The internet has come a long way since becoming a commercial product in the 90s. Today, billions of mainstream users visit the online world, not just tech gurus. Many do so for their own benefit and, for that reason, we’ve selected the best cloud storage for personal use from dozens of services, with Sync.com leading the charge.
It’s a good idea to upload your files to the cloud because it will help you declutter your hard drive, boosting the performance of your computer. Music, movies, photos, documents, and big files are perfectly suited for transfer to the cloud.
Once your files are there, you won’t have to worry about them if something happens to your hard drive. You’ll also be able to share them with your friends and family if you’re so inclined.
If you don’t care about storage space and you want to make sure your files are safe, you’ll want to read our best cloud backup list. The difference between cloud storage and backup is more than just storage space, which you can learn more about here. Let’s take a look at the important criteria for personal use, and then we’ll get to the rankings.
Best Cloud Storage for Personal Use 2019
What Makes Cloud Storage the Best for Personal Use
While some of us are better off than others, personal users aren’t big companies capable of dishing out hundreds or thousands of dollars for computer services annually. We’re going to make sure the services are affordable for the average Joe. The more storage the service provides for the money, the better the deal. It’s great if they offer a free plan or trial, too.
Sharing should be easy, fast and capable of going directly to the big social networks, individuals and groups of individuals. Content control is paramount, as well, since it lets you restrict unauthorized file access with features such as expiry dates for shared links, permission settings and password protection.
You might think you’ll transfer your files quickly if you have a fast internet connection, but transfers speeds depend on the cloud storage service, too. How close you are to the server matters, as well. It’s best if a service can use a block-level transfer algorithm to optimize transfers of files that have already been uploaded.
Finally, security is nothing to dismiss as it will help protect your files from hackers. The quality of a service’s security depends on the encryptions it uses at rest and in transit and whether it offers private, end-to-end encryption which prevents anyone besides you from reading your files. Two-factor authentication should be available as well.
Best Cloud Storage for Personal Use: Sync.com
Sync.com has a reputation for good security and protecting users’ privacy, which helped it top our cloud storage comparison list. It’s based in Canada, so you get the benefit of Canadian privacy laws, which are among the best in the world.
Before deciding to subscribe, you can use Sync Starter, a plan with 5GB of free storage, to test the service. There’s a several-step-long process you can complete to get 1GB of bonus storage, too. Plus, you get another gigabyte, up to 20, for every friend you refer.
There are two plans for personal users: Personal Pro 500GB and Personal Pro 2TB. The first costs $49 a year and the second costs $96 a year, making it one of the best deals in cloud storage.
Sharing your files in the cloud starts with the “share” button in the web interface. If it’s a folder, you can invite users or generate a link. Others using the link can download a zipped folder instead of each file. If you’re sharing a file, you can only generate a link, which you can manually copy or send via email.
Sync.com lets you share upload links, too, which allows others to upload content to your storage space.
As for content controls, you can set permissions for your shares. You’re also able to attach passwords and expiry dates to links, but only with a Pro subscription. You can set download limits on shares, as well as see your download stats.
There’s a “shares” page that tells you which folders you’ve shared and with whom, too.
Initial upload and download speeds compare well to other services and Sync.com doesn’t restrict your bandwidth by default. If your connection is weak and you’re using the desktop client, you can throttle your speeds using the taskbar icon. The only drawback is that it doesn’t have block-level copying.
Other Reasons We Like Sync.com
Sync.com uses AES 256-bit encryption and the TLS protocol, which protects data from man-in-the-middle attacks during transfers to data centers. The service is zero-knowledge compliant and topped our list of the best zero-knowledge services. That means it won’t be able to retrieve your password if you lose it.
The service offers two-factor authentication to help protect your password from hackers, but you should make a strong one, regardless. To learn the details about its security arsenal, read our Sync.com review.Sync.com has strong security, excellent sharing capabilities and takes good care of your privacy. Those high marks make it fit to be at the top of this list.
- Zero-knowledge encryption
- Great support
- Competitive pricing
- No block-level sync
- No monthly plans
Like Sync.com, Switzerland-based pCloud only offers two personal plans, but they are great value. The Premium plan provides 500GB for $47.88 a year, while Premium Plus costs $95.88 a year for 2TB. If you decide to subscribe to pCloud for the long-term, buying a lifetime license will save a you lot of green.
Before subscribing, you can use the free plan, which gives you a generous 10GB of storage. There’s a multi-step process you can follow to get another 4GB of free storage after registration if you want, too. Plus, for every friend you refer, you get 1GB of additional space up to 20GB.
You can add an email or account name to share a file or folder with someone. If others want to share their content with you, they can do so with upload links.
To protect your links, you can set passwords and expiry dates, but keep in mind that both require subscribing to a premium plan. If you’re using pCloud’s zero-knowledge encryption add-on, you can only share files that aren’t encrypted with it. pCloud also provides a helpful table that shows statistics for your shares.
Connection speeds are better than most services and reach higher peaks more often, but they vary. Sync is reliable and never drops files or mixes them. If transfers hog system resources, there are settings to compensate for it.
Other Reasons We Like pCloud
pCloud uses AES 256-bit encryption to scramble files at rest and the TLS protocol to protect your data in transit. Once your data reaches pCloud’s data center, it’s replicated across at least five servers.
Zero-knowledge is available if you buy the Crypto add-on for $3.99 a month. What you put in the Crypto folder will only be accessible to you because it’s a protected by a password that only you know.
You can test pCloud with a 14-day free trial before deciding to subscribe. Make sure you have a strong password, though, because there’s no two-factor authentication.
pCloud has its upsides — value, sharing options and security — but lacks two-factor authentication and zero-knowledge encryption is a paid add-on. That’s enough to put it behind Sync.com here. If you want to learn more about the service, read our pCloud review.
- Great value
- Generous free storage
- Fast file sync
- No two-factor authentication
- Private encryption is paid add-on
OneDrive is Microsoft’s product in the cloud storage market and its desktop app comes with Windows 8.1 and 10. It works well and has all the usual features, but they might be tricky to access or have limitations.
As a free user, you will get access to 5GB of free storage and Office Online. The cheapest subscription plan offers 50GB for $2 per month. The next plan up is a much better deal, though, as it provides you with 1TB of space and Office 365 for only $6.99. That said, it’s not as good as Sync.com’s or pCloud’s 2TB plans.
Sharing is similar to other services. You can generate a link to the file, email a link to it from the OneDrive website, share it on social media and embed it on a webpage. If you subscribe to a premium plan, you can set expiry dates, but there’s no password protection. There’s no way to quickly see what you’ve shared and with whom, either.
Transfer speeds are fast and consistent, which isn’t surprising considering Microsoft has a global network of servers. We considered only uploading using sync, though, because manual uploading was prone to errors.
The sync client uses block-level copying for Office files only, which is too bad because some users don’t use Office.
Other Reasons We Like OneDrive
Unless you have a business account, OneDrive won’t encrypt your files at rest, leaving them more susceptible to hackers and rogue employees. At least the TLS protocol protects your files during transfer. We recommend using Boxcryptor, an add-on that provides private encryption, to enhance your security and privacy.
OneDrive offers two-factor authentication to protect your password from hackers. To learn more about its features, or lack thereof, read our OneDrive review.
- Bundled with Office 365
- No at-rest encryption
- Manual uploads can stall
Dropbox is one of the oldest storage services and the originator of the common models for sync and block-level copying. You can try it with its Basic plan, which gives you a mere 2GB of free storage that you can boost in 500MB increments with referrals.
The Plus plan provides 1TB of storage for $10 a month, which is a decent deal. It also gives you access to features such as priority email support, remote data deletion and offline folders on mobile.
Subscribing to the Professional plan costs $20 a month and gives you 2TB of storage, along with smart sync, full-text search and priority chat support. There are better deals, though.
You can share files and folders by using the “share” button. It will generate a link for you, which you can email or share manually. Note that you can only grant edit permissions with folder shares, so you’ll want to use a folder if you’re collaborating.
Free and Plus users don’t get advanced sharing settings, but if you pay for Professional you get password protection and expiry dates for links.
Dropbox is fast on initial uploads and its impressive block-level sync helps upload files faster on subsequent transfers, which is why we gave it a high rank in our best cloud storage for sync list.
Other Reasons We Like Dropbox
Unfortunately, there’s no zero-knowledge encryption, but it uses AES 256-bit at rest and in transit. Dropbox isn’t privacy-friendly as it decrypts your files for indexing once they get to its servers, then re-encrypts them.
To avoid that, again, consider using Boxcryptor. Two-factor authentication is available. To learn the details of Dropbox’s security and its other features, read our Dropbox review.
- Fast sync
- Good integrations
- Not zero-knowledge
Google Drive offers plenty of plans to choose from. The free one gives you a whopping 15GB of storage and makes it fit for our list of the best free cloud storage offers. The paid plans start at 100GB and end at 30TB, but most aren’t good value. The 1TB plan costs $9.99 per month, which is the best one among them, but it’s still not close to, say, pCloud.
It’s easy to share your files and folders, but there are no content control features, such as expiry dates or links. You can get a shareable link to copy and paste or share by email. People who receive your link can view or edit your content, depending on how you set your permissions.
Google Drive works fast and doesn’t lag behind other services, but it lacks a block-level transfer algorithm.
Other Reasons We Like Google Drive
Google has privacy issues, including being connected to the PRISM project and giving data to the National Security Agency. Plus, it scans your personal files and emails to give you personalized ads, custom search and so on.
The service encrypts your files with AES 128-bit while they’re stored on its servers. That’s not as strong as its heavier cousin AES 256-bit, but it’s never been cracked as far as we know. Two-factor authentication is there to protect your password. To learn more about the service, read our Google Drive review.
- 15GB free storage
- Cost flexibility
- Strong customer support
- Could be cheaper
- Weak security
- No private encryption option
There are many services personal users can choose from for cloud storage, but we’ve narrowed them to five candidates. The first two offer the best value, but the last three might be a good choice for you if don’t need much space.Sync.com is the overall best service for personal use, with the only ding being that it lacks block-level sync. pCloud is hot on its heels, but doesn’t have two-factor authentication or native private encryption. OneDrive and Google Drive don’t have strong security or privacy, while Dropbox is expensive.
What do you think of our choices? Do you agree with our ranking? Do you use a service that’s not on our list? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.