Before comparing the best cloud storage services, you should know that all of them can be divided into two categories: free and paid. However, almost every service offers a limited free version. To get the additional features and more space, you have to buy a monthly or annual subscription. It is also worth mentioning that there is no real consensus on what’s the best cloud storage on Reddit or Quora, but the ones recommended below are mostly talked about in a positive manner.
1. pCloud (Great free & cheap cloud storage alternative)
- Basic storage capacity — 10 GB with the ability to expand it to 20 GB.
- Pricing: Premium for €3.99 per month for 500 GB, Premium Plus for €7.99 per month for 2 TB. pCloud is the only cloud storage which allows a lifetime subscription: Premium for €480, Premium Plus for €980. At the moment, the company offers a great discount: you can buy a lifetime subscription for €175 and €350 respectively.
- If the average photo file size is 5 megabytes, you will be able to store about 100,000 pictures in Premium plan and about 400,000 pictures in the Premium Plus plan.
pCloud is a young and very promising cloud provider with its headquarters in Switzerland, which in a short time managed to gain good reviews from both specialists and regular users. The developers initially stated that their service was designed equally for business and private individual use. pCloud online storage is ideal for you to backup, store and share photos, multimedia files, as well as working documents in the most convenient form.
Your files will always be easy to access, wherever you are. To do this, all you need is to have a computer or any mobile device that has access to the Internet. With pCloud, files can be synchronized as well as played in the cloud without downloading to a computer. All files uploaded to the cloud are easy to search through the search form, and also sort by type (images, audio, video, documents, archives).
When a file is deleted from the cloud, it is not deleted immediately, but for some time remains in the bin with the possibility of recovery (as on a regular computer). For free tariffs, this period is 30 days, for paid — 180 days from the date of removal. In this case, you can independently clean the unnecessary files at any time.
The size of the file uploaded to the cloud can only be limited by the size of the file storage itself. You can store in pCloud even movies in 4K without the need to split them into parts.
Don’t forget to read our full pCloud review!
- You can get a 10GB cloud for free.
- Maximum file size is unlimited.
- The maximum speed of downloading files from the cloud is 80 Mbps.
- The storage period for files in the cloud is unlimited.
- You can work with the cloud from a computer or using mobile devices.
- Allows you to play media files in the cloud.
- Supports file encryption, has a high level of security.
- The mobile applications sometimes have automatic upload issues.
- If several family members use the device of the same model, the service cannot create separate folders for each of them.
2. Dropbox (Smallest free cloud storage alternative)
- Basic storage capacity — 2 GB.
- For $9.99 you can get 1 TB of the space for a month in the Plus tariff plan, and for $12.99 you can get 2 TB in the Professional tariff plan.
- With the average photo size of 5 MB you will be able to store about 400 pictures in the free plan, more than 200,000 in Plus plan, and more than 400,000 in the Professional plan.
This is the oldest version — created in 2007 — and still one of the most popular cloud storage services. The number of its users exceeded 300 million, and Dropbox itself is considered the main competitor of Google Drive. The service is convenient because it offers tools for sharing – for example, for colleagues in the office or family members. By default, the user gets 2 GB of disk space in the cloud for free. But this volume can easily be increased to 16 GB in different ways: connect social networks or invite friends via referral links, where for each new customer you invite to the service they give you 512 MB in the cloud.
Files that are uploaded to Dropbox via a web browser should weigh no more than 50 GB, through the API — up to 350 GB. On smartphones and tablets, automatic opening to preview files is available only for these formats: created in Adobe applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, and PDF), Microsoft Office (Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets), RAW images, text, sound and video files in most popular formats.
Dropbox clients are designed for all popular platforms: Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS and Android.
Smart synchronization. Using selective synchronization, you could make use of previous available disk space with maximum benefit.
Clients get to select several folders to track changes — for example, those that store important data. Today, service offers a more advanced feature: smart synchronization. With it, files become available only in online mode, and the user sees and works with them, but they do not take up space on the hard disk. You can still move, rename and perform other actions on files in the usual way. The only limitation of this function is that it only works only in Windows and macOS.
Automatic upload of contents in the Documents folder, which is located on your computer, to the cloud. You can also organize offline access to individual files from a mobile application, which by default does not store any data on the device. And in Dropbox, it is easy to restore the previous version of the document, upload files remotely via the IFTTT service and track the history of all actions (for example, to whom specific files were sent) in the administration console.
Don’t forget to read our full Dropbox review!
- Data encryption.
- Two-factor authorization.
- Shared work on documents.
- File versions control.
- High cost.
- Low memory in the free plan.
3. Google Drive (Largest free cloud storage)
- Basic storage capacity — 15 GB.
- 100 GB will cost $1.99 per month, 1 TB — $9.99 per month, 2 TB — $19.99. There are options of up to 30 TB, but they are significantly more expensive.
- With each photo file size at 5 MB, You will be able to store about 20,000 images in 100 GB plan, 200,000 in 1 TB plan, and 400,000 in 2 TB plan.
One of the many Google products with sharing. File hosting contains data from other services, which is very convenient: you can work with different content and store it in one place. File sorting is implemented at the menu level, which is displayed on the left. They are grouped in the following categories: “My Drive”, “Computers”, “Available to me”, “Recent”, “Google Photos”, “Marked”, “Recycle Bin” and “Backup”.
The names of some categories speak for themselves, but others require clarification. For example, “Marked” are important documents to access them faster, “Available to me” are those shared by other users (but the file itself is not stored on your device or in the cloud). When registering, the user receives 15 GB of disk space for free, but do not be in a hurry to rejoice: two other services, Google Photos, and Gmail will also store data on it.
That is, those photos that you will drop into the Photos folder, and those letters that will be sent to the mail, will also “eat up” part of the free disk space. The service supports the following common file types: archives, audio, images, markup documents and code, text, video, as well as files created in Adobe and Microsoft applications.
One of the most popular features that Google offers is a built-in service for working with documents, spreadsheets and presentations. This is a full-fledged mobile office, which is always at hand. Formula support, multi-user collaboration on documents, backup is only a small part of the functionality, and a detailed overview of all the possibilities goes far beyond the scope of this article. Also note that you can easily insert the images you store in your Google Drive into the document.
Storage can be shared between four users. Offline work is available when final synchronization is completed after the device is connected to the Internet. The service supports the hotkeys, it can automatically convert downloaded files to Google format, as well as synchronize with third-party applications for creating backup copies. For example, you can configure saving backups from Viber, WhatsApp and other mobile and desktop applications or services.
Don’t forget to read our full Google Drive review!
- Built-in document editor.
- Wide functionality.
- Advanced collaboration tools.
- Automatic images upload to Google Photo.
- The division of free space between multiple services.
- No automatic upload of photos from your smartphone.
- Synchronization issues.
4. iCloud (Free cloud storage from Apple)
- Basic storage capacity — 5 GB.
- Pricing: 50GB: $0.99, 200GB: $2.99, 2TB: $9.99.
- With the average photo file size of 5 megabytes, you will be able to store about 1,000 photos in a free plan, 10,000 photos in 50 GB plan, 40,000 pictures in 200 GB plan, and about 400,000 photos in 2 TB plan.
If you use Apple devices, iCloud is your choice. Otherwise, it makes no sense to look at it. This cloud storage is tightly integrated with macOS and iOS, and all data from these systems can be synchronized with it: documents, calendars, contacts,and photos. iCloud works in conjunction with the native photo application for macOS and iOS.
Windows users who have just started migrating to iPhone and Mac can download the free application that will help upload photos and videos to your iCloud library. You can organize everything in the Photos program on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, or in the iCloud web version. The Photo app provides excellent opportunities for creating a library. It allows you to create albums, edit geotags and read Metadata.
An especially cool feature of the Photos app is “smart albums”, something like smart folders, where photos are automatically placed in accordance with the conditions you set. Photos is really a very handy tool, and the only sigh-worthy issue is the fact that it is not available for Windows.
For $9.99 a month, Apple sells a 2 TB plan that will be available to all family members. And each of the family members can get 2TB, which will be summarized and become available to everyone. At the same time, private files will not become public or accessible within the family without special settings.
- Convenient for all Apple users.
- Perfect integration.
- Advanced features for working with photos.
- Affordable price.
- Inconvenient without iPhone or iMac/MacBook.
5. Microsoft OneDrive (Great cloud storage for Windows PC)
- Basic storage capacity — 5 GB.
- Pricing: $6.99 Personal — 1 TB for one user, $9.99 Home — 1 TB for each of 6 users.
- With the average photo file size of 5 megabytes, you will be able to store about 1,000 photos in a free plan and about 200,000 photos in 1 TB plan.
Microsoft cloud storage possess very similar features with its main competitor, Google Drive. Anyone familiar with the Microsoft Office suite will feel at home with the office applications integrated into OneDrive. OneDrive uses the same look and feels like Windows 10, so it’s easy to use it.
However, it is not intended solely for photographers, so do not expect the same viewing experience you get from Flickr. The price is close to Google, with 5 GB for free and 1TB paid option. The latter is better priced at $6.99 per month (or is paid annually at $69.99) and includes Office 365. Add another $ 3 per month, and you will get six licenses to use. In fact, OneDrive does the same thing as Dropbox, but it’s incomparable when it comes to better photos.
While uploading, the service automatically tags the photo: OneDrive determines the type of image (portrait, landscape, and so on) and objects captured on it (people, animals, objects or nature).In addition, OneDrive recognizes geotags, so you can see where the photo was taken in the Places tab. The service also allows you to create albums, folders,and tags to sort photos. Moreover, if you are a Windows 10 user, Microsoft has already installed OneDrive for you.
Connect your camera or Smartphone to your computer and the application will prompt you to save photos to the OneDrive library. This is a great service for the Microsoft ecosystem fans, and if you use Office 365 subscription, then OneDrive is definitely your choice.
Don’t forget to read our full OneDrive review!
- Attractive interface and fast uploading and downloading speed.
- Great photo features.
- Convenient apps for every platform.
- Flexible configuration of the folders to upload to the cloud storage.
- The interface can sometimes be a tad bit complicated for the beginners.
6. Flickr (
Great free cloud storage for photos)
Flicker is now limited to only 1000 photos for free users.
- Basic storage capacity:
- The cost of additional space: not for sale, but for $5.99 per month, you can get rid of advertising and use the PC uploader.
- Features: created for hosting photos, more like a social network, Magic View sorting mode, PC application does not load videos, it also removes duplicates.
- In free mode you can store only 1000 pictures. In a Pro plan, you are able to store about200,000 photos if the average file size is 5 megabytes.
The long-established service has been designed specifically for photographers. First of all, its selling point and what attracts one is the fact that it offers 1000 GB of free disk space. There are apps for iOS and Android, at first glance they are very similar to Instagram, but in the settings, there is a gallery synchronization option. Well, PC loader can only be used if you have paid for a premium account. Otherwise, upload the images manually through the site.
There is no full synchronization (like in traditional cloud storages), the application supports uploading to the server from the selected folders. And can scan for duplicates to save space. At the same time, the video is not supported. You will have to upload your clips manually through the site. There are third-party downloader for Flickr, but we will not recommend any specific ones.
The web version of Flickr is very convenient. You can view photos by date, folders, create collections, share to friends to view. An interesting option is Magic View: the system recognizes what is shown in the photo and groups the pictures. It is easy to find all the frames with birds, cats, people, architecture, signs, etc. However, the system often makes the mistake of showing cats in every category.
- Attractive and convenient web version.
- Applications for all popular operating systems and platforms.
- Extremely limited free plan — you can store only 1,000 pictures.
- You have to pay to use the PC uploader.
7. Google Photos (Great free cloud storage for videos)
- Basic storage capacity: unlimited, but there are unimportant limitations for most common users.
- Features: uncritical limit on photo size and video resolution in the free version; excellent search.
Google is generous and offers unlimited photo and video space for each user. There are excellent applications for full synchronization for all platforms. But there are some limitations: unlimited storage is available only for photos with a resolution not higher than 16 megapixels and video, must not be more than 1080p. Larger files will be automatically reduced, RAW will be converted to JPG. We are pretty sure that for a photo archive of an ordinary person 16 MP and 1080p is more than enough. If not, change the settings and then the files that exceed the limits will take up disk space.
The basic disk space provided by Google is 15 GB. If you configured the app not to exceed the allowed file limits, it is more than enough. However, if you lack the free space you can opt for the paid subscription. 100 GB will cost $1.99 per month, 1 TB — $9.99 per month, 2 TB — $19.99. There are options of up to 30 TB, but they are significantly more expensive.
The web version of Google Photos provides an excellent search. It is logical as Google is the number one search engine in the world. Just write any word and there is probably something in the big archive! By default, pictures are grouped by date (there is a time scale on the right) and by albums (shooting locations, places, people and objects, videos). You can create shared albums with friends. There is support for collages, animations, films.
- Unlimited photo storage with basic limitations.
- Automatic categorization: the pictures are automatically grouped by albums and date.
- Excellent search.
- All devices and operating systems support.
- Not a very convenient uploader in the web version.
- Sometimes there are serious problems with synchronization between devices.
Why is it better to save the photos in the cloud storage?
First, it’s safer to store photos on a dedicated server. The remote services are much more protected and they have a reserved copy. So, the possibility of losing all these files is much less.
Second, you will be able to access your photos as long as there is an internet connection. You will not have to take your hard drive with you.
Third, it is more convenient to insert images into your blog or to the website – for this, it is enough to copy the URL of your image from the hosting and paste it where you want it using HTML tags. The same is applicable for sending the images to the customers if you are a professional – Just share the link to the photo album and you don’t necessarily need disks or USB drives.
Criteria to choose the right cloud storage for your needs
The amount of free disk space. Most services offer the user a certain amount of disk space for free, charging a monthly or annual charge for additional space. Prices vary significantly from service to service, so when choosing a storage, make sure you make a good deal.
Supported file formats. If you just want to create a backup image in JPEG or share it, then almost any cloud storage will allow it. However, if you plan to store TIFF or RAW files, you will need to approach the selection more carefully.
Data exchange speed. This is a vital criterion for those who upload and download the large files — 1GB and more. You do not have to wait for hours until it is available. At the same time, if your Internet connection is slow, like a snail, there is no point in spending money on a premium online storage subscription. Perhaps the more correct option, in this case, would be to acquire a fast external drive.
Organization and the ability to view downloaded images. Not all online repositories can provide users with the ability to successfully display photos in galleries that are attractive and convenient for the viewer.
One of the advantages of cloud storage is its accessibility from any place where there is an internet connection. Make sure that your chosen service has applications that support viewing and downloading images directly from mobile devices. We must agree that almost every cloud storage provides convenient mobile apps for Android and iOS, and in some cases even for Windows Mobile.
Protection and security. The larger and longer it works on the cloud service market, the more secure the files will be. Ideally, the cloud storage you select must provide two-factor authentication. It will help you a lot to prevent any unauthorized access to your files.
File size limit. Video in 4K, taken on the camera of a smartphone, often exceeds the maximum file size for uploading — take this moment into account. However, most modern cloud storages allow you to upload files of several GB and more.
Work only through the web version is inconvenient, especially with gadgets. Well, if there is a separate mobile application, as well as software for popular operating systems for PCs and laptops it could work.
The allowed inactivity period. Find out in advance how long your account will remain alive when not in use and when your files could be deleted due to inactivity.
We mentioned that the most popular cloud storage is the one photographers can use to store their photos. However, if you are comfortable with Google Photo limitations, it is the best solution for those who are not ready to pay for advanced services. All paid options are quite similar to one another. So, you are free to choose what is more comfortable for you. We would just like to admit that pCloud is the only company right now offering the lifetime subscription for the cloud storage. It will be a great investment, as traditionally, the services regularly increase the payment subscription price. In the future, it can help you to save some money.