Imagine losing your photos, music, tax records and other important data. Devastating thought, right? But digital catastrophes happen every day. Your PC could be suddenly damaged by a physical accident, malware attack or something else entirely.
This is why many people turn to cloud storage. Online storage services allow you to easily and securely back up basically any type of file including documents, sound files and images. Basically, cloud storage frees up space on your own hard drive while also keeping your files free from harm.
Additionally, cloud storage privacy settings can be adjusted by the user. This means multiple people can easily access the same files at the same time. While this is obviously a benefit for companies and other organizations, families and friends can also use cloud storage to securely share photos, music and more.
Even better, there are many cloud storage options which are completely free. We took an in-depth look at all the top companies which offer free cloud storage. Find out which company is the best choice for you with our complete guide below:
Easy, reliable storage which integrates into the software you already use.
Most cloud storage providers focus on either cloud backup or file syncing. iDrive is one of the rare exceptions who focuses on both – and largely succeeds. All your files are backed up, and then a separate sync folder lets you access files across multiple devices.
Encryption is strong. When used with the sync folder you can safely and easily share images and audio. Works great for families or groups of friends.
iDrive easily integrates into Windows Explorer. The platform is intuitive. Even if this is your first time using cloud storage, you’ll probably have no problems as long as you have basic computer familiarity.
Five GB of space is included with their free plan along with the separate folder for file syncing. The free account never expires. You also don’t have to enter a credit card number in order to open a free account. There’s no way you can be accidentally charged or have your data kept from you.
iDrive is pretty confident you’ll like their service. If you refer a friend (or a few friends) you’ll earn account credits for additional features.
Their paid plans are priced relatively low. The cheapest plan costs $44.92 annually for 1 TB of space. One aspect we didn’t like was the lack of an unlimited storage plan. Still, the largest plan does have 10 TB of space, which is enough for most individuals.
Overall, a reliable company with low prices. The additional file syncing features are a welcome bonus.
A relative newcomer with a lot of bells and whistles.
Founded in 2011, Sync has grown in leaps and bounds.
This Canadian-based company was founded by the trio of Darius Anita, Thoman Savundra and Suhan Shan. They’re the same three who created the major web hosting company Netfirms.
Sync is not shy about taking on Dropbox directly. They claim they’re the “secure alternative” to Dropbox. Aside from both private and server side encryption, Sync also has a “zero knowledge” policy.
Zero knowledge protocol is a complicated security term. What you need to know is this: When a cloud storage provider has a zero knowledge protocol, even they don’t know what data you’re storing on their servers. This is one of the highest levels of cloud security.
They offer five GB of free storage space. The free plan never expires. Paid plans of 500 GB start at only $49.
Top of the cloud for a reason.
Dropbox and cloud storage go together like Kleenex and facial tissue. That is to say, the brand name is often used interchangeably with the product. The history of cloud computing goes back to the late 1960s, but many people were first introduced to the concept in 2007, when Dropbox arrived on the scene.
There are very few software platforms which don’t seamlessly integrate with Dropbox. The recent collaboration between Dropbox and Microsoft Office only further increased overall ease-of-use.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that security for Dropbox isn’t the best in the industry. Dropbox is great for non-sensitive material. But this isn’t the platform for storing confidential data such as financial transactions or medical info.
They offer 2 GB of free storage space. For such a popular service, we were surprised to see they offered bonuses for referrals – and generous ones, too. Each referral earns you 500 MB of free storage with a maximum of 16 GB.
Reintroducing a familiar brand.
OneDrive is a Microsoft product. Formerly known as SkyDrive, OneDrive is an updated, enhanced reintroduction. One of the platform’s greatest strengths is, perhaps naturally, their extensive integration into existing Microsoft products.
If there’s one thing we’re not thrilled about, it’s that OneDrive’s pricing structure can be a bit confusing. Formerly free, now OneDrive’s basic plan is $1.99 a month for 50 GB. Additional plans require a subscription to Office 365. At $6.99 a month, this plan includes 1 TB of storage space.
Despite the name and price changes, the pedigree and prices of OneDrive make it a platform to keep an eye on.
Google Drive Review
Much like OneDrive, Google Drive is backed by an established, familiar and, well, powerful name. Integration with the software you already use is as easy as you’d expect.
Plus, Google Drive offers a lot of storage space. The free plan has 15 GB, with paid plans extending storage to 100 GB, 1 TB, 10 TB, 20 TB and even 30 TB. Extra space can be purchased directly or through Google Apps Unlimited, Google Apps for Education or Google Drive storage licenses. The 100 GB plan is $1.99 a month with the one TB plan for $9.99.
Integration is a big benefit. Google Drive syncs with the Google Docs, spreadsheets and other software you likely use every day.
This integration does have a drawback. Files stored in Gmail and Google+ do take up storage space. Also, there’s only encryption during transfer, not storage. Overall, however, there’s a lot of free, reliable storage space here. We feel the positives of Google Drive outweigh the negatives.
Box is an interesting cloud storage provider. Founders Aaron Levie and Dylin Smith were named on Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list in 2013. Today, over 39 million people and 50,000 organizations turn to Box for their cloud storage needs. This includes 52% of all Fortune 500 companies.
Box offers full file syncing, 10 GB of free storage and over two dozen apps including Box for Office and Box for Google Docs.
On the downside, Box does not have file versioning. This could be an issue especially in situations where multiple people need to work on one project.
Overall, however, there’s a lot of like about Box. The platform is powerful but intuitive. They also offer robust security including adherence to a variety of government compliance standards.
Why Do Some Companies Offer Free Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage companies aren’t a charity, of course. They offer free storage because it’s the best option for their business.
Simply put, many companies offer free cloud storage because they have to. There’s a lot of competition out there among storage companies. Most potential users will simply skip over paid plans in favor of a free option.
Free storage is offered for another reason, too. Cloud storage is well suited for a variety of individuals, businesses and organizations. A big issue, however, is that many potential users are confused by the idea of cloud storage. For instance, one survey conducted by Wakefield Research revealed that 51% of respondents believed cloud computing performance could be affected by bad weather.
A free trail gives everyday folks a chance to check out how easy and intuitive cloud storage can be. If a cloud storage company can teach a person how to use their cloud storage service, they’ve likely created a customer for life.
Of course, as with any free service, there are some restrictions…
Limitations of Free Cloud Storage (Compared to Paid Services)
Free cloud storage is often suitable for individuals and even many small businesses. While companies use free storage as a way to promote their brand and introduce their services, they typically place some restrictions on the free account. Here are some common examples:
Customer Service May be Lackluster
Companies offer free storage so they can create positive brand awareness. So you’re not going to be left completely to your own devices if you ever need assistance with the product. At the same time, most companies only have limited resources.
Generally, storage providers are going to focus primarily on providing services to customers with paid plans. Those with the free plans aren’t usually going to be the top priority.
Less Features than Paid Services
Usually the free storage space is pretty “bare bones” in regards to features. Typically, the free storage space will allow for storage and maybe a few features such as file syncing and encryption.
The general business model is to offer the free storage with the hope the customer will pay for additional features. So if you need a specific feature, you might have to go with a paid plan.
Limits in File Size and Storage Capacity
If you’re mainly using the cloud to store documents, this shouldn’t be an issue. But you’ll want to pay attention to any file size limitations if you’re planning to store movies, music and other large file types.
If you’re going with the free plan, your storage limit will likely be among the smallest offered by the provider. But this can still be a large amount of space for the typical individual. Besides, almost all storage companies allow you to easily upgrade to larger, paid storage.
Limits on User Accounts and File Sharing Capabilities
For individual users, this might not seem like a huge concern. But there are some differences between service providers which many people don’t consider at first:
Cloud storage can be wonderfully convenient for friends and family. Store family photos in the cloud and family members around the world can easily log in and browse the photos.
Music, movies and other media can be shared among friends in a similar way. When searching for a cloud storage provider, make sure access to your drives can be easily granted. Develop a rough estimate of how many people might need access to your cloud folders and files.
What Factors to Consider When Choosing a Company
Not all cloud storage companies are the same. However, this doesn’t mean that one company sits alone as the definitive best. The best free cloud storage provider is the one which meets your specific needs. Here are a few factors to consider:
If you’re choosing the free option, space limits will usually be a factor. For the most part, an individual should be able to store a variety of photos, music and other data. Generally, video will take up the most room. If you plan to store a lot of movies or TV shows, storage space can be pretty important.
The good news is you can easily upgrade if necessary. Practically all free storage plans will let you upgrade to a paid plan, with larger storage space, without having to lose or move your existing files.
You want to keep your data private, safe and secure. This is where encryption comes in. As explained by How to Geek, encryption is a security protocol which guards your data from authorized access.
Microsoft outlines the two types of encryption typically associated with cloud storage. Local encryption is when data is secured on the PC or other computer system. Server side encryption is when the data is secured while it’s being stored in the cloud.
Server side encryption is maintained by the storage provider. This is why you want to choose a company with both technical know-how and a trusted reputation.
According to a report from CNN, mobile devices are more popular than desktop computers, and have been for some time. Chances are you’ll want to upload data from your mobile device into your cloud storage.
Take a look at the mobile options available from the storage provider. Do they have apps with full data management functionality? You’ll want file syncing across all your devices, including both mobile and desktop.
Personal or Business
Free cloud storage is usually best for individuals. The storage space is typically enough for a personal library of music, movies and other files. Plus, most free cloud storage programs allow you to authorize other users. This lets you easily share photos online with family members while also maintaining security and privacy.
In most cases, medium to large businesses won’t likely benefit from free cloud storage. Space limitations will offer be an issue. Still, if you’re looking for large amount of cloud storage for a business, the free plan is often a great way to get a sense of the company.
One major advantage of cloud storage is the ability to share files in real-time among multiple people around the world. Organizations benefit from this but so do family and friends.
First, establish how many people you’ll need to share the cloud data with. Also, you want sharing to be easy. Most providers will let you simply send a link which will grant access to your data.
Free Limited-Time Trials Offered By Paid Services
There are a couple paid cloud storage services that offer free trials to customers that want to test out their features before subscribing to a monthly fee. Here's two companies that are currently offering free 15-day trials to their customers.
Located in Boston, founded in 2005 and named after the substance which froze Han Solo.
First, yes, this company is really named after the substance from The Empire Strikes Back. Like that substance, however, this storage has rock-solid security. Carbonite currently stores over 500 million files across six data centers worldwide.
- U.S. Based Customer Support Available 24/7
- 15 Day Free Trial Includes Unlimited Computers and Servers
- Plans Start At Just $5 A Month For Unlimited Storage.
Reliable cloud storage with no frills or gimmicks.
Founded in 2007, Backblaze took off like a roaring fire. CEO Gleb Budman and CTO Brian Wilson have created a cloud storage provider focused on reliable, fast service. Key features include automated backups and unlimited storage space.
- Private Encryption and Continuous Backup Ensures Your Files Are There When You Need Them.
- Fully Automated Service Makes Installation and Setup A Breeze.
- 15-Day Free Trial Allows Plenty of Time To Conduct Test Storage and Retrievals.
- 1 iDrive Review
- 2 Sync.com Review
- 3 Dropbox Review
- 4 OneDrive Review
- 5 Google Drive Review
- 6 Box.com Review
- 7 Why Do Some Companies Offer Free Cloud Storage?
- 8 Limitations of Free Cloud Storage (Compared to Paid Services)
- 9 What Factors to Consider When Choosing a Company
- 10 Free Limited-Time Trials Offered By Paid Services