- The Best VPN for Cloud Storage
- Coupling Cloud Storage With a VPN
- 1. ExpressVPN
- ExpressVPN’s Other Features
Cloud storage is ever growing in popularity (check out this list for our best picks). Whether you use it to store your vacation photos or classified documents, choosing a secure cloud storage service is important. That said, it’s just as important to have a secure connection while you’re uploading, and one of our best VPN for cloud storage picks will ensure you do.
Many people are now moving toward cloud storage, especially because it takes the hassle out of accessing photos, videos and other content when you’re on a different device. Even many companies are moving at least some of their infrastructure to the cloud (take a look at our best business cloud storage comparison).
The Best VPN for Cloud Storage
- Private Internet Access
Coupling Cloud Storage With a VPN
Cloud storage basically lets you store files online, but even if you choose a cloud storage service with the best security, it doesn’t mean you’re not at risk while you’re uploading your files to it. Plus, you’re even more at risk if you do it while connected to public WiFi. That’s where a virtual private network comes in.
A VPN allows you to hide behind an impenetrable wall, so to speak. It will essentially create a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server, and layer it with encryption while also hiding your true IP address.
Whatever you do online, it’ll get routed through that tunnel and will be completely protected from prying eyes. This means that when you’re uploading to the cloud, your files will move through that tunnel, too. To make sure your content is as secure as possible, you need to choose a secure VPN to go with your cloud storage service.
If you need a quick answer, you should go right ahead and install ExpressVPN. It’s the best overall VPN, but it also meets the criteria needed to be the best VPN for cloud storage. Read on for more recommendations, plus we’ll talk about how we chose the VPNs, all the reasons you need one and why you shouldn’t use a free VPN.
If you’re a frequent visitor to Cloudwards.net, you’ll most likely have realized by now that ExpressVPN is a favorite. That said, it still has to earn its stripes every time we consider it, and we can assure you it meets all the criteria to be the best VPN for cloud storage.
ExpressVPN’s security is top-notch, using AES 256-bit encryption from the get-go, but you can increase it if you need to beat some strict censorship to even get online. It passed our DNS leak tests with flying colors, and it comes with an automatic kill switch to keep your precious cargo secure if the VPN were to fail.
It’s the fastest VPN we’ve tested — which is one of the reasons it’s our best VPN for streaming, too — so you’ll have no trouble uploading a whole bunch of photos from your latest vacation. You can read more about the service in our ExpressVPN review.
It also comes with unlimited bandwidth, so you won’t get cut off halfway through your upload. Plus, if you’re still on vacation, you’ll be happy to know that ExpressVPN’s servers cover 94 countries, which is more than IPVanish (read our ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish comparison).
ExpressVPN’s Other Features
To make sure you don’t get frustrated while you’re uploading big files, ExpressVPN supports split tunneling so that you can tunnel your upload through the VPN but access other applications through your normal connection. All you need to do is add those applications to the exclusion list.
ExpressVPN is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, so you can upload from different devices if needed. It also allows up to five simultaneous connections, in case you’re in the mood for some multi-tasking and want to use ExpressVPN to get past the Netflix ban.
Where ExpressVPN doesn’t quite hit the mark is its price. It’s one of the most expensive VPNs on the market, but it’s also the one that offers the best service, meaning it’s worth the investment. You can save money by signing up for a longer plan, too, and if you’re not completely satisfied, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee in place.
- Excellent security
- Supports split tunneling
2. Private Internet Access
Next up is Private Internet Access. This VPN is easy to install but uses AES 128-bit encryption by default, so you’ll need to do some tweaking to get it up to the more favorable AES 256-bit. It also has a kill switch and DNS leak protection.
PIA’s speeds are fast, and although some of that is due to its default lighter encryption, we tested it after increasing the security to AES 256-bit and the speeds were still impressive.
PIA also announced its addition of split tunneling in late 2019, so you can bypass the VPN when needed. You also get unlimited bandwidth, but you can find out more in our PIA review.
Its servers don’t cover anywhere near the number of countries that ExpressVPN’s do, but there’s still more than 3,000 in 29 countries to choose from.
It can be used on all the major operating systems and even has a full client for Linux. You can connect up to 10 devices at the same time, too. The interface is easy to use, but it’s tied to the tray, so you might find it a bit annoying.
PIA is inexpensive, especially if you opt for a longer duration. If you’re hesitant to do that, though, there’s a seven-day refund period for peace of mind.
- Multiple security settings
- Supports split tunneling
- Interface is tied to the tray
- Small network coverage
CyberGhost is an impressive service that comes with great security, as well as a permanently enabled kill switch. Not having to remember to turn the kill switch on is a good thing, but not having any control over it isn’t. Still, it’s a small issue that we can look past. The service has also passed our DNS leak tests, as you can read in our CyberGhost review.
The VPN has fast speeds, but they can slow down over long distances, and there are no limits to bandwidth usage. CyberGhost’s server network is massive, and although the actual figure fluctuates, there are more than 5,000 servers spanning more than 80 countries.
Plus, for an extra small fee, you can use CyberGhost’s NoSpy servers, which are configured with premium hardware and sit outside of the 14 Eyes. Who knows, you might be uploading to WikiLeaks.
CyberGhost’s Other Features
If split tunneling is a must for you, then you might be disappointed by CyberGhost’s half-baked attempt. What you’re able to “split” will depend on the device you’re using. The desktop app has a “smart rules” tab that only lets you exclude particular websites from using the VPN.
At the moment, the only platform that includes the split tunneling feature is Android. In the Android app, you can exclude apps from going through the VPN tunnel, too. After a quick chat with CyberGhost, though, we were assured that it plans on expanding those capabilities to all of its VPN apps.
Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. You can connect up to seven devices simultaneously, but that’s also the limit for how many you can install the VPN on. It’s easy to use, even if it takes some getting used to.
CyberGhost is reasonably priced. Longer plans are discounted, so we don’t recommend signing up for the monthly one. If you sign up with an Android or iOS device, you’ll get a seven-day free trial, whereas desktop users only get one day. There’s also a money-back guarantee, which is 14 days for the monthly plan, and 45 days for lengthier ones.
- NoSpy servers
- Automatic kill switch
- Large server network
- No kill switch controls
- Can be slow
- Full split tunneling only on Android
NordVPN is an excellent service that has a lot to offer. It’s comparable to our winner, as you can read in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN piece. However, NordVPN lacks any kind of split tunneling capabilities.
That said, it has some of the best security you can get, and you have the option of using its double-hop servers, which add even more protection to your connection.
There’s also a kill switch, and you don’t need to worry about DNS leaks because it has passed all of our tests. Those features helped it win in our best VPN for torrenting piece. Read our NordVPN review to see why it’s so good.
NordVPN’s speeds are strong, though they can become slow over long distances, like CyberGhost’s speeds do. There’s no limited bandwidth allowance, so you can upload as much as you like. There are more than 5,000 servers covering a little less than 60 countries, too.
The VPN supports Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and it allows up to six connections at the same time. It’s also easy to use, with a simple map-style screen to show you where different servers are.
NordVPN’s price makes it good value for your money, and you’ll see some savings if you opt for a longer plan. A 30-day refund window is in place, in case you change your mind.
- Excellent security
- Double-hop encryption
- Large server network
- No split tunneling
- Speeds are inconsistent
Our last pick is ProtonVPN. It’s a good VPN that has lots of features, but it loses out to the competition because of its speed, which we’ll get to in a minute. Protection-wise, ProtonVPN comes with top-notch security using AES 256-bit encryption. Plus, with its top-tier plans, you can use its Secure Core servers, which offer more protection than standard servers.
There’s a kill switch included, and ProtonVPN came out clean in our DNS leak test, which you can read about in our ProtonVPN review.
As we said before, what really lets this VPN down is its speed. ProtonVPN is not dead slow, but other services make it look that way and the network is inconsistent. Plus, when we tested its Secure Core servers and free servers — we’ll mention the free plan later — the speed slowed down a lot. For the best results, don’t connect with a recommended server.
You get unlimited bandwidth, even with the free plan. Plus, ProtonVPN supports split tunneling so you can exclude certain applications or IP addresses from being sent through the VPN tunnel. You can choose from more than 600 servers in 44 countries.
The VPN can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and allows up to 10 devices to be connected at the same time. The interface is good and easy to use, but there aren’t a lot of settings to play around with, though.
ProtonVPN’s price largely depends on the package you choose, and there are four. The cheapest is obviously the free plan, but as expected, it comes with some limitations. You only have access to three servers — in the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands — and you can only connect one device at a time.
The next plan is Basic, which gives you access to all of its servers and one extra connection. However, if you want to use its Secure Core servers, you’ll need to move up a notch to the Plus plan.
With the Plus plan, you get all of the above, as well as three more connections. Additionally, you get the Secure Core servers and some servers suitable for streaming and Tor.
The fourth plan, Visionary, is the most expensive, but having double the number of simultaneous connections and access to an encrypted email service doesn’t justify the price.
Whichever plan you decide to go with, there’s a 30-day refund window, in case you decide you don’t like it.
- Good security
- Secure Core servers
- Support split tunneling
- Slow on standard servers
- Secure Core & free servers even slower
How We Chose the Best VPNs for Cloud Storage
Although many of our best VPNs are worthy of protecting you for various tasks, there are a few features that some VPNs just can’t deliver on. To be considered for our best VPN for cloud storage list, we took the following criteria into account.
First and foremost, the VPN needs to have good security. Without that, there’s not much point in using one for cloud storage protection. For the best defense, it should use AES 256-bit encryption, or at least let you set it to that after the install.
To complete the package, the VPN should include a kill switch, which will sever your connection if the VPN stops working. It’ll mean your file sync gets disrupted, but it’s much better than opening your door to all the online nasties there are, such as cybercrime.
Lastly, you should pick a VPN that has passed our DNS leak tests. In short, a DNS leak would mean that even though you’re connected to the VPN, some data leaks out of the tunnel, basically defeating the purpose of the VPN. Read our guide to DNS leaks to get a better understanding.
The VPN’s speed is important. If you choose one that has slow speeds, you’re going to be waiting an eternity for your files to upload, and that’s no fun. Connecting through a VPN will slow you down a little, anyway, but if you pick one that has good speeds, you shouldn’t notice much of a difference.
Bandwidth allowance is important when it comes to certain activities. If you’re only carrying out light tasks, it won’t matter too much, and bandwidth can go a long way.
However, uploading to the cloud will eat into your allowance, and if you’re uploading large files, it’s going to go quickly. To avoid that, we recommend you pick a service with unlimited bandwidth.
Turning the VPN off just to speed things up a little is not a good idea. Instead, you should opt for a VPN that supports split tunneling. With split tunneling, you can exclude certain applications and URLs from using the VPN. That’ll help you to speed up your upload but stay protected while you check your bank account.
Having a large server network is good so you can pick the best of the bunch for uploading. The more choice you have, the easier it will be to find one that has the best speeds, and you won’t feel the impact if some servers were out of service.
Plus, it means there should be one nearby wherever you travel, and you can use it to circumvent geoblocks if you need to, as well.
Compatible Devices and User-Friendliness
Something to keep in mind is what devices the VPN is compatible with, especially if you plan on uploading from different platforms. You might want to upload important files from your laptop, but upload some photos off your phone to free up some space. Most VPNs support the major operating systems, but some go that bit further, too.
Lastly, the VPN’s price might sway your decision. Don’t base your choice on this factor alone, but you should still make sure that it fits within your budget.
Why Do I Need a VPN for Cloud Storage?
You should use a VPN for any online activities, especially considering the increasing online surveillance (check out our best zero-knowledge cloud storage piece for complete privacy).
By using a VPN, you’ll be safe from any danger lurking online, and that’s even more important if you’re connected to a public WiFi network (and a good reason to install a decent antivirus, too). There’s no telling how secure the connection is, so it’s best to be safe than sorry.
When it comes to your actual files, your cloud storage service should protect them during transfer, anyway, with something called transport layer security (TLS). With that, your files will be sent through a secure tunnel and they’ll be encrypted beforehand, too.
Plus, if your cloud storage service provides two-factor authentication, you should be fine even if someone does steal some information.
However, you can never tell what you’ll be up against, especially when connected to an unreliable network. Whether you’re uploading to the cloud or redownloading something you’ve already stored, there’s that little gap between when you actually start the upload or finish the download.
If your device isn’t secure, hackers can easily gain access to your files on your device or even your cloud storage. Having a VPN installed will cut out that little gap between your cloud storage’s protection and your device.
Can I Use a Free VPN for Cloud Storage?
Although some free VPNs aren’t bad, there are many reasons why we wouldn’t recommend using one for cloud storage. Our worst free VPN providers guide shows just how bad it can be, but the main reason is that their security is often questionable. Some market themselves as having great security when, in fact, it’s either very bad or none at all.
Others have been caught snooping on user data and selling it to other companies, too. Granted there are exceptions — such as Windscribe and TunnelBear, which offer a free plan and are included on our best free VPN service list — but even they don’t have what it takes for a large upload.
It’s also likely that you won’t have certain features, such as split tunneling, or that its speed will be at a snail’s pace.
In short, using a free VPN would mean that you’re likely risking your security and privacy, and most VPNs don’t offer free bandwidth unless you pay.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand why you would need a VPN for cloud storage, as well as all the criteria needed to make it the best VPN for cloud storage.
You should pick a VPN that has good security, including the use of a kill switch, and that has passed DNS leak tests. Fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth are important, too, to make sure you have a smooth experience and don’t hit a data limit during an upload. Split tunneling is also a benefit, as well as a good server network.
ExpressVPN meets all those criteria and more. It has excellent security, a kill switch and is free from DNS leaks. You also get ultra-fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth. Plus, it supports split tunneling. Why not give it a go with the 30-day money-back guarantee?
Let us know about your experience using a VPN for cloud storage in the comment section. While you’re here, check out our other VPN articles, too. As always, thank you for reading.