Whether it's a treasure trove of family photos, years of documents from work or a mix of everything, cloud storage holds it all. One of the biggest benefits of utilizing cloud storage is that it can sync across all of your devices, giving you near-instant access to all of your files. So how do you choose the best one? Dropbox and Google Drive get a lot of the glory, but are they really the most cost-effective?
For the Eternal Freeloader
When it comes to storage on the cheap, nothing gets cheaper than free. The problem with free cloud storage is that it's not necessarily always the best place to store sensitive or possibly compromising materials, nor is there any guarantee that the service will always be the same in terms of its quality and offer.
That being said, the best all-around free cloud storage services that offer you the "most bang for your (non) buck" in this department would have to be Google Drive. Offering a whopping 15 GB of free, reliable, high uplink/downlink cloud storage, nothing beats betting on the highest bidder to handle your storage needs. This is a service with the backing of one of the most prolific and successful tech companies in the world.
Now that the "free" services out of the way, below are the best premium cloud storage services for your buck in 2021.
One of the few cloud storage providers that offers lifetime pricing, pCloud adds some attractive features. Remote uploading is easy as you can enter the file's address into the upload manager from anywhere, even another computer. Excellent security rounds out the most intriguing pCloud features, including 256-bit AES encryption and TSL/SSL protection.
For 500GB of lifetime storage, pCloud costs $175 at its currently discounted price. Regularly $480, the discounted offering equals $0.35 cents per GB. The company's premium offering of 2TB currently costs a discounted $350 or $0.18 cents per GB. While these prices sound high, remember that this is lifetime pricing, and you can easily recoup the cost within two to three years.
Best known as the brainchild of an eccentric founder, Mega has always tried to do things a little differently. Boasting end-to-end encryption and publishing its source code on GitHub, Mega takes secure storage very seriously. Security notwithstanding, Mega is also incredibly easy to use with cross-platform tools for nearly every software platform including Linux.
Pricing starts at $5.64 monthly for 400GB of storage or right around $.01 cents per GB. The next stage is a familiar 2TB of storage at $11.28 monthly or $0.006 cents per GB. For 8TB of storage, Mega costs $22.58 per month or $0.003 cents per GB. Finally, Mega's top-tier plan for individuals caps out at 16TB of total storage at $33.87 per monthly, which results in a cost of $0.002 cents per GB.
While iDrive doesn't have the name recognition of Dropbox or Google Drive, it more than makes up for it with excellent service. iDrive enables support for entire disk images, your most important files and folders and provides the ability to view everything through a browser, desktop client or mobile application. Do you want to use a private encryption key for a little extra sense of security? You can do that too.
If you sign up now, grab 5TB of cloud storage for $52.12 for the first year or $104.25 for two years. That breaks down to $0.01 per GB for year one and $0.02 cents per GB for two years. That's incredibly strong pricing and beats the non-discounted price of $69.50 by $0.013 cents per GB for just one year. Two years is regularly priced at $139, which comes out to $0.027 cents per GB. Things get even more attractive when you jump to 10TB for one year. Discounted to $74.62, you're only paying $0.007 cents per GB, and at $149.25, only $0.014 cents per GB for two years. That easily beats the regular price of $99.50 for one year ($0.009 per GB) and $199 ($0.019 per GB) for two years.
Apple's iCloud storage famously offers 5GB of storage for free. That number includes all of your iCloud backups as well as photos and application syncing. It's a suspiciously low number for the richest company in the world. Apple's move to be competive with iCloud has led it to offer higher-tier price points at nearly similar pricing to its closest competitors.
Upgrading from the 5GB plan to the 50GB plan will cost $0.99 cents per month or $0.02 cents per GB. Jump to the 200GB plan for $2.99 per month, and you will pay around $0.01 cents per GB. Apple's largest offering at 2TB costs a familiar $9.99 per month or $0.005 cents per GB.
Like Mega, Sync.com prides itself on security first and foremost. Boasting 100% private cloud services, Sync commits itself to not reading, selling or accessing any of your personal data. Promising 99.9% uptime and easy access to recovering deleted files, Sync.com is a strong offering for anyone not wanting to go with the usual cloud storage suspects.
From a pricing perspective, Sync.com bills annually. For $96 a year, Sync.com users will get 2TB of storage or $0.05 cents per GB. The next tier up adds an extra 1TB (3TB total) of storage at $120 per year, which drops the cost slightly to $0.04 cents per GB. Lastly, the “Plus” plan provides 4TB of storage at $180 per year at a cost of $0.045 per GB. Ultimately, that puts Sync.com somewhere in the middle of the price offerings of its competitors.
Dropbox remains a cloud storage favorite and for good reason. That it can be used on nearly every platform is just one of the many reasons its name is almost interchangeable with cloud storage. The website is easy to navigate, and its free service tier of 2GB is comparable to some of the competition. Price-wise, Dropbox is somewhere in the middle of cloud services offering both monthly and yearly solutions.
The “Plus” plan with 2TB of storage begins at $9.99 per month when billed yearly, or $119.88 when paid in full. That breaks down to roughly $0.06 cents per GB per year. On the monthly side, Dropbox charges $11.99 per month for 2TB, which also breaks down to right around $0.006 cents per GB per month. For the price, you get Dropbox's solid reputation, access to its deep collaborative features, with services like Paper, as well as an upcoming password storage app.
Honorable Mention: NextCloud
If you want something completely different and are comfortable with a self-hosted model, NextCloud is likely the best solution available. Whereas services like Google Drive handle all the setup for you, NextCloud is reliant self-hosted software. Alternatively, you can choose from one of a number of NextCloud-recommended providers that offer between 2GB to 8GB of storage free.
So why use a self-hosted option? For one, you get a complete sense of security knowing that open-source software enables anyone to review its code and find and plug security holes. Additionally, you get to choose how much storage you need, how much bandwidth you want to use and more. If you're a little more tech savvy, NextCloud is a superb and inexpensive option.
When it comes to the best bang for your buck, pCloud comes away the victor. With lifetime pricing, you need only pay once and forget about paying ever again. While it will take two to three years to recoup against more standard monthly cloud storage providers, $175 for 500GB of lifetime storage is tough to beat.
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