Cloud Storage Comparison – The Best Cloud Services
Summary: The cloud is a storage place for data. As long as you are connected to the Internet, you can open your files at any time and on any device. We introduce the most popular cloud providers and explain what you need to be aware of when it comes to data protection.
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Security is another very important aspect of the cloud. Even if a cloud provider assures you of the safety of your data, it does not mean that nobody can ever access it. If they encrypt the data, they still hold the keys to decrypt it when they feel the need to. Therefore, the cloud-provider could access and scan the data for its own interests, or hand it over to authorities.
The question you have to ask yourself is: do you trust your provider to respect your privacy? Large enterprises, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Apple, are the companies behind the most popular clouds. Many people do not trust those global players for good reasons. However, there are ways to protect your data. Spideroak, for example, is a cloud provider that uses zero knowledge encryption. The provider has been recommended by Edward Snowden as an alternative for Dropbox. However, at Spideroak you do not get any free storage.
Independently of the cloud you are deciding (or have decided) on using, there is a solution to keep your private data safe from preying eyes at all times: Secure your data with end-to-end encryption software like Boxcryptor. With this additional client-side zero knowledge encryption, you make sure that nobody but you can access your data.
This list is sorted by how much storage you get for free, starting with the most free storage.
15 GB free storage
Google offers 15 GB of free storage space, but this includes the space already used by Gmail and Google Photos. An upgrade to the so-called Google One membership provides 100 GB of storage space and costs $1.99 per month. For $9.99 you already get 2 TB.
With Google Drive, it is possible to view files offline. There is a search function and the possibility to determine who can access, change or comment content. As with all the major cloud providers, you can access your data on your computer, smartphone or tablet. Google Drive is very practical if you already use Gmail, because you can store attachments in your cloud with one click on the drive symbol. With an allowed maximum file size of 5 TB, there are arguably extremely few users that might consider this to be too small.
Google claims that your data is stored securely, which means that it won’t be lost in case you lose your laptop or smartphone. You always have a backup in your cloud. But it does not mean that your data is secure from the access of Google itself. Therefore, additional encryption is recommended.
Where does the Google Drive cloud have its server locations?
- North America
- South America
10 GB free storage
The company behind Box is based in California. Their focus is on business customers. Nevertheless, they offer free storage of 10 GB for private use.
There is a rather strict limitation in maximum file size with Box: Free users may only upload files with a size up to 250 MB. Paid users may synchronize files with a size of 5 GB maximum. Hence, maximal file size is an important limitation of the service provided by Box.
As with all US-based companies, you should be careful and not store sensitive data in plaintext. Instead, encrypt the data before uploading it. US-companies have to comply with the Patriot Act, which means that if authorities ask for data, they have to provide it.
With a maximum file size of 250 MB for “Individual“, Box in the free version is probably more suitable for saving text files and tables. With the paid upgrade to “Personal Pro“, uploading files up to 5 GB in size is possible. For the price of $10.00 per month, you will get 100 GB of storage.
Box states on their website that your data is secure and that they encrypt your data with AES-256, which is the same encryption standard that Boxcryptor uses. However, there is a significant difference between Boxcryptor and Box. They encrypt your data, which means that they hold the keys that allow them to decrypt the data again. Usability is good at Box, but not as good as at the cloud pioneer Dropbox.
Where does the Cloud Box have its server locations?
- United Kingdom
10 GB free storage
This Russian cloud provider is specialized in the storage of photos. Pictures, taken with your cellphone, will be transferred to your cloud automatically, as soon as an internet connection is available. Afterwards you can delete the pictures from your phone and create space for more pictures.
For $2/month you get 100 GB of storage and for $10/month you already get 1 TB. If you switch to annual billing, you can save about 15%.
With regard to the size of the file, allowed for synchronization, Yandex makes a distinction between the “sources” of the upload: While a file may be 2 GB in size at max when it is uploaded via the browser (web) or via an interface using the WebDAV protocol, the file may be considerably larger when it is synchronized using the app (i.e. 10 GB in size is the maximum).
The cheap prices for cloud storage at Yandex.Disk seems unbeatable - But: you should definitely encrypt your data with an independent encryption solution, because the data protection guidelines of this Russian company are not very clear.
Where does the cloud Yandex.Disk have its server locations?
- Among other things.
5 GB free storage
With Microsoft OneDrive 5 GB are free of charge. For $1.99 per month, you get 100 GB. In combination with Microsoft 365 you get 1 TB of storage for $69.00 per year. The Family plan starts at $99.00 per year and has 6 TB total storage. Files may have a maximum size of 10 GB for OneDrive to ensure synchronization.
Microsoft is an American company and, of course, has some of its servers located in the U.S. - hence, those servers are subject to the Patriot Act and the CLOUD Act. Therefore, all sensitive data uploaded to Microsoft OneDrive (as with all other U.S-based cloud service providers) should be end-to-end encrypted, so the data cannot be handed over to the authorities.
When you create your new Microsoft 365 account, all files are stored in the same country as the billing address where the account is running. Customers can view location information about client-specific data in their Office 365 Admin Center under Settings | Organization Profile | Data Storage Location Map. Microsoft does not provide information on its Web site about whether old accounts are being moved.
Where does the Microsoft OneDrive cloud have its server locations?
- European Union
2 GB free storage
The cloud storage pioneer Dropbox only offers 2 GB of free storage, but is still very popular, mostly due to its very good usability and because you can earn additional storage space with referrals. Files can be stored and shared easily. You can get 2 TB of storage space for $9.99 per month. Dropbox claims to be market-leading in synchronization: This feature makes the usage of the cloud fast and easy. With the pro-version, Dropbox synchronizes every picture that you take with your smartphone automatically to your cloud, as long as you have an internet connection.
In the free-, as well as the pro-version, data on your computer will be synchronized automatically, so they are always available. On your mobile device, you can choose which files you want to synchronize. Otherwise, your phone’s memory could be used up pretty quick. If you are mostly storing text files, the free storage of Dropbox will most likely be enough. Dropbox also uses a distinction between the source of a synchronization to determine the maximum file size. Without making use of the Dropbox client or app, the file size is limited to 10 GB – however, there is no such limitation when the client or app is being used to synchronize a file.
In combination with a secure zero knowledge end-to-end encryption, with an encryption software like Boxcryptor, Dropbox is our favorite for the private use of the cloud.
The interface used by the Boxcryptor Apps for iOS and Android allows uploading files up to 350 GB in size. If you upload directly to dropbox.com you can only put files up to 50 GB into the Dropbox cloud. A small restriction is the limit of three devices that can be connected to Dropbox at the same time. However, this should hardly lead to problems in everyday life, since you can connect one smartphone, one tablet and one computer to Dropbox per account, for example.
Where does the Dropbox Cloud have its server locations?
- Germany, Australia, and Japan for business accounts only
If you need a lot of storage and are looking for a cheap solution, Google Drive, Box, or Yandex.Disk are our recommendation. Those cloud providers offer all the features that you need for private use. For those who already bought or plan on buying Microsoft Office 365, use Microsoft OneDrive, because you get 1 TB of storage for free.
If you want to choose one of the popular cloud storage solutions, described above, consider protecting your data with the independent zero-knowledge end-to-end encryption of Boxcryptor. By doing so, you detach the protection of your private data from its storage location. Furthermore, no one other than you will be able to decipher your data - this is ensured by Boxcryptor’s zero-knowledge standard.
If you want to use only one cloud provider with 2 devices maximum, you can use Boxcryptor for free with our "Free" license. For using multiple clouds and a limitless number of devices, to access your files, you can always upgrade your Boxcryptor account.