A good service is the easiest way to save your memories and share files. These are the best WIRED-tested ones for personal use.
WHETHER YOU WANT to back up your files, share them with other folks, or collaborate on a piece of work, cloud storage services are perhaps the easiest way to do it. It wasn’t all that long ago that collaborating with people on documents was a huge hassle. You’d make multiple copies of a file and have to add a stupid filename appendix to each one, like “-edited-JD-final-final,” in hopes of keeping track of everyone’s changes. Equally painful was managing versions of your own documents, as you emailed them to yourself from your personal computer to your work computer. The Best Cloud Storage Who misses that? No one has to mess with those problems anymore largely thanks to online file storage and syncing services. Stick that old screenplay in a digital filing cabinet and pop your photos into a digital shoebox, where they will remain safe, shareable, and easily accessible.File syncing and storage services provide seamless access to all your data—Word docs, PDFs, spreadsheets, photos, and any other digital assets—wherever you are.
The Best Cloud Storage You no longer need to be sitting at your work PC to see your work files. With cloud syncing you can get to them from your laptop at home, your smartphone on the go, or from your tablet on your couch. Syncing and storage services also add safety and security to your online life because when you sync your files via the cloud, you by default create a backup of them as well. If you lose your laptop, all your files are still accessible to you if you log into your syncing service from any computer.
The tricky part of uploading your digital life to the cloud is deciding which service to use, because the choice can be overwhelming. We have distilled your options to a handful of picks that will suit different people, devices, and scenarios. But we are focused on cloud storage services for regular people rather than businesses. For more advice, check out our guides on how to back up your digital life, how to securely share files online, and our tips for cloud storage security.
The Best Cloud Storage for Google Services
Anyone with a Google account has access to Google Drive, a handy service for backing up and syncing files. It is fully integrated with Android and Chromebook devices and a natural choice if you work with Google services like Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Photos. Google Drive is slick and easy to use, with comprehensive search, version history, and several file-sharing options. You can use it via your web browser, and there are mobile and desktop apps. Data is encrypted when stored and in transit, and there is support for two-factor authentication (2FA). You can find more details about extra perks and storage options in our Google One explainer.
Unfortunately, Google Drive lacks end-to-end encryption and is not the best choice if you have privacy concerns. There’s also no option to set passwords or expiration dates on files you share via a link.
- Generous free storage space
- Excellent productivity-suite collaboration
- Includes desktop-to-desktop file syncing
- Many third-party integrations
- Cross-platform apps
- No password-protection for shared files
- Mobile apps could do more; multiple apps required for all related functions
- Some privacy concerns
15 GB free storage, 100 GB costs $2/month or $10/year, 200 GB costs $3/month or $30/year, 2 TB costs $10/month or $100/year
The Best Cloud Storage for Apple Devices
For anyone exclusively using Apple devices, iCloud is an easy choice. It is polished, simple to use, and fully integrated into macOS and iOS. It’s designed to work invisibly in the background most of the time. You can share files and edit Pages, Numbers, and Keynote files online. You can also collaborate on documents and password-protect them. There is support for 2FA. Subscribe to an iCloud+ plan, and you get iCloud Private Relay to protect your privacy when browsing, Hide My Email, which lets you create temporary email addresses instead of exposing your own, and HomeKit Secure Video, which you will want if you have a HomeKit security camera or video doorbell.
While it is compatible with Windows, there is no Android support for iCloud. Although it has improved, iCloud feels bare-bones compared to most other cloud storage services. (The web interface doesn’t even have a search option.) File versioning is limited to Apple’s productivity app files, and end-to-end encryption is limited, though Apple’s security is generally sound.
- Well-designed app and web interfaces
- Compatible with Windows as well as macOS and iOS devices
- Account includes 5GB storage when you buy an Apple device
- Less straightforward than competing services
- No search in web interface
- No Android app
- Collaborative editing lacks expected capabilities
- No file versioning aside from iWork documents
5 GB free storage, 50 GB for $1/month, 200 GB for $3/month, or 2 TB for $10/month (iCloud+ is also available as part of Apple One)
The Best Cloud Storage for Windows
Slick and accessible, OneDrive boasts loads of features. It’s a natural choice for folks who primarily work on a Windows PC and use Microsoft Office. It has a powerful search tool, excellent collaborative editing support, and solid file-sharing options (including password protection and expiry dates). There’s support for most platforms, and you can sync files across them or save space by only downloading files on demand. There’s also a personal vault with 2FA protection. OneDrive is perhaps the best option for reviewing or editing files, as you can open anything within the app. (It even allows photo editing.)
On the downside, the free storage is limited, there’s no end-to-end encryption, and the free and basic tiers have a small feature set. It’s an obvious pick if you use Microsoft Office and Skype, because it’s a good value bundled with those as part of Microsoft 365, but it’s a tougher sell as a stand-alone service.
- Excellent interface
- Clients for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows
- Well integrated with Windows 10 and Office 365
- Strong online photo presentation and management
- Powerful file-sharing and document collaborative editing
- Less free storage than some competitors
- Only allows syncing of specific folders
5 GB free storage, 100 GB for $2/month or $20/year, 1 TB for $7/month or $70/year (with Microsoft 365 Personal), 6 TB for $10/month or $100/year (with Microsoft 365 Family)
The Best Cloud Storage For Backups
If you just want a digital locker to store your files from various sources, then IDrive may be your best bet. You will find tempting introductory prices on high-capacity plans. It’s easy to use and supports most devices. With most plans, iDrive will ship you a physical external hard drive for a speedier initial backup, then transfer the data to your online account. You get a private encryption key, so iDrive cannot decrypt your files, even if compelled by law enforcement, and there is 2FA.
IDrive has limited file-sharing and collaboration support, so I don’t recommend it if either is a priority for you. The app is quite basic, and file uploads can be slow. It’s also important not to be too dazzled by the introductory price. Check the regular price first, and be aware that you need to manually turn off auto-renew and plan to move data ahead of your renewal date if you don’t intend to stay. You also need to watch out for overage charges if you exceed your allowance.
- Easy setup
- Unlimited devices per account
- Disk image backup
- Bulk uploads and restores via mail
- Fast upload speeds in testing
- Excellent mobile app
- Only basic sharing options
- Storage isn’t unlimited
- Files in synced folder slow to upload in testing
10 GB free storage, 5 TB for $7.95 for first year ($79.50 thereafter), 10 TB for $75 for first year ($100 thereafter)
The Best Cloud Storage For Privacy
For security and privacy-conscious folks, SpiderOak’s One Backup is worth a look. It has a zero-trust, no-knowledge policy, so no one but you can access your data, and everything is end-to-end encrypted. Plan prices are per person but support unlimited devices and file versions. SpiderOak also uses transport layer security (TLS) for data in transit to guard against man-in-the-middle attacks. (TLS is the successor to SSL.) The service prizes security, and SpiderOak has a transparent set of policies. You will find support for Windows, Mac, or Linux, solid recovery options, file versioning, and versatile file-sharing options, including self-destructing links.
SpiderOak is relatively expensive, and there is no mobile app support. There’s no 2FA for web logins, which is an odd omission for a security-focused company. It’s vital you keep your password safe, not just because people can access your files if they get it but also because SpiderOak cannot reset it if you forget it.
- Strong privacy features
- Supports an unlimited number of computers per account
- Excellent versioning capabilities
- Includes file-sharing and folder-syncing options
- Well-designed, full-featured desktop application
- Lacks multi-factor authentication option for web logins
- No longer offers mobile apps
150 GB for $6/month or $69/year, 400 GB for $11/month or $115/year, 2 TB for $14/month or $149/year, and 5 TB for $29/month or $320/year
The Best Cloud Storage For Extras
Best for Extras
One of the early players in cloud storage, Dropbox is accessible, boasts support for just about any device, and is reliable. I’ve been using it for more than a decade, mainly as an easy way to move files from one platform to another. It has many integrations and works well for collaboration (whether file-sharing or coauthoring and editing documents), especially when collaborators all use different platforms. But the extras elevate Dropbox; it has a solid password manager and digital signature support. I also like the built-in document scanner in the mobile app.
There’s no end-to-end encryption. Although Dropbox promises not to look, it has the key to decrypt your files. It may comply with a government request for access, or a rogue employee could conceivably take a peek. Dropbox is also comparatively expensive, and the free version offers limited storage.
2 GB free storage (additional 500 MB for friend referrals up to 16 GB), 2 TB for $12/month or $120/year, 3 TB for $20/month or $200/year
- Apps for just about every operating system
- Supports multiple ways to collaborate
- Good features for paying subscribers
- Digital signing tool included
- Excellent support for integrations
- Free account is skimpy on storage
- Paid accounts are expensive
Alternative Cloud Services
There are so very many cloud storage services out there. Here is a quick run down of some of the best alternatives to our top picks.
Boxcryptor : This isn’t a cloud storage service, but rather an encryption tool that you can use with services that lack end-to-end encryption, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
Amazon Drive : You get 5 GB of free storage with an Amazon account and free unlimited photo storage with an Amazon Prime subscription or a Fire Tablet device.
Box : You get 10 GB of free storage, though there is a 250 MB file size limit. Box also supports 2FA and end-to-end encryption, and it’s good for file sharing.
Sync : This service offers 5 GB of free storage, reasonably priced Pro plans offer lots of collaboration, file sharing, and other features, including end-to-end encrypted security.
pCloud : You can get 10 GB of storage for free, and this is one of the few cloud storage services with a lifetime plan option (500 GB for $175).
Icedrive : With 10 GB of storage in the free tier and reasonable prices if you need more, IceDrive is a relatively new service that’s based in the United Kingdom, with a zero-knowledge policy and Twofish encryption.
MEGA : You can get 20 GB for free with MEGA, and there’s end-to-end encryption, cross-platform support, built-in chat, and versatile file sharing. However, paid plans are pricey, and collaboration options are limited.
Zoolz : The free tier only offers 1 GB of storage, but you can get 1 TB for $15 per month, and packages go up to 50 TB. The service offers a decent range of features, but lacks 2FA.
SugarSync : There’s no free tier, though you can get a 30-day trial, and prices are steep, starting from $7.50/month for 100 GB. SugarSync is very easy to use, and you can send files by email, which is handy sometimes.
NordLocker : Better known for its VPN service, NordLocker offers 3 GB of cloud storage for free with end-to-end encryption and offers frequent discounts on premium plans at 500 GB or 2 TB.
Degoo : Claim a whopping 100 GB of free storage with end-to-end encryption at Degoo, though it is short on features and a little slow. Upgrades to 500 GB or 10 TB are competitively priced.
WHETHER YOU WANT to back up your files, share them with other folks, or collaborate on a piece of work, The Best Cloud Storage cloud storage services are perhaps the easiest way to do it. It wasn’t all that long ago that collaborating with people on documents was a huge hassle.The Best Cloud Storage You’d make multiple copies of a file and have to add a stupid filename appendix to each one, like “-edited-JD-final-final,” in hopes of keeping track of everyone’s changes. Equally painful was managing versions of your own documents, as you emailed them to yourself from your personal computer to your work computer. The Best Cloud Storage Who misses that? No one has to mess with those problems anymore largely thanks to online file storage and syncing services. Stick that old screenplay in a digital filing cabinet and pop your photos into a digital shoebox, where they will remain safe, shareable, and easily accessible.File syncing and storage services provide seamless access to all your data—Word docs, PDFs, spreadsheets, photos, and any other digital assets—wherever you are. The Best Cloud Storage You no longer need to be sitting at your work PC to see your work files. The Best Cloud Storage With cloud syncing you can get to them from your laptop at home, your smartphone on the go, or from your tablet on your couch. The Best Cloud Storage Syncing and storage services also add safety and security to your online life because when you sync your files via the cloud, you by default create a backup of them as well. If you lose your laptop, all your files are still accessible to you if you log into your syncing service from any computer.