Tech has evolved so much over the years that most people rely on their data being stored online rather than locally on their actual device. With so many cloud storage
providers competing for your business, how do you choose the top company that’s right for you?
The option you pick will ultimately depend on your unique storage needs. Continue reading to see our picks for the best cloud storage plans available along with an overview of what cloud storage is.
What is cloud storage?
You’ve probably heard the term “in the cloud,” but what does it mean? Simply put, the cloud is an offsite storage facility where users send their data via the internet for safekeeping. It still requires hardware and storage equipment, but it’s maintained and operated by someone else. The beauty of this system is that you can easily get the data you need from nearly anywhere. Uploads and downloads to these servers ensure you can access your data from any logged-in device.
The best cloud-based storage companies
What are the top cloud storage providers for consumers and small businesses? While there are many options available, the services on this list have history to back up their claims and plenty of happy customers.
Note: Companies change their offers and pricing all the time, so double-check any of these to ensure their cost and terms haven’t changed.
This is one of the more reasonably-priced storage providers assuming you want to buy your service on a yearly basis. Discounts for personal plans of up to 5TB total storage are available, and businesses can get storage options of up to 1.25TB.
The software tool, called IDrive Express, is simple to install and can be set to automatically update your folders and drives at the time your choice, preferably overnight. Plus, up to 30 versions per account are available to recover, if needed. You will appreciate the fact that if you delete something from your device, it won’t automatically be removed from your online account. This makes accidental erasure more difficult.
offers users one free shipment of an external network drive with each annual billing as well. Use it to upload all your data or restore your computer without waiting for lengthy downloads and uploads via the internet. You can easily share files through email or social media. The solutions support multiple devices, and business accounts provide unlimited users with a single sign-on as well as server backup.
2. Google Drive
For those who are already familiar with what Google has to offer, this may be a comfortable transition to cloud storage. Just log in to any of your integrated Google profiles, such as Gmail, and you’ll have instant access to the storage account. While Google has recently changed the name of their storage service to Google One, it still has all the perks users love, including generous free storage.
If you use G Suite for business and the Google Docs tools, you’ll have even more data options to choose from. The Android app allows you to backup, restore, edit files from your mobile device, and it plays well with Google Photos. There’s no longer any reason to have photos or video on your phone that aren’t automatically backed up to the web.
This is an easy choice for anyone who uses Google for creating, editing, and sharing files of any type. It easily converts and displays file types from both Microsoft and Mac office products, so you don’t have to worry about file conversions or glitchy backups of popular file types.
Get up to 15GB free with Google Drive
, or choose from plans ranging from 100GB to 30TB, starting at just $2 per month.
This data storage solution is popular, in part, because it comes as a free trial on many of the Windows-based computers
and laptops being sold today. It supports dozens of well-known third-party apps, including Salesforce, Slack, Zoom, Autodesk, Adobe, Asana, Zendesk, and many, many more. Developers are continually creating new partnerships all the time.
There is a free 2GB to get you started using the platform, which is quickly consumed if you’re using it for all the perks it offers. For those with small businesses or who work remotely, the collaboration tools alone are worth checking out. The desktop app can back up files without your interaction, and many use this feature for preserving all those family photos from their computers. Edit files online from the Dropbox
interference without downloading, or request files from friends and colleagues with their integrated communications dashboard.
With desktop solutions for all major operating systems and mobile devices including Kindle, it’s one of the best cloud storage solutions available. Get it for a low price of $9.99 monthly or save by buying an annual plan. You can also refer friends and earn free months of service. Business plans start at $12.50 per user per month.
If you use Microsoft products and services to get your work done, you’ve probably already heard of OneDrive
. This tool connects to your Microsoft account and automatically activates and updates from devices connected to your Microsoft login. If you change a file on your computer desktop, your online backup will change as well, so you should learn how offline and online syncing works before using.
The sync tools are incredibly easy, working with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. There is no additional software to download or buy, and you can set up your documents to auto-save to the cloud as you work, so you never lose your progress. The service is affordable and offers 5GB free to users and a low price of just $3 per month for 50GB. Android and iOS apps ensure you can access files anywhere you take your mobile device, too.
If you’re a Windows user with no time to learn new tools, this is your surest bet.
5. iCloud Storage
If Google and Microsoft are considered, then it only makes sense that Apple wouldn’t be far behind. The iCloud storage plan
is a must-have for iPhone and Mac users who want to seamlessly back up their files from their devices without extra steps or tools. While free storage is included, it’s modest at just 5GB, which isn’t enough to back up a single iPhone in most cases.
Thankfully, the price is right for this backup service, starting at less than $1 per month for the smallest plan. Use it to store and share your iWork office documents as well. This hands-free cloud solution is perfect for any Apple fan who doesn’t want to lose their most precious phone photos or files.
Another favorite for users of all technologies, Box
has established itself as a top cloud storage provider. While there is a free account, it offers just 250MB of space. The starter plan is priced right, however, and even the business options are much less than similar services.
What do you get for your money? A powerful backup tool that’s simple to understand. It works well for those who don’t want to give up their existing suite of services, thanks to integration options for Google Suite and Office 365. As one of the first reputable providers to hit the market, it’s established itself as a tool that plays well with other apps and integrations, such as AutoCAD. It also works with Apple, Google, and IBM, and new tools are added all the time.
7. Amazon Drive
While limited in its use, Amazon Drive
is an ideal solution for those who just want to keep their photos and videos safe on the cloud. It’s free for Amazon Prime users, with a data cap of 5GB for videos and unlimited photo storage and backup. For $11.99 per year, you get upgraded storage with 100GB for anything you want to store. A 1TB plan gives you even more space for under $60 per year. For all the plans, photos won’t ever count against the limits as long as you’re an active Amazon Prime member.
Enterprise users with at least 500 members will love the security and privacy that SpiderOak
offers. This no-frills cloud storage provider gives you just what you need, a safe space to put your files and a seamless way to share them between authorized users. However, you won’t get extras such as app integration, file editing, and project management with this plan. Pricing information is available for qualified businesses who contact them directly.
What to look for in cloud storage providers
Competition is fierce for companies who offer this service and new ones pop up all the time. Many of them are big names you will recognize, but that doesn’t mean you should count out the smaller ones. If you’re unfamiliar with how each differs, be sure you check their service plan description to learn the following:
Most plans come with a certain level of free storage that you can use without paying. For those that don’t, you may get a limited-time trial plan instead. See if you can try before you buy so you can test the service before committing to a long-term or expensive plan.
File size limit
Most of the files consumers use such as documents, photos, and email are well under the size limits some cloud service providers enforce. If you dabble in high definition videos, however, or frequently create large files with hundreds of documents, you could run into file size limits. Review the type of files you’ll store to see that they follow the service guidelines.
In addition to file size, there will be a total cap on data stored to the cloud. This usually varies by plan, with higher-capacity plans available for businesses and creative professionals who need more storage. Expect to pay a higher bill for cloud storage providers for business.
You’ll need the most popular cloud storage providers to transfer and hold the common files for Word documents, audio files, video files, and PowerPoint or Excel. Many will also have alternative file options for open-source file extensions. If you use files that are especially unique, it’s possible they won’t take it. See if you have to convert files to a more popular option before you buy. This can be time-consuming.
What if you’ve backed up your laptop to the cloud and then it suddenly dies. If you want to easily restore that data to your new device, what hoops will you have to jump through? Many companies offer offline options for both backup and restore, making it easier to access and recover large amounts of data. If you use a data plan with a limit, for example, make sure your data is sent to you on a drive and not as a manual local download. Many companies offer these perks for an additional price.
If you use a desktop computer to back up your files, each company will have its own proprietary software tool to keep your data updated and secure. What about when you travel? Does your provider offer a phone app? Does it work on both iOS and Android devices? Find the app or tool that works well with your entire collection of devices before you buy.
Cloud storage solutions for every need
As you can see, price isn’t everything when it comes to cloud storage. With so many factors to consider and compare, the lowest-priced option isn’t always the best. Choosing from all the cloud storage service providers out there can be done with patience and research into your data storage needs.
Don’t hesitate to sign up for free trials of plans and put them to the test before investing in an annual or lifetime plan. It’s also smart to review the billing policies and know how cancellation works. If you change your mind about a plan, most are easy to cancel.
Cloud storage allows us to get more done in all the places we work and play. Whether you need to store your photos or want to collaborate with your favorite business tools, the top cloud storage service providers are regularly improving their services to bring you the best this tech has to offer.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.