Picture the scene: You’ve typed up an important document on your PC and it suddenly crashes. Your hard drive has failed, and you’ve lost your data. This is a situation that happens all too often, but it’s one that can be avoided by storing your documents in the cloud.
Investing in the best cloud storage for documents means you can be sure that, if you lose your data to hardware failure or cyber attacks, you can recover it and quickly continue working. To help you pick the best provider, we’ve created a shortlist of the five best cloud storage services for written files.
What Is the Best Cloud Storage for Documents?
- Sync.com — Great security and a free plan
- OneDrive — Office Online integration
- Google Drive — Mostly free, and access to Google Docs
- Dropbox — Fast sync
- iCloud — Works well with Macs
There are plenty of great cloud storage providers for your documents, but Sync.com is easily one of our favorites. Thanks to its seamless file syncing across mobile and desktop clients, you can access your document files on the go with Sync.com, taking advantage of its impressive security focus.
OneDrive and Google Drive both come with document editing in mind, thanks to Office and Google Docs integration, while Dropbox and iCloud both make it easy to edit documents from Windows, Mac and mobile devices.
Let’s go through each provider to help you decide which is the best for your document storage needs.
We’re not afraid to admit that we’re big fans of Sync.com. It’s consistently near the top of our shortlists, rating as one of the best cloud storage options for photos, among others. As our Sync.com review shows, it’s also one of the best (if not the best) cloud storage for your important documents.
Let’s talk about security first. If you’re worried about your sensitive documents, Sync.com takes care of the problem, thanks to its two-factor authentication, file password protection and AES 256-bit encryption, which strongly reduces the chances of losing access to your files or having them compromised by hackers.
It’s this level of security that, for us, makes Sync.com the best zero-knowledge cloud storage provider in the market today and the only provider on this list to provide that level of security.
Sync.com doesn’t offer integration with other services, like Office or Google Docs do, instead prioritizing security over productivity, and standing apart from other providers in the process.
This does mean that it isn’t a good option for collaborating on your files, so if you’re looking to create and edit documents as a team, you’ll need to look at our best cloud storage for collaboration shortlist.
However, as a backup service for your documents, Sync.com can’t be faulted. Even with a free Sync.com account, users can take advantage of up to 30 days of file versioning, which would allow you to roll back changes to your document files if you make a mistake or if you’re hit by ransomware.
You don’t need to worry about file redundancy, either. Sync.com uses RAID to protect against hardware failure in its data centers to ensure that the risk of permanently losing your files is extremely small.
Sync.com also comes with a pretty reasonable 5GB of free storage space, allowing you to store a significant number of documents before ever needing to pay. You can increase that amount, too, if you refer new users to Sync.com. Each new user nets you an extra 1GB in storage, up to a 20GB limit.
If you want to use Sync.com as your primary online storage, you can check out its paid plans, which range from 200GB to 4TB, costing between $60 and $180 per year.
- Strong security features
- Zero-knowledge encryption
- Good free plan
- No collaboration features
Unlike Sync.com, where security is the priority over productivity, Microsoft has taken a different approach with OneDrive, Microsoft’s storage in the cloud. As we mention in our OneDrive review, this service is all-in, integrating with Office apps online and on the desktop.
OneDrive and Office Integration
The integration is seamless, making it a worthy entry toward the top of our shortlist. Even free users can take advantage of storage for Office documents, thanks to Office Online, a feature-lite version of the Office 365 subscription service.
This means that, wherever you go, you can create and edit files using the Office suite. Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations: They can all be created, saved and edited from a OneDrive storage drive. OneDrive comes with block-level file copying so that any changes you make to files on your PC are quickly uploaded.
If you’re using OneDrive for Business, you can take advantage of an extensive number of collaboration features, making teamwork a simple process. You can share links to files through email or social media, as well as restrict access to your files for certain users.
You can even make Skype calls through the OneDrive web app, adding more features for users looking for document collaboration.
Microsoft hasn’t always placed security at the top of the agenda for OneDrive, but that’s all changed. It now supports AES 256-bit encryption for maximum security. OneDrive also uses the TLS protocol to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks from succeeding.
That doesn’t mean that your files are completely secure. Microsoft is a U.S. company, subject to its laws, which are particularly draconian where privacy is concerned. Snooping from government agents is probably unlikely, but it is still potentially possible. If that’s a concern for you, you may need to look at other document storage providers on this list.
Like Sync.com, OneDrive comes with 5GB of storage space for free. More expensive plans come with additional storage and an Office 365 subscription, giving you full Office access. These start at $69.99 per year for 1TB of storage and go up to $99.99 per year for 6TB of storage. OneDrive plans are also available monthly, from $6.99 to $9.99 per month.
- Great family plan
- Office 365
- Good for collaboration
- Only 30 days of versioning
- No zero-knowledge encryption
- No Linux client
3. Google Drive
If this was a numbers game, Google would be hitting it out of the park, with around 1 billion users subscribed to the service. It’s no surprise why, as Google Drive integrates with the entire Google Docs productivity suite, as well as other Google services, such as Gmail. You can check out our Google Drive review for the full picture.
This integration means you can create documents in all major formats, straight from your Google Drive storage. You can create Word-processed documents, spreadsheets and presentations, with the ability to export them into Office-friendly formats, if you’d prefer.
Google Drive and Collaboration
If you’re looking for collaboration features without subscribing to a business plan, then you should be considering Google Drive with Google Docs. You can edit files with others at the same time, including adding comments.
You can also revert back to older copies of your files with an extensive versioning system that saves every edit you make, as well as view past changes. You can also integrate your Google Drive storage with other third-party services.
Google Drive allows you to easily share files with others, although it doesn’t provide link expiry or file password protection features.
Google Drive Security
As another U.S.-based company, we’d normally hesitate to praise Google too much when it comes to security or privacy. That said, the company undertakes regular, independent security auditing of its Cloud Platform services, including Google Drive. It also offers a reward program for penetration testers who find potential security risks.
Google does encrypt your files, but it uses the weaker AES 128-bit encryption, although it does use TLS to stop man-in-the-middle attacks. On the downside, it holds the encryption key, so Google Drive isn’t a zero-knowledge provider.
However, you can secure your account with two-factor authentication. This should reduce the chances of losing control of your account, although it isn’t a fool-proof solution.
One big warning sign that may put you off Google Drive, though, is Google’s involvement in the PRISM project. If that’s not enough to put you off, Google will also scan your files and content (including your Gmail emails) for marketing purposes.
Thankfully, Google Drive works well with Boxcryptor, so you can encrypt your files and hold the encryption key yourself before uploading them for extra protection (see our Boxcryptor review).
Google Drive Pricing
With a generous 15GB of free storage, Google Drive is still one of the best free cloud storage providers in the market. All you need to use this impressive free storage is to sign up for a Google account.
If that isn’t enough, you can upgrade to plans ranging from 100GB up to a whopping 30TB; 100GB of storage will cost you $1.99 per month (or $19.99 per year), up to $299.99 per month for 30TB of storage.
- Google Docs integration
- Amazing free & paid plans
- Good collaboration features
- Weaker security and worrying privacy features
- No block-level file syncing
As one of the earliest cloud drives to hit the consumer market, Dropbox is a worthy choice for document cloud storage. It’s focused mostly on personal users, as our Dropbox review shows, but it also offers features and plans aimed at business users.
Dropbox hasn’t tried to follow Google’s model of developing its own productivity suite beyond Dropbox Paper, a collaborative word processing app that’s light on features. Instead, Dropbox offers full integration with Office Online, allowing you to edit and create documents on the go using Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
Key features — such as block-level syncing and Smart Sync (to select the files and folders you want to sync to your PC without using up your hard drive storage) — show off Dropbox’s pedigree as the first of the cloud file-sync services. Business users have even more features, as our Dropbox Business review will explain.
If you’re on the Plus paid plan, you can take advantage of file versioning, giving you the ability to restore deleted or changed files within 30 days. Longer periods are available on the Professional and Business plans.
Although it isn’t a priority for document storage, Dropbox also offers media playback facilities, helping it make our best cloud storage for video shortlist.
If you’re looking to share your files with others, Dropbox offers a good set of collaboration features, plus the ability to set access levels for your files and folders, as well as generate sharing links for email or social media.
Dropbox isn’t a zero-knowledge provider, but it does offer AES 256-bit encryption for your files, although it’ll decrypt your files to check metadata when they’re uploaded.
Like Google Drive, if you want to improve your Dropbox file security, you can combine it with Boxcryptor to take complete control of your file encryption. This will keep your documents safe, even if Dropbox faces another data breach.
With 2GB of free storage, Dropbox isn’t the best free storage provider. Dropbox’s free plan prevents you from using many of the features we’ve mentioned, other than file sharing.
Two paid plans for individuals dramatically increase your Dropbox storage and feature access, with Dropbox Plus including 2TB of storage and 30-day file versioning starting at $9.99 per month.
The more expensive Dropbox Professional plan includes 3TB of storage and a range of additional features, including AutoOCR for document scanning, starting at $16.48 per month.
Neither of these plans are the cheapest, though, especially compared to alternatives like Google Drive. If you’re looking for unlimited online storage, however, Dropbox does offer this for $25 per month.
- Office integration
- Good collaboration features
- Expensive paid plans
- Previous data breaches recorded
Many of the products we’ve covered will work well (or reasonably well) on macOS, but only one is built with Apple in mind. iCloud is the Apple cloud storage service that every Apple device owner has access to, as our iCloud review explains further.
Unfortunately, iCloud’s biggest selling point can also be its biggest problem, especially if you’re somebody who likes to mix and match your gadgets. This is because iCloud works best on the Apple devices it’s designed for, making it difficult to use on Windows or on other mobile devices like Android.
The biggest benefit of iCloud is the integration. You don’t need to do anything special to set up iCloud because it comes as a benefit for Apple account holders. iCloud is there for you to access as a separate storage drive in the macOS Finder app, as well as in your iOS settings for device backups.
If you’re creating documents, it couldn’t be simpler to use, as you can save to your iCloud storage directly in Office for Mac or Apple iWork apps. If your files are saved elsewhere, you can move these into your iCloud drive as if you were moving files into another folder.
Security is a priority for Apple, with a move to two-factor authentication for Apple user accounts. Users with newer Apple products can also take advantage of Touch ID for iCloud sign-ins and any account changes.
Apple is still a U.S. company, though, so we’d still recommend that you encrypt your most sensitive files before you upload them to iCloud, just in case. Apple does offer AES 128-bit encryption but — like other providers, such as Google Drive — this isn’t a zero-knowledge system, meaning it is possible for Apple to decrypt your data.
That said, Apple has been known to play tough with law enforcement, with the company regularly refusing to comply with requests to unlock devices and data. That’s a good sign, although you should still remain a little wary.
iCloud Storage Plans
With 5GB of free storage, iCloud users have a good amount of space to begin saving their most important files. You can upgrade to paid plans, ranging from 50GB to 2TB, with the ability to share storage with family members on the more expensive plans.
These plans will set you back $0.99 per month for 50GB of storage and up to $9.99 per month for 2TB.
- Apple integration
- 5GB free plan
- Competitive pricing
- Slow speeds
- Poor Windows client
- No email support
How We Picked Our Providers
If you’ve read any of our previous cloud storage reviews and roundups, you’ll know that we’re not here to sugarcoat things. If a provider is good, we’ll recommend it, and if it isn’t, we won’t — it’s that simple.
We consider each provider on its own merits before we place them on our lists, looking at its storage capacity, overall features, quality of security, pricing plans and how easy it is to use. That’s why Sync.com is recommended here, but we’re also happy to recommend free cloud storage providers like Google Drive.
Any of the five cloud storage providers on this list would work well for document storage, but Sync.com gets our top vote, thanks to zero-knowledge encryption putting you in control of your file security.
Big names like OneDrive and Google Drive aren’t far behind, though, thanks to the built-in integration with Office and Google Docs on offer. If you need a solution that works well on Mac, then iCloud would be a good alternative, although cross-platform users will find Dropbox to be a great cloud drive for their important files.
If you have your own thoughts and opinions, don’t be afraid to share them — leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.