 from one Mac or PC, one tablet, and one phone. You can bring that price down even further by paying $69.99 upfront for an entire year. That averages out to $5.83 per month for one terabyte. That’s unbelievable.
Which is best for sharing?
Almost every cloud storage service will allow you to share a public link to any file you upload. Why wouldn’t they, right?
That said, if you start using too much bandwidth, some services will swing the ban hammer, like Dropbox did to me several times in the past.
Now Dropbox’s daily bandwidth limit is 20GB per day for both sharing and file requests – meaning your usage and sharing combined. And there’s a 100,000 daily download limit on the files in your account, which is pretty massive. However, if you need to increase this, a business account can use about 200GB of bandwidth in a day without files being banned, and there’s no hard download limit. Copy has similar bandwidth limitations of 50 and 500GB for personal and business accounts, respectively. But any suspended or banned links with either Dropbox or Copy will be accessible at the start of the following day.
Google Drive does not specify any bandwidth limitations, but does reserve the right to restrict access to a file if it feels the system is being abused. So if you plan on sharing a large file with a large number of people, Google Drive may work … or Google might yank the plug at any minute.
The sure shot way to share a lot of large files MEGA was built for sharing. Its smallest plan comes with 1TB of bandwidth and you can purchase plans with up to 4TB of storage and 8TB of bandwidth for 29.99 euros or about $32.72 USD.
Which is the most secure?
If none of this other mumbo jumbo matters quite as much as how secure your files are, you do have a few options. Privacy and file security are two increasingly popular topics regarding cloud storage, and nothing matters more than those two things to companies like SpiderOak and tresorit.
Sure, most cloud storage options, like Copy, will heavily encrypt your information and files once in the cloud. But if there’s a breach and the encryption key is also obtained, the hackers basically have a key to the safe, full of all your important information.
SpiderOak side-steps this problem by encrypting the files locally, before they’re sent to your online account. The encryption key is held locally on your machine, meaning you’re responsible for the safety of your files, not SpiderOak. And tresorit is so confident in its security that it offered $50,000 to anyone who can crack its security. Over 468 days, over 1,000 hackers attempted and not a single one succeeded. Tresorit appears to use very similar security and encryption to SpiderOak.
And if you want that added security, you’re going to have to pay for it. SpiderOak charges $12 per month for 1TB of storage – $2 more than Google Drive and $5 more than OneDrive for the same amount of storage – and tresorit charges $12.50 for just 100GB. Ouch.
The moral of the story is, cloud storage is turning into a race to the bottom and the bigger fish are definitely getting there quicker, as expected. But the smaller services are differentiating by offering better encryption, more bandwidth, or even offers that sound too good to be true … and sometimes are. But there is no clear cut winner when you go searching for the absolute best cloud storage deal. Different users need different features, and very few cloud storage options offer the exact same thing.
My personal approach is to gather all the free storage I can, just in case, and rely on Drive and Dropbox for the vast majority of my cloud storage.
About the author: Taylor Martin is a creator. He has a YouTube channel where he covers technology, DIY projects, and life hacks. He also hosts and produces a weekly podcast, Untethered, where anything goes. You can connect with him on Twitter at @caspertek.