Best Cloud Storage with Sync in 2021: Free & Paid

Syncing files is the bread and butter of cloud storage, but not every service offers the same degree of functionality and control over syncing files between devices. This article runs through the five services we think are the best at this, as well as a couple of honorable mentions.

Robert CullAleksander Hougen
By Robert Cull & Aleksander Hougen (Managing Editor)
— Last Updated: 2021-11-16T02:41:03+00:00

Pretty much everyone is familiar with some form of cloud storage. It lets you easily store and access your files over the internet. Aside from just storing your content online, many providers also let you sync content directly between your desktop and cloud storage service. Cloud storage with sync capabilities lets you keep exact copies of your files both in the cloud and on your device.

Key Takeaways:

  • pCloud and Icedrive have the best combination of price, security and advanced sync features.
  • Dropbox is another solid choice, due to its Smart Sync functionality.
  • Although they don’t have a lot of sync-specific features, MEGA and Sync.com are still very decent options due to their excellent security and privacy as well as good prices.

Although this handy feature can boost your productivity, unfortunately not all cloud storage providers offer the best security or sync features. Finding the best cloud storage with sync can be daunting, so we’ve tested them all and put together this guide.

  • 09/23/2021 Facts checked

    Rearranged list and added new entries, reformatted its structure and replaced the images.

  • Sync.com gives you 5GB of free storage, but you can earn an additional 1GB of storage for each friend you refer to the service.

  • Cloud drives (or network drives) act as separate hard drives on your device, rather than a folder located on your existing storage. This may seem like a minor distinction, but it means that your files are instantly accessible, despite not being stored locally on your machine.

  • Sync.com costs $8 per month for 2TB of storage, though there’s no option for monthly billing, meaning you’ll be charged $96 per year.

Top Cloud Storage With Sync

Best Cloud Storage With Sync Capabilities

Aside from the general cloud storage criteria such as ease of use, pricing, file-sharing and security, we’ll be focusing on sync-specific features. Things like selective and block-level sync, as well as network drives and other advanced sync features will weigh heavily in the rankings. We’ll also be factoring in speed more than we usually would.

Now that we’ve covered the criteria, let’s take a quick look at the five services that made it onto our list.

  1. pCloud — Secure and easy-to-use cloud storage with excellent sync capabilities
  2. Icedrive — Beautifully designed desktop client packed with sync features
  3. Dropbox — The original sync folder with block-level sync and smart sync
  4. MEGA — Cloud storage with a generous free plan and the ability to sync any folder
  5. Sync.com — Our favorite overall cloud storage with excellent security and prices

pCloud and Icedrive top the list, thanks to their virtual drives, fantastic transfer speeds and ability to sync any folder on your device. Dropbox comes in at a close third due to its smart sync feature.

Then we have MEGA, which can also sync any folder on your device and offers a generous 20GB free plan along with outstanding security and privacy. Sync.com rounds out our top five. Despite being our top pick for the best cloud storage overall, it only manages fifth place here because of its relatively limited sync functionality.

1. pCloud

pCloud sync folders
pCloud offers a wealth of sync features as well as excellent usability and security for an affordable price.

More details about pCloud:

  • Pricing: Up to 10GB free; 1TB for $9.99 per month, $95.88 per year or $350 for life
  • Provider website: pcloud.com

Pros:

  • Network drive saves space
  • Reasonably priced lifetime plans
  • Incredibly fast
  • Can sync any folder & uses block-level sync

Cons:

  • Zero-knowledge costs extra
  • No document integration

pCloud is a really good all-around service that offers a range of extras along with an easy-to-use desktop client. It supports block-level sync, which allows for faster sync times when you’re updating files. It also offers lifetime plans and good security so you can backup and access your files with confidence.

Instead of a sync folder, pCloud uses a network drive, which allows you to access your files from your desktop while online. It also allows you to sync folders for offline use by attaching them to a local folder and, as a result, is one of our best offline cloud storage picks.

pCloud is among the fastest cloud storage services we’ve tested, with both downloads and uploads close to maximum speed. Aside from that, it also offers native media playback, making it one of the best online storage for photos.

best uk backup pcloud
pCloud is a hybrid cloud service that also offers automatic online backup and other tools.

If you aren’t totally committed to one of the premium plans but are curious about it, pCloud also has a 2GB free plan that you can grow to 10GB by completing a few simple tasks. It’s an interesting approach, but 10GB isn’t a small amount of data and it should give you a good idea of how you’ll like the service. As always, check out our pCloud review for all the details.

2. Icedrive

non us storage icedrive
Icedrive is easy to use and easy on the eyes, but it also comes with lots of sync features.

More details about Icedrive:

  • Pricing: 10GB free; 1TB for $4.99 per month, $49.99 per year or $149 for life
  • Provider website: icedrive.net

Pros:

  • Excellent design
  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Virtual drive
  • Sync any folder

Cons:

  • No block-level sync
  • Lacks collaboration features

Despite being a newcomer on the scene, Icedrive has quickly become one of our favorite cloud storage services. Sporting a beautiful design across all platforms, it also offers excellent security and privacy, as well as very affordable prices with lifetime options.

When it comes to file syncing, Icedrive uses a virtual drive, which by default takes up no space on your device. You can also pair local folders with folders on the cloud, meaning you don’t have to change your folder structure to back everything up with Icedrive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support block-level sync, but it’s still among the fastest file syncing services on the market.

Mac cloud storage Icedrive CTA
Icedrive is one of only two major cloud storage services that offer lifetime plans.

One of the ways Icedrive has managed to make itself one of the more popular cloud services in such a short time is by offering very reasonably priced plans. The best value for most users is probably the Pro plan, which offers 1TB of storage.

If you don’t like recurring subscriptions, you can also make a one-time payment and get lifetime access, which pays off in less than three years of use. As always, check out our Icedrive review for all the details.

3. Dropbox

dropbox file sync
Dropbox popularized the sync folder, so it’s no surprise that it earns a spot on this list.

More details about Dropbox:

  • Pricing: 2GB free; 2TB for $9.99 per month
  • Provider website: dropbox.com

Pros:

  • Smart Sync
  • Block-level sync
  • Strong document & collaboration features
  • Fast

Cons:

  • Terrible free plan
  • No zero-knowledge encryption
  • Privacy concerns

It’s no surprise that Dropbox appears on the list when it comes to desktop sync. In our comprehensive guide to the best cloud storage services, its sync features are its most compelling selling point. Dropbox uses the standard sync folder model, but adds features like block-level sync (which speeds up reuploads of files) and “Smart Sync.”

Dropbox’s Smart Sync feature lets you view all of the files you’ve uploaded by making them online-only. This allows you to see your documents without them taking up space on your hard drive. Although Smart Sync isn’t a free feature, it’s available on all of Dropbox’s paid plans. Check out “What Is Dropbox Smart Sync?” for a full guide.

For users who are still enjoying the free plan, Dropbox offers “Selective Sync.” While Smart Sync allows your online-only files to be viewed from your desktop, Selective Sync requires your files to be downloaded to your hard drive in order to view them. Dropbox is also incredibly fast. In fact, it somehow manages to sync files faster than should be possible (probably due to compression).

dropbox documents apps
You can edit documents directly in Dropbox.

Dropbox has never been a great deal compared to other cloud storage services, but it’s gotten a bit better in recent years. However, there are only two plans for individuals, both of which come with 2TB of storage, and one just lets you add family members to the plan.

Unfortunately, Dropbox’s free plan is terrible, offering only a measly 2GB of storage. If you are on the fence about Dropbox, you can find out more in our comprehensive Dropbox review.

4. MEGA

mega computer client
If you’re looking for a generous free plan or top-notch security for your synced files,

More details about MEGA:

  • Pricing: 20GB free; 2TB for approximately $12 per month or $120 per year
  • Provider website: mega.io

Pros:

  • Generous free plan
  • Excellent security & privacy
  • Great for large amounts of storage
  • Can sync any folder

Cons:

  • 2TB plan is expensive
  • Poor customer support
  • No collaboration features

On the fourth spot on our list we find MEGA. Though it’s a service with a tumultuous history (check out our story about Kim DotCom and Megaupload for all the juicy details), it’s now a service that boasts excellent security and privacy, as well as the most generous free plan out of any major cloud storage service.

In terms of syncing files, MEGA isn’t quite as decked out as our top three picks. However, besides setting up a default sync folder on your device, it also lets you sync any other folder, allowing you to keep your organizational system intact.

If you’re planning to use your cloud storage to store things like video and audio files, then MEGA is one of the best options out there. That’s because it supports direct playback of a number of different formats, including MP3 and MP4, so you can simply stream your media files directly from MEGA’s servers.

mega cta
MEGA is one of the best file syncing services if you’re looking for huge amounts of storage.

In terms of pricing, MEGA is a bit of a mixed bag. Its larger plans, the biggest of which provides a whopping 16TB of data, are good deals if you need a lot of storage. Unfortunately, the much more practical 2TB plan is kind of expensive.

That said, the free plan is the most generous in the business, with 20GB provided for free and the option to earn an additional 15GB for a year by performing certain tasks.

Overall, MEGA is a great compromise between security and sync features, especially if you need either small or huge amounts of cloud storage. Make sure to check out our MEGA review for all the details.

5. Sync.com

sync online backup software
Sync.com is our favorite overall cloud storage for both Windows and Mac, but it doesn’t quite pack the same punch in terms of sync features that other apps do.

More details about Sync.com:

  • Pricing: 5GB free, 2TB for $8 per month
  • Provider website: sync.com

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Great file-sharing features
  • Extensive versioning policy
  • Excellent security & privacy

Cons:

  • Slow
  • No monthly plan

Sync.com is a really good cloud storage service that’s easy to learn and simple to use. It also provides great security, offering zero-knowledge encryption with all of its plans. Although the desktop client is lacking in options, your files are easy to access via the sync folder.

Sync.com is at fifth place on this list, despite being our favorite online file storage option. When it comes to sync, it offers fairly limited options (somewhat ironic, given its name). You have your sync folder, and that’s pretty much it. There’s no network drive or Smart Sync equivalent, nor does Sync.com support block-level sync or the ability to sync any folder on your device.

sync file version history
Sync.com’s versioning policy is one of the most extensive out there.

There’s the Sync Vault, which lets you upload files that won’t be synchronized with other devices, but the only way to access it is through the web client.

That said, sometimes a sync folder is all you need, and Sync.com has plenty of other things going for it. Along with the great storage plans, Sync.com also has fantastic security. Sync.com offers AES 256-bit encryption, multi-factor authentication, in-transit encryption and zero-knowledge policies.

Sync.com is a fairly basic service when it comes to sync functionality, but it really shines when it comes to its storage plans. It offers a free plan with 5GB of storage, and individual users have three different Pro Solo plans to choose from. Each of these plans is very competitively priced, and they provide up to 6TB of storage. You can take a look at our Sync.com review for more about Sync.com’s security, pricing and more.

Best Cloud Storage Services With Sync: Honorable Mentions

Aside from our top five, there are two more services we think are worth mentioning that didn’t quite make it onto the list.

Google Drive

google drive desktop sync app
Google Drive is an excellent choice if you’d rather have collaboration than privacy.

Google Drive (read our Google Drive review) is the most popular cloud storage in the world, and anyone with a Google account is already signed up to its 15GB free plan. Although Google focuses on its web interface, it also has a desktop client that sets up a virtual drive on your machine and lets you sync multiple folders. It’s a recent release though, so it’s not quite as user-friendly as it could be.

Microsoft OneDrive

onedrive online storage
OneDrive is convenient if you mainly use Windows devices.

If you use a Windows computer, Microsoft OneDrive is an easy option for cloud storage with sync capabilities. It comes preinstalled with Windows, and 1TB of storage is bundled with Office 365 for $69.99 per year. It supports block-level and selective sync, but you’re stuck with the default file sync folder and there’s no network drive. Check out our OneDrive review for more info.

OneDrive Basic 5GB
  • : 5 GB
OneDrive 100GB
  • : 100 GB
Microsoft 365 Personal
  • : Comes with Office 365 Personal
  • : 1000 GB
Microsoft 365 Family
  • : Comes with Office 365 Home
  • : 5000 GB
OneDrive for Business Plan 1
  • : Price per user
  • : 1000 GB
OneDrive for Business Plan 2
  • : Price per user
  • : Unlimited GB

Final Thoughts

In recommending the best cloud storage sync service, we want to make sure that you can confidently choose a software that is secure, relatively easy to learn and has good storage options. Naturally, pCloud took the lead, with its great speeds, network drive and multiple folder sync.

When it comes down to it, all of the storage solutions on this list are great services that you won’t regret trying out. Which one do you think is the best cloud storage service? Do you disagree with any of our choices? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.