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What to Look For With Cloud Storage in 2022

In little more than 10 years, cloud storage has gone from something only used by businesses and the tech-savvy to something that millions of us rely on every day. As such, the number of available cloud storage services has increased exponentially while their prices have gone down.

Even so, finding the best value-for-money service is important. That isn’t always about how much space you get, but that is often where we start when looking at storage plans. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know exactly how much storage space you might need until you actually start storing all of your files.

Most providers have a free storage plan to get you started, but it is still worth looking at how much the premium plans will cost if you ever need to upgrade. The average market price for 2 terabytes of cloud storage is around ten dollars a month, which is more than enough storage for almost everyone.

Almost all cloud storage services offer end-to-end encryption. This means that your files are encrypted during transfer as well as when they are in the cloud storage. Anyone intercepting them will only see scrambled data unless they have the encryption key.

In standard end-to-end storage, it is usually only you and the storage provider who has the key. Zero-knowledge encryption takes this a step further by taking the encryption key away from the provider so that only you can read your files. If you want the best possible data security, zero-knowledge storage is the way to go.

Microsoft, Apple, and Google all have their own cloud storage services, both free and premium. Only Google Drive has made it onto our list, mainly because it is less OS-dependent than the other two. However, if you use Windows and work in Microsoft Office, choosing OneDrive for your cloud storage is a viable option. Equally, if you use one or more Apple devices, upgrading to a premium plan with iCloud is a great option.

Both Box and Dropbox, two other huge names in cloud storage, are also missing from our list of the best. Both services are very good but are geared more toward businesses rather than individual users—as such, they’re worth considering if you need cloud storage for a company rather than for yourself.

All of our picks are, of course, solid cloud storage services. But each also offers something unique that makes it worth the recommendation.

Best Cloud Storage Service Overall: IDrive

photos being uploaded to iDrive on phone
IDrive

Pros

  • A nice mixture of cloud storage and data backup
  • The cheapest way to get 5TB of storage
  • Option to make it zero-knowledge
  • Unique file versioning system

Cons

  • Plans can only be paid yearly
  • Few sharing and collaboration options

IDrive is somewhat unique because it offers a mix of cloud storage and online backup, which are usually sold as separate services. It manages to do this at a price that is lower than many stand-alone cloud storage services without compromising too much on features.

IDrive offers a free plan that gives you 10GB of basic cloud storage space for those who want to try out the service. Beyond that, the premium plans are some of the cheapest around for the capacity they offer. The lowest-priced plan is IDrive Personal, which gives you a huge 5TB for less than $5/month for the first year. The only downside is that there isn’t the option to pay monthly, so you need to foot the annual bill upfront.

File storage can be easily managed through the browser interface or in the desktop and mobile apps. When you install the desktop app, it creates a single folder called Sync. Everything you place in this folder is backed up to the cloud storage and is accessible from your other devices, making it easy to access important files from anywhere.

One of the most interesting features of IDrive is how it handles versioning. Most cloud storage will retain versions of your files for a set period of time, so you can recover or revert changes to files. IDrive does things differently, keeping up to 30 previous versions of edited files for an unlimited time. Those 30 previous file versions also don’t count towards your storage quota, so you don’t need to worry about filling up your space with multiple versions of the same file.

Your cloud-stored files and backed-up data are protected by end-to-end, 256-bit AES encryption. By default, the service isn’t zero-knowledge, but you can choose to create a private key during setup. Doing this makes it zero-knowledge, but you sacrifice the option to easily share files. If you don’t think you will need to share files, this won’t be a problem.

Aside from the general file storage features, IDrive also gives you the tools to create and save a backup or a clone of your computer’s hard disk. If your drive fails, a clone allows you to quickly restore everything, including the operating system, onto a new drive.

It could be argued that IDrive is more about backups than it is about file storage, but we think the split between the two services is pretty even. It does lack the sharing and collaboration tools that most pure cloud storage services give you, but for data backup and storage, IDrive is brilliant.

Best Cloud Storage Service Overall

IDrive

A unique mix of cloud storage and data backup, with some of the best value premium plans available right now.

Best Cloud Storage Service for Collaboration: Google Drive/One

Google One logo
Google

Pros

  • A generous 15GB with the free account
  • Storage can be shared with family members
  • Powerful search and collaboration tools
  • Many free apps available to add features

Cons

  • Doesn't use zero-knowledge encryption
  • Google's history of not respecting users privacy

Google Drive makes it onto this list over other well-known cloud storage providers for several reasons, starting with just how many people already have a Google account. The 15GB of free storage and excellent collaboration tools, especially for those who also use Google Workspace, are also compelling arguments for using it.

If 15GB of free storage isn’t enough, there are several premium plans to upgrade to. They start with Basic, which gives you 100GB for just $2 a month and goes up to 30TB for $150 a month. In the middle, you have the 2TB plan, and while this isn’t the best value at $8.33/month, it is comparable to similar storage plans from other providers.

One of the best features of Google Drive is the number of available add-ons. There are dozens of completely free tools that you can add, from file organization tools to collaboration and productivity aids.

If the people you collaborate with use Google Workspace tools such as Docs and Sheets, Google Drive becomes even more useful. You can easily share a document with someone, grant them editing permissions, and even work on the same document at the same time as someone else.

As you might expect, it also works well with all other Google products. If you have an Android phone, Drive is completely integrated and can be easily used to store backups of your phone system and data. There are also apps available for Windows, iOS, iPadOS, and Mac, all of which are well designed and easy to use.

Where Google Drive fails slightly is in security and privacy. Although it features end-to-end encryption, there isn’t zero-knowledge encryption. That means, at least from a technical standpoint, Google can access your data whenever it wants. And as Google doesn’t have the very best reputation for respecting its users’ privacy, you’ll want to keep this in mind when using Drive.

Best Cloud Storage Service for Collaboration

Google Drive/One

A great cloud storage solution for anyone who needs collaboration and sharing tools, but who doesn’t need zero-knowledge encryption.

Best Cloud Storage Service for Security: Icedrive

Icedrive graphic with phone
Icedrive

Pros

  • Lifetime plan can equal big savings
  • Uses incredibly secure Twofish encryption
  • Unique sync folder acts like a mounted drive
  • Fast data transfer and smooth syncing

Cons

  • Doesn't feature many collaboration tools

Icedrive is the newest cloud storage service on this list, having only been around since 2019. In a market dominated by some very big and well-established names, it is all too easy to overlook the new players. That would be a mistake, though, as this innovative UK-based company has a brilliant cloud storage offering.

To start, Icedrive offers a free plan for personal use. This free plan gives you a respectable 10GB of cloud storage, with a 3GB daily bandwidth limit. You don’t get the same client-side encryption that the premium plans have, but for less sensitive data, this free service is good. The three premium storage plans start at just $1.67 a month for 150GB, with the biggest 5TB plan running to $15/month.

One of the best features of Icedrive is how it gives you access to your stored files. As well as the easy-to-use apps for Android and iOS and the web application, it also offers some rather clever Windows desktop software.

This software lets you access your cloud-stored files as if they were in a drive mounted in your computer, so your cloud storage looks and behaves just as all the other storage does. Moving files to and from this virtual drive is as quick and smooth as it would be to move files from one folder to another on your PC.

Another unique selling point of Icedrive is how it encrypts your files. Rather than using the standard and widely-used AES encryption algorithm, it uses something called Twofish. Twofish is considered by many security experts to be as or more secure than AES encryption, and because it is not as widely used, is less likely to be targeted by hackers.

In addition, the encryption is zero-knowledge and end-to-end, so the encryption keys that are generated are only available to you—not even Icedrive can access them.

Where Icedrive’s cloud storage is slightly lacking is in its sharing and collaboration features. There are a few, such as the ability to password-protect sharing links and set an expiration date. You can also create upload-only links to folders if you don’t want someone to have full control over the contents. But one glaring omission is the lack of permissions for other users. That means you can’t allow collaborators to edit files or folders in your storage.

If sharing and collaboration aren’t important to you, however, and you want secure and hassle-free cloud storage, Icedrive is a perfect choice.

Best Cloud Storage Service for Security

Icedrive

A great value cloud storage service that offers impressive security and an extremely easy-to-use desktop sync app.

Best Cloud Storage Service for Large Files: Sync.com

Sync graphic
Sync.com

Pros

  • Uses zero-knowledge, end-to-end encryption
  • Unlimited data transfer and file size limits
  • Works brilliantly with Office 365 apps
  • Powerful syncing and sharing options

Cons

  • Not the fastest file transfer speeds

Sync may not be as well known as some of the other names in cloud storage, but over the last few years, it has become increasingly popular. This is due to its extremely attractive mix of great value, strong security, and an impressive suite of features. As a pure cloud storage service, Sync is top-tier.

As with every cloud storage service in this list, Sync offers a free plan for anyone who needs a bit of basic storage or who wants to try out the service. For free, you get 5GB of storage space, 30 days of file versioning and recovery, and some limited sharing options such as the ability to create a few password-protected links. The premium solo plans start at $8/month for 2TB of storage and go up to $20/month for 6TB.

Sync has data security covered thanks to its use of zero-knowledge, end-to-end encryption. The strong security features continue over into the sharing options. You can create unlimited password-protected links, set download limits on shared files, and set expiration dates for shared links.

Along with the secure sharing features already mentioned, you can create centralized folders and set access permission by the user or folder. If a device that has access to the storage is lost or stolen, you have the option to remotely lock out connected devices. It also lets you remotely delete files that you have shared.

Sync does file syncing very well, with easy-to-use apps for iOS and Android and a well-designed web interface. Most cloud storage works by storing files on your computer and in the cloud. Sync is no different, but if physical storage space on your computer is a concern, you can choose folders that only sync to certain devices. And unlike several other cloud storage services, there are no limits on file size and data transfer, making it a great choice if you regularly need to store large files.

In our testing, which involved uploading the same 1GB folder to all of the cloud storage services on this list, it wasn’t the fastest at transferring data, but it certainly wasn’t prohibitively slow. If you want a secure, useable, and good-value cloud storage service that doesn’t try to be anything else, Sync ticks all the boxes.

Best Cloud Storage Service for Large Files

Sync

A great all-round cloud storage service which combines great value for money with an impressive list of sharing, collaboration and syncing features.

Best Free Cloud Storage Service: MEGA

MEGA graphic on green background
MEGA

Pros

  • Offers the most free storage of any cloud storage
  • Very secure, with zero-knowledge encryption
  • Great collaboration and sharing tools
  • Secure, encrypted chat client

Cons

  • Usage data could be shared with third parties
  • Premium plans are a little expensive

MEGA makes the list for several reasons, but the main selling point is that it offers the largest amount of free storage space of any current cloud storage service. MEGA’s free plan offers 20GB of storage before you need to upgrade, double the amount many services on this list give you.

MEGA also allows you to add more free storage space by completing certain actions such as installing the mobile app for iOS or Android or inviting friends to sign up. This bonus storage is only valid for a year, but if you have filled it up for the entire year, upgrading to a premium plan was in the cards anyway.

On that note, there are several premium plans to choose from. For individuals, these start at $5 a month for 400GB and go up to a huge 16TB for under $30 a month. You do have monthly data transfer limits on all of the premium plans, but they are fairly generous and are equal to the total size of the storage.

MEGA is another cloud storage service that uses end-to-end, zero-knowledge encryption. As long as you are careful with your account password, this is about as secure as consumer cloud storage can get. For added security, you can also enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and save a recovery key that can be used to regain access if you forget your account password.

One of the most unique features of MEGA is the secure chat client it provides. In either the desktop, mobile, or web app, you can create a chat link. Only someone with that link can join, and all of the chat content is secure and encrypted, so it is completely private.

There is also a good selection of sharing options. Shared links are encrypted, and encryption keys can be sent separately for added security. You can also set passwords and expiration dates on links, or revoke access by changing the permissions after the link is sent.

MEGA does have a slightly troubled past, having been created by Kim Dotcom. He left the company in 2015, however, and no longer has any dealings with it. There are also some privacy concerns with the privacy policy stating that third parties can use your data. This is not really different from the sort of data companies like Google or Microsoft collect and use, but it is worth keeping in mind.

MEGA offers a very secure, fast, and good value service, and if you are looking for a large chunk of free cloud storage, it can’t be beat.

Best Free Cloud Storage Service

MEGA

Impressive security, zero-knowledge encryption combined with a huge free storage plan and great collaboration and sharing options.

Profile Photo for Russ Ware Russ Ware
Russ is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about technology. He loves exploring and figuring out how complex things work, and sharing that knowledge with others, something he has been doing online and in print for more than 15 years. When not writing for How-To Geek, Russ can usually be found planning his first novel or taking something apart to see how it works.
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