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The best cloud storage services: Expert tested

We found the best cloud storage providers that offer an easy, reliable, and secure place to store all your files.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Kayla Solino
iDrive | Best cloud storage service overall
Best cloud storage service overall
View now View at IDrive
OneDrive | Best cloud storage service for Microsoft users
Best cloud storage service for Microsoft users
View now View at Microsoft
Box | Best cloud storage service for productivity
Best cloud storage service for productivity
View now View at Box
Dropbox | Best cloud storage service for simplicity
Best cloud storage service for simplicity
View now View at Dropbox
Google Drive | Best cloud storage service for businesses and Chromebook users
Google Drive
Best cloud storage service for businesses and Chromebook users
View now View at Google
Nextcloud Files | Best open-source cloud storage service
Nextcloud Files
Best open-source cloud storage service
View now View at Nextcloud
pCloud | Best cloud storage service for a lifetime subscription
Best cloud storage service for a lifetime subscription
View now View at pCloud
Apple iCloud | Best cloud storage service for Apple users
Apple iCloud
Best cloud storage service for Apple users
View now View at Apple
Show more (3 items)

Having lots of storage on your computer is all well and good, but these days having a reliable cloud storage provider is a necessity. You want your office and personal work stored safely away from hackers or accidents while still being easily accessible when you want from wherever you're at. And that means cloud storage.

Personal cloud storage has been around since 2007, with just one provider. Today, there are dozens of cheap or free cloud storage services out there. But -- beyond all giving you storage -- they're very different. 

How do you choose which one is right for you? You could just pick based on how much free storage space you get. That's simple, but a cloud storage service's real value comes from how well it works for you or your business. As you'll see, some work much better with some operating systems and business plans than others. 

What is the best cloud storage service right now? 

I've tested and researched every cloud storage service on this list. My top pick for best cloud storage overall is iDrive for its backup and storage options, easy pairing and compatibility and its affordable price. See how iDrive stacks up to our other recommended cloud storage services. 

Best cloud storage services of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Great price
  • Works well for backups and storage
  • Excellent pairing of storage and office services
  • Relatively slow download speeds
More Details

iDrive features: Free storage: iDrive starts its offers with 5GB for free

IDrive is for everyone who wants a cloud backup and cloud storage in an all-in-one package. Its main job is backing up small businesses, but it also works well for personal cloud storage and file sharing.

Unlike many other cloud backup services, iDrive doesn't lock you down to a single computer. You can use one account to back up your Windows and macOS desktops, your Android smartphone and iPhones and tablets, and your network drives. There's also a Linux backup option, which is meant for Linux servers. You can still use it with a little elbow grease on your desktop Linux.

For now, iDrive has a killer deal. It's the most storage for the least amount of money you'll find today. I use it to back up my massive media library of 1930s and '40s movies. 

Typically, iDrive offers 10GB free. That's okay, but if you want to make the most of it for backup, the real deal is in its Personal iDrive offerings. These start at $70 for 5TB for a year or an even better deal of $105 for 10TB annually. There are also business packages with unlimited users, but the price goes up for less storage. 

If you're looking for a personal or small business backup, iDrive is a great choice. It's both easy to use and inexpensive. It's also good for cloud storage, and I'm personally very happy with it.

Pros & Cons
  • Perfect for Windows users
  • Works great for Microsoft 365
  • Excellent for file sharing
  • No native Linux support
  • Can be very expensive
More Details

OneDrive is baked into Windows, and they're delicious together. As far as a Windows user is concerned, OneDrive is just another directory in the File Explorer -- talk about easy. Anyone can use it on the web, with a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, and with OneDrive apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox. Yes, Xbox. 

Linux? No, not yet. The InSync client, which I've long recommended for Google Drive, also works with OneDrive. This program costs $30 for an individual lifetime subscription and $50 for a team license.

Microsoft OneDrive's real selling point -- besides working hand-in-glove with Windows -- is that it integrates hand-in-glove with Microsoft Office programs. With Microsoft 365, you can also collaborate with others in documents and spreadsheets in real-time with your partners.

OneDrive comes with 5GB of free storage. Microsoft 365 users get an extra terabyte per user starting with the $6-per-month subscription. Microsoft 365 Family users get a terabyte per user up to 6TBs for $19 monthly or $100 a year. Microsoft 365 Personal or Family subscribers can add up to an additional 1 TB of storage for $10 a month.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard users get access to the full online versions of Outlook, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint and a TB of storage at $12.50 per user per month with an annual subscription. If you need additional storage, you need the Office 365 Extra File Storage plan. At $0.25 per gigabyte per month, this can become very expensive quickly. 

That said, if you're already a Microsoft 365 user, this is a no-brainer. OneDrive is perfect for anyone who uses Windows and Microsoft Office daily.

Pros & Cons
  • Supports many platforms
  • Excellent pairing of storage and office services
  • Very affordable paid plan
  • Desktop clients can be confusing
More Details

Like most cloud storage services, Box has clients for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. It, however, doesn't support Linux. There is a third-party program, ExpanDrive, which enables Linux users to work with Box. 

The Business Starter Plan, which costs $5 a month, lets you upload files up to 2GB and provides 100GB of space. Personal users can start with a 10 GB free plan. If you like what you see, you can get 100GB of storage for $120 a year with the Personal Pro plan. 

One helpful feature for working users is the ability to keep multiple versions of a file. The Personal Pro edition allows you to keep 10 versions, while the Business Starter plan gives you 25 versions. 

While Box is a fine cloud storage service, it really shines as a groupware or workflow application. It enables you to share files with colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments on someone's work, and get notifications when a file changes. It's integrated with Microsoft Office and Teams, Salesforce, Google Workspace, Slack, and more.

Box starts out with a free cloud storage account and 10GB of storage. The Box Business Plan for small and medium-sized businesses starter package begins at $5 a month for up to three users with 100GB of storage. The next step up in business plans is $15 a month for three users and unlimited -- yes -- unlimited storage. 

Again, Box's real selling point is its combination of storage and office software.

Pros & Cons
  • Simple to use
  • Useable on essentially all platforms
  • It can be pricey
More Details

Dropbox came first, so it's no wonder that so many of us have Dropbox accounts. Sure, Dropbox Basic's free storage is only 2GB, but you can use it on any platform. You can get your files from Dropbox's website, desktop applications for Mac, Windows, and Linux, the native file systems, and the iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire mobile apps. Heck, even Blackberry phones are still supported. It's a snap to set up, and you need not worry about syncing files for a second.

If you need more storage, Dropbox's personal plans increase to 2TB for $9.99 a month. An individual Dropbox Business plan costs $18 monthly for 3TBs of storage. The Business Team Plans start with 9TB of storage at $20 a user per month for a minimum of three users.  

As always, Dropbox shines for its sheer simplicity and the fact that you can use it on almost any platform you care to name. If you value simplicity, speed, and ease, Dropbox should be your first choice. 

Pros & Cons
  • Great storage
  • Excellent additional services
  • Good pricing
  • Includes a free plan
  • The web interface can be complicated
More Details

Google Drive used to be just storage. But then Google took its online office suite, Google Docs, and pasted them together into Google One. If you're a little confused because there's also Google Workplace, you're in good company. Google Workspace Individual is meant for small business owners, while Google One is a consumer subscription plan that gives you more storage across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos, 

Now, just having a Google account gives you 15GB of free storage and an excellent office suite. It's good enough that many businesses and Chromebook users now use it as their complete cloud-based office. If you buy a Chromebook and are a new Google One customer, you will get 100GB of free cloud storage for a year. With both kinds of free storage, it's shared shared across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos

Google Drive comes with clients for most operating systems, except, oddly enough, Linux. Google promised long ago that there would be a Linux client, but they never kept that problem. There is, however, an excellent third-party Linux commercial client, Insync. This program costs $30 for an individual lifetime subscription and $50 for teams. If you use the GNOME desktop, you can use its file manager Nautilus to work with Google Drive. 

Need more storage? No problem. Under the name Google One, Google Drive storage prices start at $2 per month or $20 a year for 100GB. Or, for $3 a month or $30 a year, you get 200GB. At the higher end, for 2TB, you pay $10 per month or $100 annually. You can share your storage with up to five other people using any of  these plans. 

You can also use the Google One app on both Android and iOS devices to automatically back up your smartphones. This includes your device data, multimedia messages, and photos/videos in their original quality.

One of Google Drive's best features is its integration with Google Search. So, for example, if you've lost track of a file but remember a couple of words in it, it's easy to find. I use this feature almost every day. 

Pros & Cons
  • Open source
  • Free
  • Offers a variety of services
  • It can be difficult to set up
More Details

Nextcloud Files is an open-source program that enables you to set up your own cloud storage service using your existing servers and hard drives. This do-it-yourself cloud is for everyone who values security and privacy. 

You can use Nextcloud to set up cloud storage either on an office server or off your own external servers. How much storage can it give you? How much do you want? I have a 4TB Nextcloud drive in my office and another terabyte off my co-hosted server rack. 

Still, while NextCloud, is easy for a Linux power user to set up, it would prove a challenge to people who don't know Linux that well. 

Nextcloud is also evolving. It started as a standalone Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) file storage cloud. It's been adding in more services, making it more of an all-in-one office suite like those offered by Google and Microsoft. 

These days, Nextcloud comes in four parts: Nextcloud Files, the original cloud file server; Nextcloud Talk, an audio/video conferencing and text chat program; Nextcloud Groupware, which integrates Calendar, Contacts, Mail, and other productivity features; and Nextcloud Office a LibreOffice-based online office suite. Businesses can integrate all of them together with Nextcloud Hub.

Nextcloud comes with both a free and a business edition. With the free version, you set it up yourself using your own computers. You get as much storage as you have available on your machines. 

If you don't want to run it yourself, the business version. Nextcloud Enterprise comes with basic support starting at 100 users and costs €37.49 per user per year.

This cloud storage solution is for anyone who wants the maximum amount of control over their cloud and doesn't mind doing some extra work to get it just right. I highly recommend it.

Pros & Cons
  • Lifetime contract
  • Best of breed security
  • It's expensive unless you're sure that pCloud will be able to meet its support promise
More Details

I'm always cautious about "lifetime" subscriptions to anything, especially computer services. Still, after nine years in business, I'm inclined to give the Switzerland-based pCloud the benefit of the doubt. I also like that pCloud comes with clients for Linux, macOS, and Windows, as well as Android and iOS smartphones. 

PCloud offers 4GB of free storage for starters. You can also add more storage, at 1GB a go, for installing a desktop app, a smartphone app, storing your smartphone's videos and photos to pCloud, and getting others to subscribe to pCloud. You can max this out to 10GB of free storage. 

But, if you're really serious about your storage, you can currently get 500GB of storage forever for a one-time payment of $199. Or, $399 for 2TB. That's a sweet deal.

Another nice feature is that pCloud comes with client-side-only file encryption. With pCloud Crypto, you encrypt your files using 256-bit AES, and no one except you can read them. Oh, when they say "no one," they mean "no one." If you lose your password, you lose your data. These files are stored in the Crypto folder. This feature costs $4 per month, $39 per year, or $150 for a lifetime plan. It's included for free on business plans. You can also opt to store your data in the more privacy-conscious European Union servers. 

If you have some files you want to share with others--but do not share your password with them -- you can also store unencrypted folders in the same account with your secured files and folders. 

The business service starts with 1TB for $96 per user with a minimum of three users annually. This comes to a total of $288 a year. At one time, pCloud offered a lifetime business plan, but that's no longer being offered.

If privacy and paying once for cloud storage for a very long time appeals to you, check out pCloud. 

Pros & Cons
  • Free 5GB with any Apple device
  • Works hand-in-glove with iWorks
  • Good interface
  • High prices
  • Has experienced technical problems
More Details

I didn't like iCloud, even on my Macs, for years. I used Google Drive or NextCloud instead. But it's finally fixed enough bugs that I can say Mac, iPhone, or iPad users can trust it with their data. In the bad old days, iCloud was supposed to offer seamless integration and ease of use for any iGadget. In practice, it was a cranky mess. Today, it's much better.

Owning an Apple product gives you 5GB of free iCloud storage. One good feature is that anything you buy from the iTunes Store doesn't count against your storage limit. You can use iCloud to automatically back up all data from your Apple devices onto its servers. 

Of course, 5GBs won't cut it for serious backups. Instead, you'll need to upgrade to one of three iCloud+ plans: $1 a month for 50GB, $3 a month for 200GB, or $10 a month for 2TB. ICloud+ plans also include security features such as Cloud Private Relay, a virtual private network (VPN); Hide My Email, which does exactly what it says; and HomeKit Secure Video, a system for securely managing and storing your doorbell and security cam video.  

While it's not a big selling point, iCloud is also integrated with iWork, Apple's low-end productivity suite. It's no Google Workspace or Microsoft 365, but it's okay for, say, schoolwork. I'm still not crazy about iCloud -- I doubt I ever will be -- but if you're already an Apple user all the time, it's finally worth using iCloud.

What is the best cloud storage service?

Personally, I prefer iDrive, Google Drive, and Nextcloud -- but those meet my needs best. Here is a look at how all the services compare in vital metrics: 

Cloud storage service

Apple iCloud 



Google Drive





Free Storage










Photo storage and storage.

Office work and storage.


Photo storage, storage, office work.

Storage and backup.

Storage, office work, and backup.

Office work and storage.

Storage and backup.

Special Features

Mac and iPhone integration.

Online office integration.

Most support for uncommon platforms.

Google One integration.


Open source and security.

Microsoft 365 and Windows integration.


There are a variety of options to suit many different purposes. So, whether you want to backup family pictures or keep business docs secure, we have a service for you. 

Which is the right cloud storage service for you?

There's no one size fits all solution. Your cloud choice depends on what you use and what you want to do with it. All these services give you more than enough free or cheap service for small business purposes. In short, don't be distracted by how many free gigabytes of storage you get -- it's not that important. This table helps you determine the best cloud services to choose based on what you want from it: 

If you are or want…

Then choose…

All-in-one office/cloud/workflow:

Box, Google Drive, Nextcloud or OneDrive

Apple users:

iCloud or Google Drive



Best bang for the buck:


Ease of use and multiple devices:


Google users:

Google Drive

Linux users:


Privacy first: 


Users who place a high value on having data control: 

Box or Nextcloud

Windows users:


How does cloud storage work?

When it comes to cloud storage, a cloud really is just someone else's hard drive. Despite the endless stories of how clouds are insecure and someone can grab your data, your data is encrypted while traveling over the internet to your providers' servers. Once there, it's encrypted on those servers. Really, your data is probably safer there than it is at your home or office. 

It's invisible to you, but behind the scenes, the best cloud storage services don't upload a completely new copy of your files every time you modify them. Instead, they only ship the changes to your files. This saves you time and bandwidth. 

Is cloud storage safe?

Generally speaking, cloud storage services are safe. The cloud storage services on this list all store your files on encrypted cloud servers. This means that your data and files are scrambled to make it harder for cybercriminals to access the information.

However, it's also vital to protect data on your end too. You can do this by refraining from using a public Wi-Fi connection and changing your passwords regularly. 

Also: Protect your privacy from hackers, spies, and the government 

Is Google Drive a cloud storage service?

Google Drive is a cloud-based storage service that allows users to store files, documents, and pictures for free up to 15GB. Best of all, it's very easy to use. 

Also: How to organize your Google Drive 

It also offers users built-in protection from malware, ransomware, and more. Think of it as your digital security guard ensuring your data remains safe from the prying eyes of hackers. And for work, it offers easy integration with programs like Microsoft 365. 

Do I still own my data when it's on the cloud?

Yes, you do. And, no, the company can't read or use it for their own purposes. So, for example, a cloud company shouldn't be able to use your documents to train an AI program,. 

Should I still secure my data?

Yes, you should. Just because a company says your data is safe doesn't mean that it can't be hacked. So, if privacy and security is important to you, choose a cloud storage service that uses robust encryption both in transit and at rest. All the cloud storage services, I recommend use both.

For additional security, turn on two-factor verification to ensure that no one can break into your online files. 

Can you get 100GB of free storage?

Several services offer huge amounts of free storage. But I don't trust any of them. It falls under the adage you get what you pay for. The most storage you can get for free is Google, with its 15GB of storage.

What's the most trustworthy cloud storage?

It's a tie between the DIY NextBox and pCloud. Do you want to be as sure as anyone can be that your data's safe from prying eyes? If that's you, I recommend either building your own cloud storage service with NextCloud or using the high-security pCloud. With NextCloud, you, of course, decide where to keep your data. 

I use both my own in-house servers and an offsite server. With pCloud, you can decide between US or EU servers to store your data safely. Either way, with pCloud, you get the best available data encryption. 

Didn't Amazon offer a personal cloud storage service?


Yes, yes, they did. It was called Amazon Cloud Drive. Amazon closed it down at the end of 2023. Of course, serious businesses with big storage needs use such services as Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 and Amazon FSx. These services are not meant for ordinary users.

Are there alternatives to cloud storage services worth considering?

Sure. It's fine to use Network Attached-Storage (NAS) for backups -- I do -- but you're always one house fire or burglary away from kissing your data goodbye. So, if you want a serious backup, you can turn to alternative long-time cloud backup champions for more security. 

You face the same problem with using portable drives and USB sticks for extra on the road storage. If someone grabs your drive, you can kiss your data goodbye. 

All these are worthwhile in their own right, but they also all have security worries. 

Are there other worthwhile cloud options?

Indeed there are. Here are some of my favorites. 

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