1 terabyte (TB) of storage used to be a lot, but now 1 TB of storage is commonplace on even the cheapest laptops. And over the years, a number of cloud-based storage providers have started supporting the TB era, and many of them now offer monthly storage plans at a reasonable price.
Over the course of several weeks, we tested five different cloud-based storage apps – Apple iCloud+, Box, Dropbox, Google One, and Microsoft OneDrive – to find out which is the best cloud-based storage app for you. Based on our testing, both Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud+ come out on top and are the best depending on what type of devices you use.
The best cloud storage app overall
In our testing, we found Microsoft OneDrive’s Microsoft 365 Personal plan to be the best choice for personal cloud storage if you don’t use Apple devices.
In our testing, our top performer was Microsoft OneDrive with its Microsoft 365 Personal plan. This is especially true if you are not using Apple products. It supports MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) logins, which are easily set up and managed through the Microsoft account portal. Shared content can be restricted by an expiration date or file password, and can include either an email address or a URL.
Version history is also easy to manage; We found all of these settings via a simple right-click. The OneDrive virtual folder/directory is simply added and displayed in Finder/Explorer and syncing happens automatically in the background.
Microsoft OneDrive was easier for us to install on Macs than some of our Windows PCs, which had additional browser-based security that blocked desktop client downloads. A simple solution was to get this software from the Microsoft App Store. There is no direct telephone support.
OneDrive offers a free plan with 5GB of storage and also includes retention of up to 30 days of history of previous file versions. You can increase this storage space to 100GB via the OneDrive standalone plan for $1.99 per month, billed monthly. Or you can buy one of the Microsoft 365 plans starting at $6.99 per month, which are billed monthly and increase your storage space to 1 TB (for the personal plan, as tested) or 6 TB for up to 6 people (for the family plan ) raise ). There are also referral bonuses that can add more storage space and annual payment discounts.
Runner-up for Best Cloud Storage App Overall
As long as you use at least one Apple product, we think Apple iCloud+ is the best and easiest to use cloud-based storage app.
Even if you don’t use many Apple products, Apple iCloud+ is the easiest cloud-based app to use, easiest to set up, and a steal. Its main downside is that you really need at least one Apple product if you want to get the most out of it.
It supports MFA to secure your logins by configuring AppleID. iCloud works similarly on Windows and Macs, and also supports Android and iPhones and any web browser. Sharing documents is easy, with links or direct entries in Finder or Explorer.
Apple recommends Windows 10 for all iCloud functionality, but you can install the software on earlier versions. If you have an educational AppleID (assigned to you by your educational institution), you need a separate personal AppleID account to use on your Windows computer. The iCloud+ plans also offer other features like email alias forwarding via Hide My Email and a custom email domain.
Apple’s iCloud free plan offers 5GB of storage, and iCloud+ paid plans come in three fixed paid plans: 50GB, 200GB, and 2TB, with different prices depending on where in the world you live. In the United States, the monthly costs are $0.99, $2.99, and $9.99 (as tested), respectively.
Cloud storage covers several use cases: First, to have a virtual disk folder or directory where you can store files without worrying about which device last made changes to the file. This makes it easier to share your own documents across all your different devices or to share your documents with others. All five products we tested work by adding these virtual cloud drives to your Finder or Explorer windows for easy access to your files, and support both Android and iOS devices and most browser versions.
Next, you can sync your files to your cloud storage without user intervention. Typically, this works by setting a specific folder or directory as the source collection, and then the cloud storage will update in the background as you make changes. All providers do this well, especially if they have fast initial file uploads.
Finally, to serve as an emergency backup to save your bacon when circumstances call for it, e.g. B. to retrieve an older version of your file due to editing errors or because you deleted the file accidentally or due to some other disaster. Again, all providers allow this file history, and some (like Microsoft) support it in their free plans as well.
But there are a few downsides to cloud storage. Firstly, if you want to offload some of your largest files, e.g. B. Your photo or video collection going back years, you will be bitterly disappointed as none of these providers offer support for preserving your metadata or any other useful information you added to these files.
Second, if you’re running older versions of Windows or Mac OS on your desktops, you’re likely to run into problems getting both to work in the Apple and Microsoft cloud.
Next come the security and privacy issues. While all five providers encrypt your files in their clouds, you shouldn’t store any identification documents (like driver’s licenses or health cards). If your files are hacked, then this is the low-hanging fruit for hackers to further exploit. (OneDrive offers identity protection for up to three of your files, which helps.)
All five providers support additional authentication factors and offer options for protecting your login. And some – Apple and Google – are making MFA mandatory and Microsoft is moving in that direction. The initial setup isn’t too difficult, but making changes (e.g. adding a new MFA method) is a matter of finding the right place in the web admin settings pages.
We tested five popular personal cloud storage apps and selected them from more than two dozen others by looking at those that not only received the highest ratings, but also all five endpoints (Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and browsers) support.
We set up accounts on each system and downloaded the various operating system apps. We also reviewed the promised features and their implementation. We’ve paid close attention to how MFA security is set up in each circumstance.
For the most part, all products offered similar support, although some had additional security and privacy features. We investigated other setup and installation issues and documented all issues.
All products had similar use cases, file transfer performance, and operations. All cloud providers have various integrations with their own apps (like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Skype, Google’s Gmail, and Apple’s desktop productivity apps) as well as other add-ons (both Box and Dropbox have accumulated these integrations for years).
We also found that all services have good starter free plans to try out. For example, Apple and Microsoft both offer 5GB storage, Dropbox 2GB, and Box 10GB. Google has a complex formula that depends on what you use and when you got your account, but a new, free account comes with 15GB of storage.
Finally, we only tested the personal plans; We have not tested the business versions of these products. Also, in our testing of personal plans, we didn’t consider the use case of near real-time collaborative editing, as that falls more into the realm of enterprise cloud services.
Box’s Forever Free plan is for a single user and includes up to 10GB and a 250MB upload limit per file. If you want access to previous file versions or more storage, you can choose the 100GB Personal Pro plan for individuals for $14 per month, billed monthly; This plan has a 5GB file upload limit. You can also pay annually and get up to a 25% discount depending on the plan.
Box doesn’t have higher-capacity personal storage plans; For that, you need to purchase one of the business plans, which offer unlimited storage. The Business plans are available with 14-day free trials. Box also has integration modules with Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. Box also supports MFA logins.
Dropbox’s free plan comes with 2GB of storage and can be shared across up to three separate devices. There are several plans to increase this storage space, starting with the Personal Plus plan at $11.99 per month for 2TB billed monthly for a single user (as tested). For households, there’s a family plan for up to six users sharing the 2TB; This plan costs $19.99 per family per month. You can also pay annually and receive up to a 20% discount depending on the plan.
Unlike the free plan, the two paid Personal plans save 30 days of version history. Dropbox also limits you to 100 MB per shared file transfer. The paid plans also support MFA logins. There are also paid business plans with 30-day free trials.
Google One’s free plan comes with 15GB of storage. There’s also a 100GB Basic plan for $1.99 per month, a 200GB Standard plan for $2.99 per month, and a 2TB Premium plan for $9.99 per month. You can also pay annually and get a 16% or 17% discount depending on your plan. The premium plan also includes a free virtual private network (VPN) for Android and iOS devices.
All plans share storage for your documents, Gmail, and shared photos. If you host your domain through Google’s Workspace, these accounts now come with 35 GB of storage including Gmail and other Google tools, starting at $6 per user per month.
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