pCloud sits near the top of our best cloud storage rankings, taking a small back seat to our top-rated provider, Sync.com (read our Sync.com review). As a personal service, pCloud excels in usability and security, offering an easy-to-use application and a lot of storage for a low monthly cost. You can read our pCloud review for more on that.
However, pCloud also made the list in our best business cloud storage guide, and in this pCloud Business review, we’re going to explain why. Overall, business pCloud is as good as personal pCloud, offering many features and a lot of storage for a low monthly cost.
That said, some concerns in privacy keep pCloud from getting our full recommendation for businesses, especially those dealing with sensitive information.
If you want to learn more about pCloud and its CEO, Tunio Zafer, check out the pCloud edition to our “talk with the boss” series.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Robust web application
- Granular user control
- Top-notch encryption
- Multiple collaboration options
- Dense sharing settings
- pCloud Crypto
- Block-level sync
- Some privacy concerns
- Limited pricing options for businesses
- Slow uploads
pCloud offers a wide range of small features that enhance the overall user experience. It has a little bit of everything, from unseen benefits, such as block-level sync, to a dedicated media player in the web application. When it comes to businesses, though, there are two features that matter most: pCloud Drive and Crypto.
pCloud Drive is where all of your files will live. Instead of creating a new folder on your work computer, pCloud creates a virtual hard drive with the same amount of storage as your account. Drive is, in many ways, the core functionality of pCloud. Drag your files or copy them over to the virtual hard drive, then wait for them to sync across your business devices.
Drive offers more storage space on your computer, though, and you can use it as such. For example, if you upload files on your laptop, you can see those files on your desktop as if they were stored locally. The difference is that pCloud doesn’t leech hard drive space like, say, Dropbox does (read our Dropbox for Business review).
This gets a little tricky with local files on the same machine. When you add a folder to Drive, there’s a copy stored there, so you’ll still have access to the local folder. If you edit a file in the local folder — not the copy in Drive — those changes will update across your devices. If you delete the local folder, though, there’s still a copy stored in Drive.
That’s not true the other way around. If you edit or delete a file within Drive, that change will be reflected with the local folder. It’s best to handle all of your operations through Drive unless you need offline access (more on that later).
Standard pCloud uses server-side encryption. The encryption methods are still top-notch, but your data isn’t actually secured until it reaches one of pCloud’s servers (minus the encryption provided by TLS/SSL). Client-side encryption is available — at an additional cost to personal users but as a standard feature with a business subscription– in the form of pCloud Crypto.
Crypto offers client-side encryption, scrambling your data either locally or in your browser before it heads to pCloud. It requires a separate password, and you can choose which users have access, making Crypto essential if you’re working on any sensitive business files.
pCloud for Business Features Overview
|Sync Any Folder|
|Max File Size||Unlimited GB|
|File Link Sharing|
|Link Expiry Dates|
|Link Download Limits|
|Set User Roles|
|Monitor User Activity|
|Restrict User Storage|
|Remote Device Wipe|
|Deleted File Retention|
|Custom Password Requirements|
|Live Chat Support|
pCloud keeps things refreshingly simple when it comes to business subscriptions. There’s only a single business plan for between three and 99 users. Each user gets 1TB of storage, and you pay for each user on your business account. Having such a simple option is good if your needs fit within pCloud’s business restrictions; that’s not the case for users who don’t.
Price-wise, pCloud Business is decent. The price is $9.99 per user per month, with a 20-percent discount available if you purchase a year upfront. All new subscriptions come with a 30-day free trial, too. You’ll need to enter your payment information and subscribe, but you won’t be charged until after the first 30 days.
Compared to Tresorit, pCloud is a deal, offering the same amount of storage for almost half the monthly price. pCloud isn’t the cheapest business cloud storage available, though. A business account at Sync.com is half the price for the same amount of storage (read our Sync.com for Teams review).
Although there are better deals, price isn’t pCloud’s problem; storage space is. Of course, it depends on your business needs for cloud storage, but there are other services that simply offer more storage space for less money. For example, MEGA offers a scalable platform for a couple dollars more per user per month (read our MEGA.nz review).
Furthermore, pCloud doesn’t allow you to subscribe to the business plan directly through its site. Instead, you need to enter your business information and send a message to the sales team. Although common practice for enterprise subscriptions focused on accounts with 100 or more users, pCloud stops at 99. Most similar subscriptions let you check out right on the site, no contact required.
One of pCloud’s biggest features is its Lifetime plan. In short, personal users can pay for a few years in advance and get 99 years of access (or the lifespan of the user, whichever comes first). Unfortunately, this offer isn’t available to family or business users. For any multi-user account, you have to subscribe the old-fashioned way, month by month, or year by year.
Ease of Use
pCloud Business is exceptionally easy to use. The web application is familiar but robust, offering more bells and whistles than other providers while maintaining a similar layout. Similarly, the local application is easy to get around and dense with settings. Even better, you don’t need to use the tray to change those settings.
Starting with the web application, the layout mirrors Dropbox and Google Drive. The left-side menu is organized into high-level categories, such as your files and shared folders, with each section having a few more options within. pCloud even includes an audio tab, where you can organize audio files by artist and album, and even make your own playlists.
You can also manage users through the web application, but we’ll get to that in the next section. On the desktop, there are a few more options. You can manage everything through Windows File Explorer, either by dragging and dropping files into pCloud Drive or by right-clicking on a folder you want to sync.
The system is tried and true, and pCloud’s implementation seamlessly works (we didn’t even need to restart our machine before we started syncing).
In addition to the File Explorer navigation, there’s an extensive preferences window. Here, you can do everything from set special commands while uploading or downloading files to managing disk usage for pCloud Drive.
There are some issues, though, particularly when it comes to naming. pCloud has a strange duality to it, with pCloud Crypto and Drive adding an extra layer of functionality to the otherwise standard processes of the service. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, we appreciate the additional functionality afforded by those two features. It’s the lack of clarity that’s the problem.
Crypto is the client-side version of pCloud, whereas the standard service uses server-side encryption. Likewise, pCloud Drive is both a place to offload files for long-term storage and where you sync all of your normal files.
These are just options, and options aren’t a bad thing. The problem is that pCloud doesn’t make all of these options apparent. Even as experienced reviewers, it took us around 30 minutes of scraping through the site and a customer service email to understand how the full system works.
It’s essential that customers understand how these features work, especially when file security is on the line for a business. Every cloud storage service handles things a little differently, and pCloud’s system is one of the better options once you understand it.
For Crypto, though, a misunderstanding could lead to a file being less secure simply because the end user doesn’t understand why something should go in one folder versus another.
File Sharing & Syncing
When it comes to file syncing, you have two options with pCloud. You can choose either to sync your files normally — where the file or folder takes up space on your hard drive — or you can store that file in pCloud Drive, which frees up space on your hard drive. Everything goes through Drive regardless.
In short, Drive is where you can access all of your files. Changes to local files are reflected in Drive, while files that you don’t have locally only take up space in Drive. It’s a little confusing at first, but the system becomes second nature after a few minutes.
Even better, it opens up offline access. You can edit files without internet access, and once your connection comes back, the changes will update automatically.
Business File Sharing
Sharing has more going on. User management is split into “users” and “teams.” When you add a new user to your account, you can customize what permission they have and assign them to a team.
There’s a lot going with permissions, too. Instead of segmenting users into broad categories — such as a “user” or “administrator” — pCloud provides a checkbox list of functionality for each user.
That means you can, for example, give a user the ability to manage billing without giving them access to what’s stored in Crypto. This level of granular control is excellent, and even better with per-user activity logs.
Sharing within your network is easy with teams. You can share large batches of folders to specific people within your network with the feature, while using pCloud Transfer — a free file sharing service for up to 5GB — to send files outside your network. That feature is what earned pCloud a spot in our best cloud storage for families guide.
pCloud earned a spot in our best cloud storage for sharing guide for a few other reasons. File requests allow those outside your network to upload files directly to your account, while your public folder allows you to host content directly.
Users within your network can request files if they don’t have access to them, too. Even better, you can handle these requests through the desktop and web applications.
There are two aspects of pCloud: The standard pCloud Sync folder and the pCloud Crypto option. For our speed tests, we ran separate trials using the standard folder and the encrypted one with a 1GB test folder. On a hard-wired connection, we measured our internet speed at 450 Mbps download and 21 Mbps upload before running the trials.
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
Given that information, we’d expect an upload speed of around six minutes and 49 seconds. pCloud gets close with an average upload speed just over eight minutes. Download speeds are equally as impressive. Ignoring all other network factors, we’d expect a download time of around 20 seconds.
pCloud immediately zipped our test folder — in less than a second — and the rest of the test time was spent in Chrome, downloading the archive as normal. There’s nothing special to report here. The average download speed of 50 seconds means that pCloud is operating at full tilt.
Things get more interesting with the encrypted folder. Our average upload time reached just over 16 minutes, showcasing how much overhead encryption adds. We weren’t able to measure download times with the encrypted folder, though. pCloud only allows downloads on a per-file basis through the web app, and files can’t be larger than 200MB.
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
Although we can explain the extra time, we’ve seen faster services with a similar level of encryption. MEGA and Tresorit — two services that we’d consider “slow” by comparison to most other cloud storage services — cut the time of pCloud in half with the same level of encryption. Also, they accommodate larger download sizes than pCloud.
pCloud’s split of the standard service and Crypto is confusing for a number of reasons, but the difference in speed is the most confusing of them all. pCloud’s more secure folder takes much longer than competing services, while the standard sync folder fits within range of what we’d expect for client-side encryption.
That could mean one of two things: either pCloud needs to optimize its system a bit more or every other service with client-side encryption is simply lying. We’d bet on the first one.
pCloud has a typical setup for a zero-knowledge cloud storage service, but that doesn’t make its security any less impressive. Client-side encryption is what makes the difference here, encrypting your files locally before ever sending them to pCloud. End-to-end encryption is another way to put it, though as pCloud points out, that implies that the recipient can decrypt your data.
Semantics aside, the important thing to know is that pCloud can’t ever decrypt or see your data. Although pCloud doesn’t have a whitepaper available for us to mull over, we still have a basic understanding of how the system works.
Your files are encrypted on your computer with a password that pCloud doesn’t know, using AES-256 (read our description of encryption for more). Then your data travels over an SSL/TLS channel, adding another layer of encryption in transit, before resting on one of pCloud’s servers.
As far as actually decrypting your files, pCloud uses a Merkle tree for authentication. Instead of using a single hash for an entire file, pCloud uses a tree of data blocks, all of which are connected and validated individually. This decentralized authentication scheme is similar to what bitcoin uses.
Put to the Test
pCloud is so confident in this model that it invited anyone with an internet connection and some spare time to try to crack the system. With $100,000 on the line, individuals, security companies and technology universities all threw their best effort in. Even with more than 2,800 participants and around 14,000 attempts, no one was able to crack pCloud’s encryption.
Simply put, pCloud’s security is world-class. The kicker for pCloud, though, is that you don’t need to use all of this security. You can choose what you want to encrypt, which is a convenience most competing services don’t offer.
That also presents some problems. As mentioned, only pCloud Crypto offers local encryption, whereas the standard service uses server-side encryption. That’s not a problem for business users, as Crypto is included free of charge. Still, make sure you upload the files you want to the correct folder.
Additionally, pCloud “may use tracking technologies to provide these online services and/or work with other third-parties such as advertising or analytics companies to provide these online services.”
On the bright side, pCloud doesn’t share your personal information with third parties for their marketing purposes. Regardless, there’s a lot of your information flowing through pCloud’s data centers.
For businesses, pCloud Crypto helps a lot, but there’s some collection you can’t avoid. Our main issue is how pCloud handles lists of contacts and friends. Frankly, it doesn’t matter why pCloud is collecting the information of people not using the service. The fact that there’s any amount of scraping from your friends or business contacts list is worrying.
Outside of a few niggles in usability and some privacy concerns, it’s hard not recommending pCloud. We say that with some reservation, especially when it comes to handling personal information. However, the upsides in features and usability offset the many downsides of more locked-down services, such as Tresorit or MEGA.nz.
What do you think of pCloud for Business? What features stand out most? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.