For most people looking for cloud storage, the choices come down to Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. While those services have merits, when it comes to privacy, none of them quite measures up to the subject of this review: pCloud.
We’ve been riding the pCloud bandwagon here at Cloudwards.net for years and even use it internally for managing site videos. Part of the reason for that is that pCloud supports high-definition video storage. The bigger reasons are link features such as passwords and expiry dates as well as the ability to generate special upload links.
On top of that, pCloud Crypto lets you set up private, end-to-end encrypted folders, a security safeguard that none of the three kings of cloud storage provide. Stash a folder in a Crypto folder, and nobody but you will have access to the decryption keys.
When it comes to security, Tresorit may provide better features overall, but pCloud offers an enticing advantage over Tresorit and most other cloud storage services, which is value. An eye-popping offer of 2TB of cloud storage for $8 a month provides a degree of value matched only by Sync.com.
Over the course of this pCloud review, we’ll highlight its strengths in detail, demonstrating why pCloud deserves notice as one of the best cloud storage providers. If you prefer to do your own research, you can grab a generous 10GB of pCloud storage for free.
- Excellent value
- Zero-knowledge encryption
- Fast file sync
- Shared-file security
- Network drive
- Stream media
- Mobile apps
- Pay with bitcoin
- No document editor
- No two-factor authentication
pCloud provides file storage in a remote data center. Known as cloud storage, this lets you clear space on your computer by expanding your hard drive capacity into virtual space. You can store any type of file you want in this virtual space, from Word documents to digital images to spreadsheets. There are no file size limits.
Remote file hosting is just one critical feature of cloud storage. Two other big ones are file synchronization and file sharing.
File sync is a mechanism for automatically distributing files on one device to other devices connected to pCloud. In addition to new files, edits to existing files are transferred, facilitating work productivity.
While pCloud’s sync capabilities are slightly above average, its file sharing features are matched only by Sync.com and Tresorit. Among other uses, file sharing enables collaborations and lets you show off photos and videos to friends and family. Features that make pCloud recommendable for file sharing include link passwords and upload links.
pCloud Operating System Support
In order to sync files, you’ll need to install a pCloud desktop client on your computer. Doing so will install a sync folder and add a pCloud interface that you can use to configure settings such as which folders are synced and network bandwidth.
Clients are available for Windows, macOS and Linux. The inclusion of Linux is rare among cloud storage providers and something you won’t get with Google Drive or OneDrive. If you’re a Penguin fan, check out our cloud storage for Linux guide.
Smartphone access is available with pCloud apps for Android and iOS. Installing a mobile app doesn’t just let you access stored files: there’s a setting to automatically upload videos and photos to the cloud shot from your phone.
Another pCloud perk is that it’s WebDAV compatible. With WebDAV support, you can access your pCloud storage from other third-party tools that feature WebDAV. An example is MultCloud, a cloud-to-cloud sync tool (read our MultCloud review).
However, you don’t necessarily need MultCloud to move files from cloud to cloud if you use pCloud, because it has another trick up its sleeve, which is cloud-to-cloud backup for Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.
Facebook and Instagram connections are offered, too, making pCloud one of the better social-media backup options.
pCloud for Photos, Videos and Music
When it comes to media support, few cloud storage services match pace with pCloud. We rank pCloud as one of the top cloud storage providers for photos and videos. You can view either in list view or thumbnails.
A web-based image viewer will let you scroll through photos and create slideshows.
Uploaded files retain their original resolution, but when downloading images, you can choose to decrease the size.
You can stream videos from the pCloud browser. Assuming your internet connection is decent, playback runs smoothly. Because there are no file-size limits, pCloud works well for storing HD videos.
For Kodi users, there’s an unofficial plugin available that will let you use the Kodi video player to stream movies directly from pCloud. Read our best cloud storage for Kodi guide for more information on that gem.
Many cloud storage services can play audio files, but not many let you create playlists. pCloud is an exception, which is why it’s a great option for music lovers.
Using the pCloud mobile app, you can take your playlists with you, whether out for a run or on a road trip.
pCloud Versioning and Deleted File Recovery
To protect users against unwanted file changes and file corruptions. pCloud retains previous file versions for 15 days for free users and 30 days for subscribers. If you need better versioning capabilities, there’s an option to add extended file history (EFH) to retain previous file versions for an impressive 360 days.
Besides versioning, EVH extends deleted-file retention to nearly a year, making it a feature you’ll probably want, though we wish it was included for free.
pCloud takes a unique approach to versioning with its “pCloud Rewind” feature. This feature lets you restore files in bulk using a calendar, which makes it great for ransomware protection.
We’ll take a deeper look at pCloud security later in this review, covering features such as at-rest encryption and pCloud Crypto. We’ll talk support, too, plus cover many features we’ve mentioned in more detail.
pCloud Features Overview
If you’re in the market for cloud storage that’s more affordable than Dropbox and even Google Drive, pCloud plans rank among the best deals in cloud storage. The highlight is pCloud Premium Plus, a 2TB plan that costs just $8 a month on an annual subscription.
$ 4 99monthly
$ 47 88yearly
$ 175 00Lifetime
$ 9 99monthly
$ 95 88yearly
$ 350 00Lifetime
|Storage||10 GB||500 GB||2000 GB|
You can get the same amount of storage on a month-to-month payment plan for $9.99, the cost of 1TB of storage with Dropbox. There’s also a 500GB pCloud Premium subscription for roughly half the cost as Premium Plus.
Should you fall in love with service, you can demonstrate your affection with a lifetime commitment. Technically, the offer is good for 99 years or until you croak, whichever comes first, but it comes at substantial savings. Premium Plus requires a one-time payment of $350, roughly 3.5 years worth annual payments.
You can make payments using your credit card or PayPal account. Bitcoin is accepted for those who want to make their purchase incognito.
When it comes to free cloud storage, pCloud’s 10GB plan isn’t as much as you’ll get with Google Drive, but it’s still generous. That’s even more true thanks to a pCloud referral program that earns you an addition 1GB of storage per friend referred, with a max of 10 possible referrals.
There are two pCloud add-ons, Crypto and extended file history, that require a separate subscription fee. Crypto costs $47.88 per year and EFH costs $39.
Cloud storage providers that have managed to survive a tough industry landscape dominated by mega-corporations have done so by two means: occupying a niche or providing a seamless user experience.
Both are true of pCloud, with a niche built on bulletproof security, and desktop, browser-based and mobile tools that are beautifully designed.
For some, it will be that desktop client that most sets pCloud apart, partly because most cloud storage services don’t provide one, but also because it’s put together nicely.
Buttons along the top of the client let you cycle between an account overview, file sync, shared links, pCloud Crypto, additional settings and support options. The account overview is useful for quickly checking your remaining storage and taking advantage of the pCloud referral program, among other things.
If you’re on another computer or just prefer a browser-based experience, use the pCloud web UI to access files. A search box helps to locate files, while links down the left can be used to browse files, access pCloud Rewind, trashed files, shares, download links and audio.
The web UI has built-in features for previewing files, creating photo slideshows, streaming video and creating music playlists. Despite all the features baked in, the browser application is streamlined and as minimalistic as possible without completely burying functionality.
pCloud Android and iOS Apps
Mobile apps are available for Android and iOS. The apps are easy to read and use and perform reliably without seriously draining your battery.
The pCloud mobile apps can be used to access files, share files and upload new ones. That includes automatic uploads for photos and video shot using your smartphone.
File sharing and sync are vital to cloud storage and pCloud scores high on both counts. In fact, it’s one of the best cloud storage picks for file sharing thanks to some nifty features that you won’t often find elsewhere.
Folder and files can be shared from the pCloud web browser. You can invite others to access folders, or create folder upload or download links. The latter two options are ideal for gathering and sharing files for work.
Files can be linked to with an option to send that link to contacts by email.
That’s all standard fare. What makes pCloud special is that you can add expiry dates and passwords to link to help limit unauthorized access. Links can be shortened and posted to Facebook, Twitter or Google+, too.
pCloud Sync Folder
Sync with pCloud requires the desktop client. Downloading the client will install a pCloud sync folder in your file system. Files added to this folder remain stored on your hard drive but also get sent to the cloud.
Any type or size folder can be synced using clients for Windows, macOS and Linux, as well as the smartphone apps for Android and iOS. If there are file types you don’t want to be synced, you can create an exclusions list using the pCloud desktop client.
Subfolders can be added to your sync folder, just like an ordinary file system folder. Additionally, you don’t have to stick to the default pCloud sync folder. The service permits synchronization of any folder in your computer file system to a folder in the cloud.
With few exceptions, such flexibility with regard to sync is unusual in the cloud storage market. Most providers stick to one central sync folder.
As convenient as sync makes file access, there’s one big issue with it, which is that it requires files to be stored in the cloud and on your computer. Keeping files on your computers means you can’t take advantage of the cloud to clear up hard-drive space.
To fix this issue, most cloud storage let you unsync folder and subfolders. This feature is known as “selective sync.” Uncheck folders, and they’ll only be stored in the cloud. pCloud doesn’t make the process so simple.
You can sync and unsync any folder on your drive, but unsyncing folders doesn’t remove files from your hard drive, it just severs the movement of files going forward. While we’d like to see pCloud add a simple selective sync feature, the service does provide a solution to the issue of freeing up hard drive space — it’s just not the solution other most of its competitors use.
This solution is pCloud Drive, a network-drive feature. By adding pCloud Drive, a new directory will be added to your file system. This directory works similarly to other lettered drives, except that files stored on it are only kept in the cloud and not on your hard drive.
You can read more about pCloud Drive in our cloud network drive article, which also overviews options for setting up a similar mechanism with other cloud providers.
The basic sync folder model is simple and nearly all cloud storage providers now use it. Not all of those providers implement it as well as others, though, with delayed uploads and even mixed-up file names being among the more frustrating problems encountered.
We’ve been using pCloud long enough to know that it doesn’t often hiccup. The infrastructure behind pCloud isn’t on the level of what you’ll get with Google Drive or OneDrive, which have global networks, but it works as well as you could hope for a provider with one data center.
Despite the company being headquartered in Switzerland, that data center is U.S.-based, located in Dallas, Texas. As such, pCloud will likely work better for North American customers than those in other parts of the world.
We tested pCloud’s sync speed from outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Two tests each were performed for file uploads and downloads using a 1GB test folder made up of different file types.
These tests were performed over WiFi with 30Mbps upload and 160Mbps download speeds.
Here are the results:
|Speed Tests:||Test One:||Test Two:||Average:|
Those are fine results. At 30Mbps, the absolute fastest a gigabyte worth of files could upload is just under five minutes. An average of over seven minutes isn’t bad when you consider impacting variables such as encryption and network congestion.
At 160 Mbps, the fastest we could expect a download to complete is just under a minute. Our results were barely above the threshold.
In addition to nice speed results for a niche service, pCloud sync didn’t impact our system resources to the point where we couldn’t perform other tasks. If that is an issue, pCloud has network settings that you can use to manually adjust your upload and download speeds.
Despite its many benefits and low-cost subscriptions, the bread-and-butter of pCloud is security. This it primarily achieves with pCloud Crypto, its zero-knowledge add-on.
Any files added to your Crypto folder are encrypted client-side and not decrypted until you download them again. That means end-to-end encryption, a departure from how providers such as Dropbox work, which decrypts files that arrive at its data center in order to pull metadata for indexing, among other things.
Additionally, Crypto has its own special password that only you know. This password is used to generate your encryption key. Because pCloud doesn’t record your Crypto password, the company couldn’t decrypt your files even under order from a warrant.
Regardless of whether you use Crypto or not, files stored with pCloud are encrypted at rest using AES 256-bit. The advanced encryption standard protocol is recommended by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and commonly used by cloud services. By most estimates, it would take billions of years to crack.
Files are protected in transit using transport-layer security. You can learn more about AES and TLS in our cloud security primer.
When you upload data to pCloud, that data is replicated and stored across at least three different servers. That way, if one server fails, you don’t lose your files.
Multiple versions of files are also kept: 30 days normally and one year for extended file history subscribers. This helps secure your files against ransomware and other malware attacks that work by encrypting or corrupting files. Remove the offending program and rollback your files to clean copies, and the problem is solved without having to pay to make it go away.
Despite all the good things pCloud does when it comes it comes to security, there’s one major miss, which is the absence of a two-factor authentication option.
2FA should be a mandatory feature for cloud services, as it helps to protect users from password theft, the easiest and most common way to hack a cloud account. If you need 2FA and want the benefits of zero-knowledge encryption, we suggest Sync.com or Tresorit instead of pCloud.
Both are featured along with pCloud in our best zero-knowledge cloud services guide.
Support channels are limited for pCloud, which isn’t a surprise for a company of its size. On the other hand, a relatively small customer base means faster support responses.
Technical support is available by email. You can send a direct email or fill out a form.
We shot off some test emails and received responses with 24 business hours. Unfortunately, weekend and late-night support aren’t provided. Support is only available in English, despite being a European company.
In addition to 24/7 support, a live chat option would be a welcome addition. There is a searchable support site with FAQs and articles. A broader selection of articles would be welcome, but of more help would be more detailed articles with screenshots and other aids to help new users get a handle on the service.
We can’t call pCloud a perfect cloud storage service. While limited support avenues are an annoyance, the biggest issue is the lack of two-factor authentication. An Office Online integration or a native note-taking app would be nice additions, too.
Despite the misses, we have no problem affirming that pCloud is one of the best Dropbox alternatives on the market today. For starters, it provides twice the amount of storage as Dropbox for less money. Additionally, pCloud file sharing comes with extras such as link passwords and expiry dates that Dropbox charges $20 a month for by forcing a Professional subscription on you.
Other pCloud features we love include music playlists, HD-video playback, file versioning and a network drive option. The coup de grace, however, over mainstream cloud services is Crypto, pCloud’s handy zero-knowledge vault that will keep your files away from the eyes of marketers, government officials and others.
In a nutshell, we’re fans. We wouldn’t suggest simply taking our word for it, however. Test pCloud out for yourself with a free 10GB account. Let us know how that goes in the comments below, and thanks for reading.