A secure cloud storage provider that offers 10GB free with optional private encryption, we recommend pCloud to anyone that needs security and ease of use.
By Eric Bradley – Last Updated: 24 Nov'17
Welcome to our pCloud review, where we’ll be looking at some of the upsides to choosing this secure cloud storage provider. In business only since 2013, pCloud has benefited from the successes and failures of the competition, an advantage it’s used to attract over two million clients, including big names like BMW, Coca-Cola, Uber and Twitter.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Coming up, we’ll be evaluating pCloud across a variety of categories to help you make an informed buying decision. After, we expect you’ll see why we named pCloud number two on our list of the best zero-knowledge cloud storage services for 2017 and rank it has one of our favorite cloud storage services overall.
If you think you’d prefer a different service, Check out our comparison of best cloud storage services. If you’d like to just go ahead and jump in, visit pCloud and get your first 10GB of storage for free.
- Free 10GB storage
- Affordable plans
- Zero-knowledge encryption
- Perfect file sync
- Easy to use
- 360-day versioning add-on
- Fair terms & conditions
- Good customer service
- Based in Switzerland
- No file-size limits
- File type filtering for selective backup
- Flexible payment options
- Lifetime plans
- File encryption is a paid add-on service
- No FTP access
While we list having to pay for zero-knowledge encryption as a weakness since competitors like Sync.com and SpiderOak provide it for free, that’s just one way of looking at things. For those that aren’t interested in this feature, the added cost savings will be a benefit. Also, even paying for this feature, pCloud still represents excellent value.
We’ve discussed this topic at length in our pCloud vs SpiderOak article.
As a more recent entry in the cloud storage market, pCloud has had the chance to see what’s worked well and what hasn’t for other providers. On top of that, pCloud has added some innovative features not commonly used.
When you first start pCloud, you’ll see a quick tutorial screen load. After that, you’re given a minimal interface similar to Dropbox’s. What isn’t immediately obvious is that through the pCloud system tray icon, you can access a windowed environment with a decent set of features.
Most users will probably prefer the pCloud web interface over the desktop tool. It’s more attractive, easier to use and packs more features.
One such feature is an image viewer, which lets you view your stored photos with no visible loss of quality, and includes a slideshow mode perfect for presentations.
The pCloud web interface also has an audio player that lets you play tracks directly from the browser, making it a great cloud storage service to store your music collection. You can play other kinds of audio, too.
Video playback is another nice option. Of course, the ability to playback smoothly depends on the quality of your connection and how the video was rendered, but the player itself works very nicely.
If you have content stored with other cloud storage and backup providers, you can even back it up to pCloud.
To protect users against unwanted file changes and even file corruptions, pCloud retains previous versions of files for 15 days for free users and 30 days for subscribers. For some, that length of time won’t be enough, and, for that, there’s an option to add extended file history (EFH) to retain previous file versions for an impressive 360 days.
The cost of the EFH add-on is $39.99 per year. To be clear, it extends that protection to deleted files, too, so will likely be worth the cost for many.
pCloud offers a generous 10GB of free storage that anybody can sign up for. On top of that, you can earn a gigabyte of additional storage for each friend you refer, up to an additional 10GB.
For personal users, there are two subscription options available, Premium and Premium Plus.
$ 4 99monthly
$ 47 88yearly
$ 125 009999999 months
$ 9 99monthly
$ 95 88yearly
$ 250 009999999 months
|Storage||10 GB||500 GB||2000 GB|
Annual subscriptions provide a 20 percent discount. If you purchased a Premium Plus subscription on an annual basis and later find it exceeds your needs, you can downgrade to an ordinary Premium account and the difference in cost will carry forward as credit into the next billing cycle.
On top of that, pCloud has recently also started offering lifetime plans, which should keep you going for a while. These plans are a pretty good deal, so if you’re sure pCloud is for you, they’re worth it.
If the 2TB you get with Premium Plus aren’t enough, you can also create a custom plan with as much storage as you need.
Subscribers also have the option to add zero-knowledge encryption for $4.99 per month if you go month-to-month, or $47.88 if you pay for a year in advance (that works out to $3.99 per month).
pCloud isn’t the cheapest online cloud storage provider, but with all the inclusions, the very good cross-platform experience, the well-made web interface, fantastic file sharing system and many additional built-in tools, the prices represent excellent value. Really it just depends on if you expect to make use of all these things.
pCloud has desktop clients for Windows, Mac and Linux. There are also apps for Android and iOS. We’ll start by taking a look at the desktop client, which is similar across all supported platforms.
The pCloud desktop client is similar to the interface of Dropbox (see our Dropbox review for more info), which is fine, but may be confusing for new users expecting a windowed environment. There is an application window available, but it’s not immediately obvious how to access it.
Just like Dropbox, pCloud adds an icon to the system tray so you can interact with your pCloud Drive. This is a virtual drive created in your file system which pCloud uses for file syncing and backup. You’ll be able to see your pCloud virtual drive listed in your ordinary system file manager (Windows Explorer, for example).
This virtual drive shouldn’t be confused with the “drive” and “sync” folders pCloud adds to your home folder. These are empty unless you have the pCloud drive currently mounted as a virtual drive and you have sync enabled.
Sync is definitely not recommended for beginners because it has much more risk than performing manual file transfers. When you sync a file, it will automatically upload or download to any of your connected devices depending on whether the server copy or local copy is the most recent. Many new users confuse sync with backup, leading to disastrous results.
Unlike Dropbox, pCloud does provide access to a windowed desktop tool, however. Compared with the colorful interfaces of systems like SpiderOak and Livedrive, the pCloud interface is a bit drab, but it’s still very logically designed. It’s easy to navigate and the seven main menu buttons across the top are easy to read and understand.
These buttons work in a similar way to a tabbed interface, but without actually using tabs. Each will open a different interface or “page” giving access to the controls that are contained within.
The “account” page is the best place to start, showing a usage meter so you can see how much of your available storage space is already used.
You can use the settings page to set bandwidth limits.
It’s also possible to prevent pCloud from maxing out your device.
If you need help, there are quick links from the “help” page.
One big feature missing from the desktop client is the ability to monitor files as they’re uploading, which can only be done using the online upload manager. This means if you want to skip uploading an individual large file, you can’t do it.
The only way to pause sync while it’s in progress is to do it from the system tray icon. Inexperienced users will have trouble figuring this out, since you’d expect to be able to do that from the “sync” page of the desktop client.
The mobile app client is another area where pCloud shines. Often mobile apps only have file viewing abilities and most are very limited even at that task. The pCloud client is more mature, letting you edit some documents. While that might only be practical for tablet users, it’s still a good feature to have.
The mobile app can also do similar things to the web client, including image viewing, playing videos and playing audio files.
The browser interface is the simplest, and also easiest for new users to get started with. Where this interface may be less useful is when you need to transfer very large files that the browser would struggle with. In that case, the desktop client will be preferable.
Using the browser interface, you have access to all of pCloud’s tools in one place. You can view or edit documents, put together a slideshow of your favorite images, watch movies and listen to music. You can see some examples of these tools in the “features” section earlier in this review.
File sync performed flawlessly in our testing. When you enable file sync on your pCloud Drive, it will change the way the drive behaves. If any change in a file is detected on the client side, pCloud will upload the new version of the file, overwriting the stored version. If the server side version is more recent, pCloud will download it to your local storage, overwriting your copy.
This isn’t always what you want, especially if you delete a file, because the file will vanish instantly from both client and server. For this reason, sync is not normally a good option for new users.
pCloud makes sharing content with others simple. In fact, you can share any folder on your pCloud drive with anyone, even if they aren’t pCloud subscribers, provided they have an email address.
In addition to sharing folders, you can share individual files by creating links pointing to them. Unlike most other cloud storage services, pCloud also lets you create upload links that others can use to share files with you.
You can set expiry dates for shared links and password protect them. These security features can help you limit the degree of damage that could be inflicted through malicious access to your shared file space.
If you are using the zero-knowledge encryption add-on, you’ll only be able to share files that have not been encrypted with it.
Speed is a contentious issue with pCloud. There seems to be a lot of factors that can affect the speed of uploads and downloads.
pCloud’s own test, which you can view on YouTube, declares that files can be uploaded to pCloud 500 percent faster than to Dropbox. If that is true, we were unable to replicate the conditions that would allow it, because while pCloud performed favorably in comparison with Dropbox, it was nowhere near 500 percent faster.
During our upload tests, the connection speed varied by 400 percent from one moment to the next, but we took 5Mb/s to be the average. With those results, the speed table ends up looking like this:
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:
Connecting to pCloud doesn’t seem to provide a very stable connection speed, but it does seem to hit higher peak connection speeds more often than the average service.
The security provided by pCloud seems to be very good. There have not been any known major attacks upon the service to date, and there are no known security leaks.
If you have purchased the Crypto add-on, your files are protected by zero-knowledge encryption, meaning only you can decrypt your content. Without Crypto, pCloud retains control of your encryption key.
All traffic is protected in transit by TLS encryption, which is actually a standard feature you should expect from any service. The level of encryption used is 256-bit AES. You can read more about both TLS and AES in our cloud security primer.
If, however, you hide behind the Crypto private encryption, law enforcement can request all they want, all they get is encrypted files, with not even pCloud itself able to crack your password.
pCloud has very good customer service. A phone number is provided, but it isn’t intended for general support questions. Customers are generally directed to send an email or use the online contact form on the website.
One of the advantages of pCloud still having a relatively small user base is that support responses may be faster than what you’ve experienced from larger services like Dropbox or Livedrive. My own support question, which I made sure to mention was not urgent, was answered within twenty minutes.
Sending support messages by email is recommended, as the online form is not very well designed.
For the needs of most users, pCloud checks all the right boxes. It’s fast, secure and inexpensive. You have the option to upgrade it to zero-knowledge encryption, but if that’s not something you need, you don’t have to pay for it.
On top of all this, pCloud may have the best file-sharing system ever devised for a cloud storage service. Everything is just so easy to use and so flexible. We like choice, and pCloud provides a lot of it.
Of course, we’d love to hear your own thoughts on pCloud in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.
|Free Storage||10 GB|
|Price||Starts from $ Array per month|
|Free External HD Backup|
|Bare Metal Backup|
|Exclude File Extensions for Backup|
|File Size Limit||Unlimited GB|
|Share Photo Albums|
|Server Side Encryption||256-bit|
|Keeps deleted files||Unlimited|