How To Use Cloud Storage Like a Pro in 2021

Do you want to learn how to use cloud storage like a pro? With these eight tips, you can unlock the near-unlimited potential of cloud storage to improve how you work online and how you interact with your data.

Aleksandar Kochovski
By Aleksandar Kochovski (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2021-01-17T16:57:10+00:00 Facts checked by: Andrea Babic

There was a time when cloud storage was simple. Your cloud account was just a place where you dumped your files and there was no way to interact with them. Nowadays, the best cloud storage providers can do so much it could give you a headache trying to figure it all out. In this guide, we’ll reveal a few tips to help you use cloud storage like a pro. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Cloud storage can do much more than simply storing files online, but first you have to pick a storage plan. Most services offer some amount of free storage, if you’re not yet willing to pay for cloud storage.
  • Sharing files is one of the main benefits of cloud storage, opening up whole new avenues for online work.
  • To further ease online collaboration, cloud storage software can integrate with other office apps to create a virtual office space.
  • The best way to keep your data safe online is to use a zero-knowledge cloud storage service, like Sync.com.

If you’re looking for a service chock-full of features or just a secure place to store your files, this guide has you covered. We’ll also give you pointers on how to find the best storage plan for your needs, whether it’s paid or free. So, keep reading to find out just what you can do with those gigabytes in the cloud and how to best use them.

  • The best cloud storage service overall is Sync.com, which provides an excellent file-sharing experience along with airtight security.

  • If you’re a business in need of cloud storage space, one of our top picks is Egnyte Connect. It’s much more than a simple cloud service, offering integrations with every app your business uses to create a cohesive office experience in the cloud.

  • Not many services offer exactly 1TB of storage space, but Icedrive is one of them (and it’s among the cheapest, too). It’s an all-round superb service, with blazing fast speed and private encryption to keep your files safe. Icedrive’s 1TB plan costs only $4.99 a month.

  • If you want to store and watch videos in the cloud, pCloud is your best choice, as we explain in our best cloud storage for video article. pCloud offers a built-in video player that’s second to none and there’s no file-size cap, so you can store all your 4K videos with no issues.

How To Use Cloud Storage Like a Pro

Below you’ll find eight tips about how you can use cloud storage like a pro, from evaluating your storage space needs to keeping your data safe with strong encryption. We will also recommend some of the top cloud storage providers that will provide you with the tools to become a pro in no time.

1. Get the Most Out of Free Cloud Storage

So, you want to use cloud storage like a pro, but aren’t quite ready to pay the full price of a “pro” experience? Well, there are plenty of free cloud storage providers to choose from. Most cloud services set limits for free users, such as restricting features, but we’ll go through the ones that aren’t too harsh toward their non-paying customers.

First, you should look at free storage capacity. The most you’ll get from a decent cloud service is around 15GB (like what Icedrive and Google Drive offer), though there are ways to get more. For example, many services have referral programs that let you grab a few extra gigabytes.

We recommend pCloud, as it doesn’t restrict any features for free users, plus it offers 10GB of free storage. You’ll have to unlock some of that storage by doing things like installing the desktop client, but it’s a simple enough procedure (and something you would end up doing anyway). Check out our full review of pCloud for a closer look.

pCloud free storage
pCloud offers 10GB of expandable free storage space.

MEGA technically offers the most cloud storage up front, with an entire 50GB of free storage, but you’ll see that diminish to 15GB in a month. It lets you expand your storage temporarily by doing simple actions, plus its referral program is amazing. Each friend you refer gives you a whopping 10GB of storage, though that only lasts for a year. Read our MEGA review to find out more about the service.

2. Look for Paid Plans That Go Beyond Storage Space

Of course, it’s not all about storage space. To get the most out of the storage cloud, you want to make use of every feature it has to offer. If you’re willing to shell out for a premium service, you’ll want to get your money’s worth, so it’s important to look for a service with plenty of features.

If you’re willing to sacrifice some privacy for a good service, look no further than the big three: Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. These services offer the most in terms of extra bells and whistles, plus what they can’t do on their own, they can do with third-party integrations.

Sync.com best cloud for storage
Sync.com is one of the best cloud services, thanks to its security features.

However, if privacy is a concern for you (which it should be), Sync.com offers that and more. It provides secure zero-knowledge encryption, putting it at the top of our most secure cloud storage chart, plus it has some of the best sharing features (though we’ll talk more about those soon). To top it all off, Sync.com’s pricing plans are among the cheapest, too.

3. Share Files Securely via the Cloud

One of the biggest benefits of cloud storage is file sharing. Whether you need to share important work files with a coworker or simply send a photo album to grandma, cloud storage can make the process easy and fast. Although most services today can share files, only a few provide extra sharing features to enhance the experience.

sync.com sharing options
Sync.com offers plenty of options for secure sharing.

As we mentioned previously, Sync.com has some incredible sharing features. Expiry dates and passwords for sharing links are a common way to share securely. However, Sync.com goes a step or two further, providing stats and notifications on downloads, as well as a self-destruct mode that will deactivate the sharing link when it hits a set number of downloads. Read our full Sync.com review for more info on our favorite cloud storage provider.

4. Take Your Office Life Online With Cloud Collaboration

A smooth workflow and a unified data system can make a huge difference for businesses. Cloud storage can work as a hub for all of your company’s data, which will make it easier for employees to find the files they need. Plus, some cloud storage providers will integrate with third-party apps, so they can upload any content they create directly to the cloud.

Egnyte third-party integrations
Businesses can use Egnyte to link all of their productivity apps to the cloud.

Egnyte Connect is a real tour de force when it comes to cloud collaboration, thanks to its wealth of app integrations. It integrates with both Microsoft Office 365 and its Google counterpart — Google Workspace (Google Docs is part of it, in case you’re unfamiliar with the renamed G Suite). Plus, all your favorite online productivity tools are there, including Trello, Asana and Zoom. (You can read more about it in our Egnyte Connect review.)

5. Use Syncing to Access Data Across Multiple Devices

Syncing is an integral part of cloud storage. By syncing your cloud-based files, you can get access on all of your devices simultaneously. Then you can use a cloud app to access them on your phone, laptop, tablet or whatever device you like (even your Mac or Linux computer). However, to use cloud storage like a pro, you need some more advanced syncing methods.

When files are synced to your computer, they inevitably take up some space. However, a feature called “selective sync” lets you sync only the files you want, freeing up disk space.

Dropbox provides a special syncing method it calls “smart sync,” which creates only shortcuts to files on your computer, rather than syncing them fully. This lets you access files that you haven’t marked for syncing.

Icedrive virtual drive
Icedrive’s virtual drive can help free up space on your computer.

Icedrive and pCloud are even better at freeing up space on your hard drive. Both services create a virtual hard drive on your computer that lets you access your cloud-based data, but those files are never actually downloaded to your computer. You can see how the services stack up against each other in our Icedrive vs pCloud comparison.

6. Improve Your Workflow With Cloud Productivity Tools

With remote work becoming so common, online productivity tools have become a huge part of our virtual office lives. There are plenty of business-oriented cloud storage providers that have integrations with these tools.

However, if you’re only looking for a personal cloud solution, your choices are a tad more limited, especially if you’re not keen on name-brand services tracking your activity.

Google Drive is an affordable service that integrates by default with its own Workspace apps, including document editing tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides. Plus, staples like Gmail and Google Photos use Google Drive to store their data. Having all of your work files in one place can really speed up the way you work.

Google Drive cloud service provider
Using Google Drive alongside Google Workspace is one of the best ways to improve productivity.

If you’d prefer to let Microsoft handle (and probably scan) your private data, OneDrive provides integrations with the Microsoft 365 suite of office apps, including Word, Excel, Outlook and Microsoft Teams. Dropbox also provides plenty of third-party app integrations, including both Google’s and Microsoft’s office apps.

7. Keep Your Memories Safe in the Cloud

Although we’re teaching you how to use cloud storage like a pro, we’d be remiss not to mention one of the most practical uses of cloud storage, and that’s storing photos in the cloud.

With almost all cloud storage providers now offering mobile apps, you don’t even have to lift a finger to sync the photos on your phone to your computer — your cloud app will do that automatically.

google photos mobile device
Google Photos lets you search through your images smartly, including on mobile.

Although it’s not a cloud storage app, Google Photos will sync your photos to Google Drive. Its standout feature is its AI-powered image search, which can find items in photos.

For example, searching for “German shepherd” will turn up any photo you’ve ever taken of a German shepherd (the dog breed, that is; German farmers tend to look much like regular people to Google).

8. Keep Your Cloud Data Encrypted

Needless to say, staying safe online is super important if you want to avoid losing your files, or even sensitive data, such as your credit card information. Thankfully, there are services that dedicate a lot of energy to keeping your data private. 

pcloud encryption
pCloud offers zero-knowledge encryption through pCloud Crypto.

These are so-called zero-knowledge cloud services, and if you use them, no one but you will be able to access your data (not even the cloud service itself). Two of our favorite zero-knowledge services are Sync.com and pCloud, though with the latter it comes in the form of the pCloud Crypto add-on.

Final Thoughts: How to Use Cloud Storage Like a Pro

Cloud storage doesn’t have to be a boring archive for your data. With these tips you can unlock the near-unlimited potential of cloud storage to improve how you work online and how you interact with your data.

Did you find this guide useful? Do you now feel like you can use your cloud storage to its fullest potential? Do you want feedback on which cloud storage reviews you should check out? Feel free to share your cloud storage tips in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.