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Proton Drive Review

From privacy-focused Proton comes Proton Drive. We spent some time with the new cloud storage service and found that it lives up to its security and privacy expectations. However, as you will see in our Proton Drive review, it’s a bare-bones cloud storage service.

Jason Stagnitto
By Jason Stagnitto (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2022-11-13T22:25:07+00:00 Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska

Proton is a privacy-first company with several applications, including the best free VPN and an email client. Proton Drive is Proton’s latest service and seeks to compete in the cloud storage service industry. In development for several years, with a beta period for paid members since June 2021, Proton Drive officially launched in September 2022. We will go into more detail on privacy and security in our Proton Drive review.

Key Takeaways:

  • Proton Drive is a secure and private cloud storage provider with end-to-end encryption for data in transit and zero-knowledge encryption for data at rest.
  • File sharing is secure and encrypted, with additional security options such as setting a password, but the function is limited to link sharing.
  • Productivity and collaboration are not something that Proton Drive does well or at all.

Founded by a group of scientists at CERN, Proton puts privacy and security at the heart of all its products. Proton Drive is no different, as the Swiss-based service prominently advertises its security and encryption features. 

Proton Drive offers the basics you would expect from a cloud storage service. As we’ll see in our Proton Drive review, it works just fine if you are looking for basic and secure cloud storage. However, if you need more sharing and productivity from your cloud storage, you’re better off choosing from our list of the best cloud storage providers

  • Proton Drive is one of the most secure and private cloud storage providers available on the market.

  • Yes, Proton Drive — and all of Proton — is built on privacy and security first, meaning you can feel confident storing your data.

Proton Drive Review: Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros:

  • Strong security & privacy
  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Secure file sharing
  • Free version includes Proton apps
  • No file-sharing size limits

Cons:

  • Not great for productivity
  • No desktop or mobile apps
  • Expensive if only using Drive

Features

25 % – Terrible

One of the standout features of Proton Drive is its encryption protocols for your data, which we will cover in more detail below. Beyond the strong security and excellent privacy, Proton Drive doesn’t offer anything new or innovative as a cloud storage option. With Proton, the appeal comes from the family of applications — drive, mail, calendar and VPN — that come with a single account.

Limited Features

With Proton Drive, you can upload and download files of all types. There’s a dedicated “share” tab on the sidebar to manage all your shared links.

Aside from creating shared links, there’s not much in the way of productivity or file versioning. You can’t edit files in your Proton Drive; it’s strictly meant as cloud storage. If you make any changes to your files, you will need to upload them again to your Proton Drive.

proton drive account
Your main account page for Proton Drive looks and functions as you’d expect from cloud storage.

Notably absent are any accompanying apps, although there is a Chrome browser extension that acts something like a desktop app. Proton has a mobile app for its VPN and mail services, so perhaps dedicated apps for Proton Drive will also come. 

Proton Drive Features Overview

Sync
Sync Folder
Block-Level Sync
Selective Sync
Bandwidth management
Sync Any Folder
File Sharing
File Link Sharing
Link Passwords
Link Expiry Dates
Folder Sharing
Folder Permissions
Link Download Limits
Upload Links
Productivity
File Previews
Edit Files
In-App Collaboration
Office Online
Google Docs
Notes App
Media Playback
Mobile Apps
Deleted File Retention
Versioning
WebDAV
Security
At-Rest Encryption
In-Transit Encryption
Encryption ProtocolOpenPGP
Zero Knowledge
Two-Factor Authentication
Server LocationEU
Support
24/7 Support
Live Chat Support
Telephone Support
Email Support
User Forum
Knowledgebase
Misc
Free Plan

Pricing

60 % – Fair

Proton Drive storage offers a free account with 1GB of storage and the option to upgrade to paid plans. One way that Proton separates itself from its competition is the connection each account has with all of its services. However, it’s important to highlight that your account shares storage among Proton’s calendar, mail and drive services.  

On Proton Drive’s pricing page, you’ll find the Plus plan, which focuses on the individual applications. There’s also an Unlimited plan, which gives you more of everything — although “unlimited” doesn’t mean unlimited storage.

Is Proton Mail Worth Paying For?

Mail Plus is one of Proton’s paid plans, and as you’d expect, it’s focused on the Proton Mail service. It’s our top choice for a secure email service. Since Proton bundles all of its services together in some capacity, choosing Mail Plus comes with 15GB of shared storage and plenty of email options. Proton Mail is an excellent choice if you want a secure email option.

proton drive prices
Proton’s paid plans include a combination of all its services, not just Proton Drive.

For cloud storage, however, Proton Drive comes in on the expensive side. Paid storage allotments are either 200GB for $4.99 per month or 500GB for $11.99 per month. A one-year plan costs $47.88 for 200GB and $119.88 for 500GB. Choosing either of the two-year plans run $83.76 and $191.76, respectively. 

Proton for business changes the storage capacity to a per-user basis and includes access to all the Proton apps. The first plan is Mail Essentials, which includes 15GB at $7.99 per user per month. The Business plan increases storage to 500GB for $12.99 per user per month. Like the individual plans, the business plans have subscription options of one or two years.

These plans are expensive compared with our highest rated cloud storage services, such as MEGA or pCloud. However, that is where perceived value comes in. If you want cloud storage and won’t interact with the rest of Proton’s services, your money is likely better spent elsewhere. However, if you are interested in cloud storage and everything else Proton includes, the paid plans may work for you.

Ease of Use

50 % – Poor

Proton Drive looks and feels like many other cloud storage services. A sidebar on the left lets you navigate between your files, any links you’ve shared and a trash bin. Any files you upload appear in the page’s main section with a small customization option to display them as lists or icons.

You’ll always see how much storage you’ve used with a small marker in the lower left. The main difference between Proton and other providers is the built-in option to switch from drive to its other services using the application icon. 

Proton Drive Settings

A small “settings” icon next to your login name brings you to a robust dashboard to manage many aspects of your account. Other options include enabling beta access for Proton apps and changing the color theme of your drive page. 

proton drive dashboard
The dashboard gives you access to your account settings.

There are a couple of important settings on the dashboard. The first is called “recovery,” which attaches an email or phone (or both) to your account. Data recovery gives you the option of a passphrase or a recovery file. Make sure to use these security choices to protect your account and data.

Another option is “import,” through a tool called Easy Switch. Easy Switch transfers emails, calendars or contacts to your Proton account from popular services such as Google and Outlook. The dashboard also includes security and privacy settings, which we will cover in more detail below. 

No Supporting Apps

One noticeably absent accessibility option, which comes with almost every competitor, are the corresponding mobile apps. As mentioned above, Proton Drive has a Chrome desktop extension that’s almost hidden within the URL bar.

proton drive browser app
There is something of a desktop extension through Chrome in the URL field, but it’s not a true desktop app.

Even with the extension, there are no dedicated desktop or mobile apps. However, there are mobile apps for Proton VPN and ProtonMail, so perhaps Drive will get one at some point. 

File Sharing & Synchronization

50 % – Poor

Secure file sharing is one of the main features advertised with Proton Drive. Creating a link lets you share a file or folder. Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of file sharing with Proton Drive. It’s a minimalistic file-sharing experience. 

Collaboration on a given document isn’t possible. Any file you send will have to be emailed back to you. If the file is too large for email, you’ll have to engage with file sharing to get the file back, which may not be with Proton Drive, depending on the recipient. Because of this limitation, Proton Drive isn’t your best bet for collaboration.

proton drove file sharing
You can manage all your shared files from the “shared files” tab in your account.

The built-in security with file sharing is an excellent feature and isn’t stripped out of a free account. If you send a shared link you created, it’s encrypted automatically. Proton Drive takes this a step further by encrypting the metadata of your files or folders.

If the standard encryption features aren’t enough, you have the option to create a password, for another layer of protection. Through the “manage link” button in the toolbar, you can disable links to files or folders you shared. You can also set an expiration date, or click a button to stop sharing immediately. 

proton drive file share options
While all links are encrypted, there are additional file-sharing settings.

Proton Drive File Syncing

File synchronization happens automatically across your account, no matter what device you use to access it when you upload or download. However, that is the bare minimum of expectations, as anything less wouldn’t be worth the time. 

Despite the basic sharing experience, you can share any size file you want. The only file size limits are the storage capacity of your account. This excellent feature isn’t all that common among other cloud services.

Speed

65 % – Decent

For many, privacy and security-focused cloud storage providers, speed is often the trade-off for peace of mind. With Proton Drive, we ran our speed test from servers based in Ireland, with a 1 Gbps connection speed capped at 100 Mbps for the test to ensure stability. 

Our files had a combined size of 5GB with a mix of documents, music, photos and videos. We ran the upload and download tests twice and used the average to make our determination. 

1st Attempt2nd AttemptAverage
Upload0:36:500:40:120:38:31
Download0:08:450:08:150:08:30

Our files uploaded quickly in the beginning, but seemed to cap out at 50% of the available speed. We also noticed that Proton Drive worked better with many smaller files than single large ones. Downloads were consistent, peaking at 90% speed, with some dips down to 60%.

Proton Drive won’t win any speed races with some of the fastest cloud storage services we’ve tested. However, it won’t slow you down when it comes to productivity.

Security

95 % – Excellent

Security is a primary focus of Proton Drive. It is one of the few cloud storage providers to offer an in-depth look at its security model in a mostly plain-language article. A key takeaway from the article is Proton’s approach to its data center infrastructure.

While there is validity to decentralized storage for data protection, Proton elects to use a centralized approach in the sense that it does not use a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. A centralized infrastructure maintains data on a set number of servers operated and controlled by Proton, whereas a P2P network uses all connected devices to store and share data.

Data stored on Proton Drive lives in multiple geographic locations, creating redundancies in the event of a single catastrophic event. Proton provides added protection of your data by not using cloud hosting services; they operate and maintain servers in a data center in Frankfurt.

All data uploaded to Proton Drive is encrypted before it leaves your device. Once on its servers, your data remains encrypted, and only you hold the key. Part of Proton Drive’s data model uses high-performance elliptic cryptography (ECC Curve25519) and OpenPGP to keep your account secure. These two terms dip into the technical terminology behind Proton Drive’s data security.

When you create your account, Proton Drive automatically creates ECC Curve25519 keys to secure your data. These are the keys that encrypt and decrypt your data when you upload, download or access it.

Most cloud storage uses AES encryption to secure data, which is typically faster than PGP. AES encryption only uses symmetrical keys, meaning the same key encrypts and decrypts your data. OpenPGP allows Proton Drive to use both symmetric and asymmetric keys in its security model, which creates an added layer of security.

Strong Security Options

Within each account are additional ways to increase account security. You can enable the two-password mode from the dashboard for your ProtonMail account. This feature creates a separate password for your mail login.

proton drive security settings
Each account can enable additional security features, such as two-factor authentication.

There are a couple of other security features to mention. An important option is two-factor authentication, with the choice of a time-based authenticator app or a security key. The time-based authenticator works with any smartphone and creates a time-sensitive password. Electing to use a security key gives you the option of a universal 2nd factor (U2F) or FIDO2.

Another part of the security and privacy section shows you session logs and security logs, which you can download. You can also enable authentication or advanced logs. Advanced logs record the IP address for each event on your account. Authentication logs show you account access attempts.

However, if you disable authentication logs, this will clear your history and you’ll lose the ability to track your history.

Privacy

95 % – Excellent

Proton Drive’s privacy works hand in hand with its security. Proton considers itself a privacy company, first and foremost. It is based out of Switzerland, which has some of the best privacy laws in the world and is GDPR compliant. Proton does not collect or use your data for exploitation or advertising. In most cases, Proton doesn’t collect your data at all.

proton drive privacy
Proton Drive has a page dedicated to its privacy efforts.

Proton is an open-source company. All its code is freely available for review, creating what Proton considers trust through transparency. With zero-knowledge encryption, it’s impossible for Proton — or anyone — to access your files. Only your private encryption key grants access to your stored data. 

Another benefit to zero-knowledge encryption means that even a government subpoena won’t expose your data, and in the event of a data breach or hack, your files will remain useless to the attacker.

Industry-Leading Privacy

Proton’s privacy policy explains its limitations on any data it collects. In short, Proton tries to collect as little as possible when you interact with its service. Specifically for drive, Proton collects some unencrypted metadata relating to file and folder creation or initial data when sharing. However, there’s nothing in Proton’s privacy policy that causes concern, meaning your data is secure and private.

proton drive privacy settings
There are a couple of privacy settings for your account, with the “collect usage diagnostics” option automatically enabled.

There isn’t much you can change with your privacy settings, but you really don’t need to. On the dashboard, under “security and privacy,” there’s a small section related to privacy and data collection.

By default, the “collect usage diagnostics” and “send crash reports” options are enabled when you create your account, but these collect only anonymized data and can be turned off.

Customer Support

70 % – Decent

The main form of customer support — or at least the option Proton prefers you engage with first — is its support page. From here, you can narrow down the available information based on the respective Proton service or the type of account. 

There’s a search feature to look up information with keywords, with some quick links to common issues. Although in practice, the sheer amount of information covers every Proton service, making it somewhat difficult to narrow down an answer. A little farther down the page, Proton provides guides to its products, including quick-start links and account settings. 

proton drive faq
Proton has a robust and searchable FAQ page for its services.

Should you need more direct support for Proton, there’s a dedicated contact page with a standard form. Of note is the partnership with Zendesk, which Proton includes at the bottom in a small blurb with a link to a deeper explanation. Proton explicitly highlights Zendesk’s commitment to confidentiality. However, if a form isn’t to your liking, Proton does provide a direct, non-Zendesk, email.

Standard turnaround times for any outreach to Proton happen within about a business day. During this article, our questions were answered within a reasonable time. 

Finally, while common on many sites, Proton does not have a live chat feature on its site. Given its number of products and the vastness of its searchable FAQ, a live chat might be a solid consideration to further Proton’s support and outreach.

The Verdict

Proton Drive recently left its beta period to become one of the newest cloud storage providers on the market. Signing up for Proton Drive grants you access to its VPN, mail, and calendar apps, even for a free account, as Drive is not a stand-alone product. When taken as a whole, Proton Drive is a nice addition to the Proton family, even though storage is shared between all of Proton’s apps.

When viewed only as a cloud storage provider — assuming you use Proton Drive and nothing else — the size of a free account (up to 1GB) combined with basic sharing and no collaboration make Proton Drive feel light on features. What you trade in productivity, however, you more than make up for in security and privacy. 

Proton Drive will serve you well if you need a secure cloud storage service and don’t care much about productivity. It doesn’t hurt that a secure email, one VPN connection and a secure calendar come with a free account. 

Are you a Proton user? What has been your experience using any of Proton’s products? Will you switch over to Proton Drive? Did we miss anything in our Proton Drive review? Let us know in the comments section, and as always, thanks for reading this article.

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