Cloud Storage Comparison – The Best Cloud Services
Are you looking for a cloud to backup your data - have it available wherever you are and to share files easily with others? We can help you with a quick and simple overview of the most commonly used cloud providers. The differences between Dropbox, Google Drive and the others are sometimes very small. But still, there is a perfect fit of a cloud for everyone.
There are many lists on the internet that compare clouds with the aim to give you an overview of their features, pricing and security. Very often though, the sheer amount of information presented makes it confusing. Therefore, our list focuses on a few important aspects: How much storage can you get for free and how much does the cheapest upgrade cost? How user-friendly is the cloud, and also, is there automatic synchronization of selected files that allows you to work with them offline?
When a cloud provider offers a sync-client, the data can be synchronized on your computer. If you want to watch a film with 1 GB, it starts right away whether you are online or offline. Of course, sync uses up storage on your computer. However, if the cloud is making use of remote access, accessing the files implies the necessity of an internet connection for provision of those files - in case of a 1 GB file this might take a while. Providing a sync-client means more effort for the cloud provider. But it is more convenient for the user and more user-friendly. Therefore, we only recommend cloud providers that have a sync client.
All cloud storage services and our encryption software Boxcryptor offer versions for all operating systems and platforms. There are no limitations in this respect, which is why we did not include this in our cloud storage comparison.
UPDATE: Our community asked us to add the maximum file size allowed for upload, to our list.
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) to use, 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 Drive offers 15 GB of storage for free. However, the storage you use at Gmail or Google Fotos is accumulated in there, as well. An upgrade to 100 GB is available for $1.99 per month, 2 TB cost $9.99 per month.
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 of 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 in size.
Google claims that your data is stored securely, which means that it won’t be lost in case you loose 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.
Server location: USA
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. 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.
Server location: worldwide
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.
Every free user already gets 10 GB of cloud storage. For $1 a month you can acquire an additional 10 GB of storage - so with a cost of $1/month you can store 20 GB of pictures on your Yandex.Disk. For $2 a month you get 100 GB of cloud storage and for $10 a month you will get 1 TB. Annual billing makes the storage even cheaper. 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 seem 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.
Server location: Russia, Finland, and others.
5 GB free storage
Microsoft OneDrive offers you 5 GB of storage for free. For a fee of $1.99 per month you get 50 GB of storage. When you are buying an Office 365 license ($6.99/month or $69.99/year) you get 1 TB of storage capacity on Microsoft OneDrive. Microsoft OneDrive offers automatic synchronization. Microsoft limits the size of a file to be synchronized in OneDrive to 10 GB.
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.
Server locations: USA, Asia, EU, AU
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 1 TB of storage space for $9.99 per month or $99 per year. 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.
Server location: USA
If you need a lot of storage and are looking for a cheap solution, Dropbox or Google Drive 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, will no one other than you 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.
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