What is online cloud storage?
Online storage systems, or “cloud” services as they’re also known, allow you to store digital media online by uploading via your computer or mobile device. Though transferred and accessible via the web, the data is actually physically held on mammoth servers, often owned by whoever provides the particular service you use (Google, Microsoft etc).
How does it work?
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the relevant software, any files (such as photos, for example) that you move into the preselected ‘backup’ folder will automatically be uploaded and stored in the cloud – you can usually change the settings so that your data syncs to other devices too.
It’s also possible to access your data via your browser by logging into your online storage account at the company’s website. Additionally, most offer free mobile apps for uploading and downloading files.
Many services let you share your photos and documents with friends and family via special links too.
Are they safe to use?
The biggest issue with using cloud storage is data security, as you are relying on the service to keep your files and documents secure. If your account is hacked, your files are immediately available – so always weigh up the risks before uploading more sensitive files.
Cloud storage companies typically use encryption to keep your information safe and two-step verification to ensure the right person has access to the account.
Encryption scrambles your data so that anyone unauthorised is unable to get to it. The strength of the encryption is at three levels, starting at 128-bit, rising to 192-bit and with 256-bit as the most secure. Two-step verification involves sending you a message and asking you to respond when you login or amend your account to check you have the authority to do so.
With an insanely generous free tier and a simple drag-and-drop interface, New Zealand-based Mega is one of the cloud storage heavyweights. There’s a handy mobile app to allow you to upload files and photos, as well as sync clients with desktop machines.
Mega claims that all data stored in its cloud is encrypted on your device before it reaches the firm’s servers. As the company has released the source code to its sync client, experts can check that there are no vulnerabilities.
10 GB of free online storage is offered by pCloud, with friend referrals and other bonus steps jumping it to a possible 20 GB.
A desktop client can be installed for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. There’s also a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that’s very intuitive and easy to use.
pCloud supports adding files from a remote URL in addition to single file and whole folder uploads through a browser. The mobile apps can upload photos and videos directly to your pCloud account.
Both files and folders can both be shared with non-users. Shared folders can even be downloaded as a ZIP archive.
Also, pCloud allows upload links to be generated for folders so anyone can send files to your account. A unique email address is also generated which lets you (or anyone) email files directly to a folder on your pCloud account.
In addition to the above, you can backup the photos from your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and Picasa.
Instantly get 10 GB of free online file hosting with MediaFire. Increase it to 50 GB or more with things like friend referrals and application downloads.
There are sharing options for files and folders and easy uploads of either single files or whole entire folders through the MediaFire website.
iOS and Android users can download an app to view and share files on the go or upload photos and videos.
Amazon.com has an online storage service called Amazon Drive, which offers Amazon Prime members unlimited photo storage plus 5 GB of space for videos and files.
Users can share files to create a public link accessible by anyone who uses it, even if they don’t have an Amazon account. Folder sharing isn’t supported.
Files can be uploaded using the desktop client software or the web version, though only the former allows folder uploads. A mobile app is also available for uploading videos and photos from Android and iOS devices.
360 Security Cloud is a Chinese service that offers a huge 360 GB of storage when you first sign up. If you download the desktop client, you instantly get upgraded to over 10 TB of storage!
Files and folders can be added to your account through either the website or the desktop program that’s available for Windows and Mac.
You can share both files and folders with anyone through a public link, which doesn’t require them to have a 360 Security Cloud account.
Android and iOS mobile apps can be installed to access 360 Security Cloud, share files and folders, and upload photos and videos.
There’s a “daily draw” link available from the website that, when clicked, gives you extra storage space. The amount changes every day and you can only enter once per day.
Note: The 360 Security Cloud mobile app, website, and desktop program is only available in Chinese. Though it can be nearly impossible to understand what you’re doing through the applications (given you don’t read Chinese), uploading and sharing your files is a bit easier if you use an English translation of the 360 Security Cloud website.
myDrive is another online storage service but it offers much less space than the majority of the others in this list. There is no limit to how large uploads can be, but you can only store up to 100 MB on myDrive, which makes the maximum file size 100 MB as well.
Mobile and desktop apps are available and you can connect to your account through WebDAV.
myDrive is very limited compared to similar websites, such as the fact that file sharing is allowed only if you give out a “guest” username and password, and you only get one.
Though I do like that you can download multiple files in an archive and restore deleted files up to a month after removing them from your account.
Dropbox users start off with 2 GB of free space with several simple ways of earning more, up to around 18 GB.
You can view and upload all your Dropbox files from a desktop or mobile app and share whole folders with anyone, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.
If you have Microsoft Office files stored in your Dropbox account, you can edit them from inside your browser for free using Microsoft Office Online.
10 GB of free online storage space is offered by Box (formerly Box.net).
There’s a mobile application for nearly all devices – iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone – that lets you upload/download/share your content. The desktop sync client for Windows and macOS make is super simple to upload files to Box.
Box users can share whole folders of data or pick single files to share with a public link.
New FlipDrive users get 10 GB of initial storage with an opportunity for more for each friend they can refer to start using FlipDrive.
There aren’t any mobile or desktop programs that can be installed for uploading files to FlipDrive, so the web version must suffice. Though you can upload whole folders using the website, which is nice.
You can share files with anyone, even if they don’t have a FlipDrive account. However, accessing shared folders requires a registered FlipDrive account. Recipients can be given write, edit, delete, and share permissions in addition to read rights for folders.
You can create up to 10 shared links and upload files that are as large as 25 MB.
The FlipDrive website isn’t the easiest to use when compared to most other cloud storage services, which is a bummer, but it still manages to function if you can work through it.
Over 200 file types can be uploaded to Jumpshare, with a total of 2 GB of free storage for every user. If you refer friends to join Jumpshare, you can get up to 18 GB for free!
A downloadable program is available for Windows and Mac users that allows really simple drag and drop and hotkey file sharing capabilities. There’s also an iOS app here.
Get 25 GB of file storage at no cost with hubiC.
Windows, Mac, and Linux users can install desktop software to upload files or use the web version. A mobile application can be used with Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices.
Files and folders can be shared with anyone, even if they aren’t hubiC users. However, they must be set to work for just 5, 10, or 30 days before the link expires.
If sharing a folder, visitors can download multiple files at once through a ZIP download.
5 GB can of free cloud storage can be had when you sign up for Sync.
Like some of the other services listed on this page, Sync can upload multiple files at once through both the website interface as well as the mobile and desktop apps.
You can build shared folders that other users can interact with as well as share any folder or file with anyone, regardless if they’re a Sync user.
Vault is a folder in Sync that you can put files into so that they aren’t synced across your other devices. This is useful if you just want to archive some files online but don’t need them elsewhere.
See Sync’s features page for a list of its features and some comparisons between the free and pro versions.
Google Drive is the cloud storage service offered by Google. Each new user gets 15 GB of free space.
The total storage is actually shared with other Google services, like Gmail and Google+ Photos. If you don’t use the other services, you can utilize almost all the space for Google Drive alone.
A sync client can be installed for Windows and Mac users, which supports folder and file uploads, as well as a mobile app for Android and iOS users that can send photos and videos to Google Drive.
Folders and files can be shared with specific Google users via their email address or anyone with a public link. You can also make a file view-only, which prevents someone from downloading it.
Google Drive makes it really simple to collaborate with others by allowing comments and letting files be opened and accessed my more than one person at a time.
Formerly called SkyDrive, OneDrive is an online storage service from Microsoft. Everyone gets 5 GB of free space when they sign up.
Extra hosting can be awarded if you follow certain instructions, like friend referrals and mobile photo syncing.
A Windows and Mac desktop program can be installed to easily transfer folders and files of any type to OneDrive, making them accessible from an iOS or Android mobile device. The mobile app can also upload files – both images and videos.
OneDrive supports sharing both folders and files with non-registered users. A permission can be set to only allow viewing or to allow full editing.
Get 5 GB of free online storage space with HiDrive. If you refer friends to join, you can increase your storage up to 10 GB.
If you’re a Windows or Mac user, you can connect to your account over WebDAV, which makes it really simple to drag and drop new files to your account.
Apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone users, which support mobile photo and video uploads.
When sharing files, you’re required to set the URL to expire after a certain number of days and also set a maximum number of allowed downloads before the link becomes invalid.
You can also share folders, and recipients, even non-users, can download all the files at once in an archive.
There are plenty of useful features with Yandex.Disk, such as public and private folder and file sharing, the ability to import photos via social networks, bulk downloads, automatic mobile uploads, and support for drag and drop.
Windows, Mac, and Linux users can install a desktop program to upload files to Yandex.Disk, and a mobile app is available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
If you want to back up your iPhone to iCloud, you’ll need more than the free 5GB allowance Apple gives you, but compared to rivals iCloud prices are very reasonable.
The Mac Finder app integrates iCloud Drive, where you can store any files you wish. Documents created in the iWork office suite are also saved to iCloud and can sync across your devices. Windows users can also sync their files with iCloud Drive using the official client, and access the iWork apps on the iCloud website.
Carbonite is an excellent choice for hybrid backup thanks to its EVault system that protects your data though an onsite backup and cloud backup. It’s among the most efficient hybrid systems, since it backups your servers directly to a specialized appliance which then backups up that data to the cloud. The platform keeps your data available from either location and includes access to your data through a web interface where you just need to choose the files, folders or entire systems you need to restore and that location. The whole system is end-to-end encrypted for the best protection.
Egnyte is professional cloud storage, file sharing and collaboration platform with plenty of business-centric features. It features different pricing plans for businesses of any size, all of which come with the essential tools and features that impressed us the most. The service is also flexible and can work with you to address your organization’s specific needs such as increased file size or storage options.
Within the platform, you and coworkers can collaborate and share different versions of different file types. Custom branding and URLs allows you to create a unique interface to impress clients, as well as keep your data secure with multi-factor authentication on top of 256-bit encryption. For even more protection, you can set up a hybrid system to keep and sync multiple copies of files that you can restore in case of a data loss event.
Zoolz offers an affordable long-term or cold storage solution that also works to protect the rest of your data. It uses a “Tribrid” backup setup, storing your data in your on-location server, their Intelligent Cloud and Cold Storage, allowing you to restore your data from three different sources. The Intelligent Cloud allows users to comprehensively organize and search their data, using tools such as facial detection for photos and optical character recognition for scanned documents. Zoolz is also useful for storing large amounts of media, as you can stream your organizations video and audio files from the cloud.