Along with cloud storage reviews, here at Cloudwards.net we also specialize in picking apart VPN services, as evidenced by our large and growing library of VPN reviews. During this article, we decided to combine our expertise in both to find the best VPN for cloud storage.
Cloud storage works by storing files online. VPNs protect your online activity from prying eyes. While many cloud storage services, especially those in our best zero-knowledge cloud storage guide, do a great job protecting in-transit files, adding another layer of protection with a VPN service makes sense.
That’s especially true if you use cloud storage over a public WiFi network and want to take appropriate steps to protect your privacy, as detailed in our online privacy guide. After all, it’s not just the files you store in the cloud that are at risk, but your identity, too.
Ultimately, we landed on ExpressVPN as our top pick for cloud storage, for reasons you can read about below. Additionally, we’ve included four other services that pair well with cloud storage use. Each provides strong security and good speeds, and are frequent mentions in our best VPN guide.
Before we get into our picks though, we talk some more about our reasons for putting together this list in the first place.
Best VPN for Cloud Storage: Practice Safe Syncs in 2018
What Makes a VPN Best for Cloud Storage
Understanding what makes a particular VPN the best for your cloud storage needs starts with understanding why you need a VPN in the first place. We have an entire article dedicated VPN fundamentals you can read to find out more, but basically a VPN is a means of keeping others from spying on or blocking your internet activity.
Such protection is especially important while on public WiFi networks. Given that cloud storage services are great for remote work, it’s a fair bet that users of cloud storage often access their files while on such networks. For example, this article is being written using Google Docs over a hotel WiFi network on a beach in Southeast Asia, because that’s how we roll at Cloudwards.net
Most cloud storage services protect files in transit between your computer and the cloud using what’s called transport layer security (TLS). TLS provides a secure tunnel designed to keep the transmission private. Moreover, files are generally encrypted before being sent to the cloud, scrambled so they can’t be read without an encryption key.
Usually, this means would-be virtual thieves intercepting your data over a public network using won’t be able to use what they grab. That, however, doesn’t mean you’re secure unless you have a VPN running.
All that said, when putting together the list we’re about to get to, there are some very specific things we looked for when compiling it. These included security measures like encryption, killswitches and DNS leak protection. We also considered speed, to keep you working away without any frustrations.
Other considerations include some less common features like split tunneling and automated WiFi network connections. Of course, we also looked at platform support and cost.
Best VPN for Cloud Storage: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN was an easy pick as our top choice for cloud storage use. In addition to strong security features to keep your identity safe, it has the most impressive server network of any VPN we’ve tested. Earlier we mentioned that this review was being written over public WiFi using Google Drive. Well, we’re also working safe courtesy of an ExpressVPN tunnel.
Like many VPNs, ExpressVPN defaults to OpenVPN to shield your internet activity. Considered the most secure VPN protocol, OpenVPN also works at a higher speed than some of the other options, making it better for file transfers between your computer and cloud storage account.
While ExpressVPN using OpenVPN runs smoothly, even the best VPNs occasionally falter, which can leave your online activities momentarily exposed. ExpressVPN has taken what has become the preferred approach to this problem by developing a network killswitch that severs the connection should this happen.
While doing so means that your file syncs will be disrupted, its ultimately for the best.
Another major plus is ExpressVPN’s massive network. At last count, ExpressVPN could claim over 1500 servers in over 145 cities, spread over 94 countries. The size and spread of the network means less server congestion for faster data transfers.
The net result is that ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested here at Cloudwards.net, which you can read about in our fastest VPN article. That speed, as mentioned, is good news for cloud storage file synchronization.
Despite that, you may be tempted to turn off your VPN to speed up things up when uploading big files. With most VPNs, doing so would leave you exposed if you decided to check your email or bank account while waiting for the upload to complete. ExpressVPN solves this issue with a nifty split tunneling feature that lets you exclude certain applications from using VPN, while keeping others covered.
If you want to shut VPN off for Dropbox or whatever Dropbox alternative you might be using, all you need to do is add the application file to an exclusion list.
There are other VPNs out there with split tunneling, like PureVPN, but we couldn’t find any with few enough flaws to recommend for use. Read our PureVPN review to see just how bad it gets.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is also the best VPN for Netflix. And the best VPN for porn. In case you need another reason beyond those two to consider ExpressVPN, it supports up to three simultaneous devices and every major platform to keep all of your devices syncing safely.
That includes Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Linux support is available, too, but there’s no client.
While a single month plan isn’t the cheapest option out there, you can reduce the cost considerably with a 12-month subscription. If you’re not as satisfied with ExpressVPN as we are for your cloud storage needs, you have 30 days to cancel and get a full refund.
Don’t forget to read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Excellent speed
- Great security
- Split tunneling
- Only three device connections
- Expensive month-to-month plan
NordVPN provides exceptional value thanks to reasonable pricing and up to six simultaneous connections, making it perfect for those with multiple devices connected to their cloud storage account.
If you’re okay paying for several months in advance, you can reduce the monthly cost of NordVPN considerably. On a one-year contract, the current cost works out to a little under $6 per month. A two-year contract drops the cost to just over $3 a month, and with a three-year contract, you’ll pay under $3.
Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices are all supported with clients, while Linux is not.
Currently, the service claims nearly 3,000 servers globally, twice the amount of ExpressVPN, although it hosts servers in far fewer countries, with 59 to 94. In terms of speed, the NordVPN infrastructure more than suffices for supporting near real-time sync.
NordVPN doesn’t yet have split-tunneling capabilities, so you can’t turn off sync for specific cloud storage applications like you can with ExpressVPN. However, it does have a nice security feature set to keep your data safe.
Key security options include double-data encryption, DNS leak protection and a killswitch. The service defaults to OpenVPN for Windows machines, granting them the best combination of speed and privacy. For MacOS and iOS, however, it uses IKEv2/IPsec by default, reportedly a better choice for Apple devices.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
Based out of Panama, which has virtually no restrictions when it comes to VPN use, NordVPN is ideal for torrent use. That makes it a nice pairing for users looking to build their media library.
If you haven’t yet settled on a cloud storage solution to host your video collection, be sure and check out our rankings for the best cloud storage for media. Head over to our NordVPN review for the full story.
- Six device connections
- Great speeds
- Excellent security
- No split tunneling
- No native Linux support
For those using one of the services mentioned in our best cloud storage for Linux guide, Private Internet Access might be the best VPN for you owing to the fact that its one of the few with a fully functional Linux client. That’s why PIA ranked first in our hunt for the best VPN for Linux.
That’s also a big reason why PIA gets a lot of mention on tech message boards and blogs, including having taken first place in a Lifehacker user survey of favorite VPNs.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that PIA is also one of the lowest-priced services among the cream of the VPN crop. A month-to-month subscription runs just $6.95, nearly half that of ExpressVPN. An annual subscription reduces the cost to $3.33 per month.
It’s low cost makes it a good service for users on a budget, pairing nicely with a low-cost service cloud storage service like Sync.com, with which you can get 2TB of cloud storage for $8 per month (read our Sync.com review).
PIA doesn’t have the global spread of ExpressVPN or NordVPN, with “just” 34 country tunnels available, but it still performs well in speed tests. That’s because it provides a great many servers per location, claiming over 3,000, which greatly reduces the number of users on any given server.
While we’d like to see split tunneling added, PIA is otherwise quite advanced despite its low cost, with features that include a killswitch, DNS leak protection and even a built-in ad/malware blocker (PIA Mace) to help prevent phishing scams.
Other Reasons We Like Private Internet Access
More than any other VPN service, PIA keeps to itself. Instead of a fancy desktop client, everything is run through the PIA taskbar icon.
Users who prefer to keep their focus on their cloud collaborations may prefer that minimalistic approach over busier, in-your-face clients, like what we’re about to see with our next selection, IPVanish.
A Chrome extension is also available, so you can login directly through the browser without having to leave your cloud storage GUI. You can read more about PIA’s simple approach to user experience in our full PIA review.
- Good speeds
- Ad blocker
- No split tunneling
- Not many countries
IPVanish is an ideal solution for forgetful cloud storage users thanks to a feature that lets you set automated VPN tunneling when you log into specific WiFi networks. Many VPNs have automated tunneling, but not many can be set to connect only over public WiFi.
Additionally, IPVanish has a LAN-blocking feature that prevents other local devices from communicating with your device, providing additional protection against those trying to access your hard drive and steal your cloud storage credentials. A special (NAT) firewall has also been implemented to turn away attacks from hackers and botnets.
Another cool security feature offered by IPVanish is automated IP switching, which changes up your IP address every 45, 60 or 90 minutes. While this might briefly interfere with your cloud storage syncing, it’s a worthwhile feature to cover your tracks.
IPVanish defaults to OpenVPN, but you can switch to L2TP/IPsec or even PPTP if you want. The service also comes equipped with DNS leak protection and that all-important killswitch feature.
With its unique approach to online security, its fair question to ask why we ranked IPVanish below ExpressVPN, NordVPN and PIA. The answer mostly comes down to speed, with VPN connections reducing sync capabilities by quite a bit.
The speed issue may be a result of the fact that IPVanish doesn’t run as many servers as our top VPNs. Regardless of the reason, its occasional sluggishness makes the exclusion of a split tunneling feature much more impactful than it is with NordVPN or PIA.
On top of that, while the month-to-month cost of IPVanish isn’t bad, the discounts you get on an annual subscription aren’t as good as other services, meaning IPVanish will cost a bit more.
Other Reasons We Like IPVanish
While a kind of pricey, IPVanish does let you run up to five device connections simultaneously, which makes it good for syncing multiple personal devices. The major OSes are all supported, with the usual exclusion of Linux.
The IPVanish client also provides some handy usage data, although some may find the large interface just gets in the way. Read our full IPVanish review to learn more.
- LAN blocking
- Automated WiFi connections
- Five device connections
- Somewhat slow
- Costs a bit much
- No Linux client
TorGuard ranks last on our list of best VPNs for cloud storage, but for many users it’ll be number one, albeit for reasons other than use with Dropbox and its ilk. Like IPVanish, it incorporates a number of innovative privacy features, while performing better than IPVanish in speed tests.
Behind TorGuard’s impressive speed results are 3000-plus servers distributed across 50 countries, just slightly fewer locations than NordVPN. TorGuard doesn’t restrict speed or bandwidth, making it ideal for collaborations on shared documents and other files.
Platform support is another advantage of using TorGuard; along with PIA, it’s the only VPN on this list with a Linux client, making it a perfect fit for use with a cloud storage service that also supports Linux, like pCloud (read our pCloud review).
That’s in addition to Windows, Mac, Android and iOS device clients. For the record, TorGuard users can simultaneously connect up to five devices at once.
You’ll find the usual complement of features favored for cloud storage use, including DNS leak protection, a killswitch and the ability to switch between OpenVPN over TCP and OpenVPN over UDP.
TorGuard runs OpenVPN using AES-256 encryption by default, like most VPNs. However, you can change that to AES-128 if you want. While less secure than AES-256, nobody is believed to have ever brute-force cracked either. The advantage to cloud storage use is that AES-128 runs faster than AES-256 thanks to being a less complex cryptographic algorithm.
You can also run TorGuard with no encryption if you just want to obscure your IP address while increasing your sync speeds. That’s not nearly as appealing a compromise as split-tunneling, however, which TorGuard does not support.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
As mentioned, TorGuard matches IPVanish in terms of innovative features. While many of these features are better for torrenting than cloud storage use, which is why we ranked it behind our fourth-place finisher, they’re all great reasons to go with TorGuard.
- Private DNS server
- IP leak protection
- Kill switch
- Can’t get into Netflix
- Performance speeds vary
- IPv6 leak prevention bug
The importance of running a VPN while accessing your cloud storage varies largely depending on what cloud storage service you use. Some, like Amazon Drive (read our Amazon Drive review), do little to decrypt user data. Others, like Tresorit (read our Tresorit review), are locked down pretty tight.
Regardless, however, it’s always a smart move to counter cybercrime by shielding your identity, particularly over public WiFi networks. That’s particularly true since while cloud storage services like Egnyte (read our Egnyte review) are great for remote work collaborations, the fact that you can kick back and work in a cafe means you may be otherwise exposing yourself to online crime.
Where do you stand on the topic of VPNs for cloud storage? Give us your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.