The best cloud storage providers – an overview of the best online storage

The advantages of secure online storage mean that cloud storage providers are equally attractive for both private users and companies. Renting additional storage space for files and documents of all kinds saves your hard drive space, and ensures that your work or home PC, or smartphone, have enough space for the operating system and installed programs. In addition, the files in cloud storage are available anytime, anywhere (and with any device). A computer’s hard drive does not offer the same luxury. To find out what's important when choosing the right service and which providers offer the best cloud package, check out the following cloud storage test.

HiDrive Cloud Storage with 1&1 IONOS!

Based in Europe, HiDrive secures your data in the cloud so you can easily access it from any device. Packages starting from only $1/month!

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Cloud comparison: What makes the best online storage service?

At first glance, there seem to be hardly any differences between the various storage services, which is why many turn to their prices when considering which option to choose. This is an important factor, but by no means the only one you should pay attention to. As with other web services, factors such as usability, or the security of your own data also play an important role. It may also be useful for companies to look into how well each cloud storage provider works for cooperative work. Finally, you should also take a close look at the reliability and support offered by the various providers.

The following criteria are what we will use to compare the various online file storage providers:

  • Costs: Even the best cloud solutions shouldn’t get too pricey – even if there are so many possibilities for what they can do. Typically, providers offer a range of subscription models that differ mainly in terms of storage volume, but also in the range of functions offered. Therefore, it is recommended that you consider how much storage space you need in advance, and which features you really need - on the basis of this information you can compare the different cloud storage providers properly. In most cases there is also a free basic tariff, which is often already sufficient for private purposes.
     
  • Usability: Usability also plays an important role in cloud storage systems. You should be able to upload and download your files intuitively, no matter which device you are working with. This also applies to all collaborative working features provided by the service. If you want to share files with other users in the cloud, or work on documents together, you should be able to rely on a straightforward interface. If sharing in cloud storage is important to you, features such as tracking changes, and cross-device synchronization are especially important. The best cloud storage providers feature customized clients and apps with the best possible usability for the various devices.
     
  • Security: Like any web application, cloud services are at risk to a certain. In order to prevent data loss or theft, it is the responsibility of a good provider to protect all files and user data well. Modern data centers, as well as firewalls and backup services are just as much a part of this as the encryption of the stored data and the data transfer itself. If data protection plays an important role for you, considering the server’s location becomes inevitable. Do you know where the data is physically stored? Otherwise, we cannot guarantee that sensitive information will be handled in compliance with data protection regulations.
     
  • Reliability and support: With cloud storage, reliability and good support are even more important than with other online services. It is important that you have access to your files at all times and that you are informed in good time about any news, technical problems, and changes. Round the clock availability (online time) of the service is just as important as reliability - if you have to look around for a new service after half a year because your cloud storage is no longer offered, this can mean extra costs for you. The more established a provider is, the more professional the support, which should be available to you with questions and problems around the online storage.

Online storage comparison - which storage services are available?

The perfect cloud storage would have a high level of security, simple and intuitive operation, and low offline times – but which provider ticks all the boxes? Ideally, you’d also get a large amount of storage space for a low price. Depending on the intended use of cloud storage, and the know-how and financial situation of the user, there are various solutions that meet this requirement profile. We introduce you to some of the best cloud storage solutions.

HiDrive Cloud Storage

1&1 IONOS’s HiDrive, offers cloud storage that is available in several different packages, ranging from as affordable as $1 a month to pro solutions for $20 a month. 100 GB of storage space for one person costs $1 a month, and is 1&1 IONOS HiDrive’s “Basic” package. For multiple users, you’ll need the “essential”, “business”, or “pro” subscription, which have 250, 1,000 and 2,000GB storage respectively. The essential subscription allows 3 users to access the plan, and costs $3 a month. Business, on the other hand, allows 5 users for $10 a month, and Pro has up to 10 users, and costs $20 a month. All of the plans have a helpful automatic cloud backup feature, and the pro subscription also allows you to back up and restore important data from your smartphone, tablet, and computer. All of the 1&1 IONOS HiDrive’s data centers adhere to the ISO 27001 standard, so you can be reassured that your data is safe. The files are all stored in German data centers, and thus benefit from the securest, strictest conditions that you could wish for.

Sharing the 1&1 IONOS HiDrive cloud is possible in many different ways. You can share your files with others, and even work on documents with friends and colleagues. This works not only for document files, but also mp3 files, for example. For all subscriptions, you’ll also get share links to your drive, which can be accessed with a password. Furthermore, other people can upload files to your online storage, making collaborative work a breeze.

Pros Cons
✔ Affordable plans for every need, whether private or professional ✘ No free version available
✔ All packages can be adapted at any time  

STRATO HiDrive

Strato’s HiDrive, offers cloud storage that is available as a free version, with the option to increase storage by inviting friends, or paying for much larger volumes. For example, 100 GB of storage space for one person costs $6.69 a month. For multiple users the 500GB account is a good option, allowing up to 5 users on that account. STRATO stores all data transmitted exclusively in encrypted form (256-bit) in ISO 27001-certified data centers, which are among the most secure in the world and underpin STRATO's claim to offer secure online storage. Strato’s HiDrive also offers a mobile app, available on Google Play, Apple’s App store, and as a download for Windows Phone. This means your files and data can be accessed wherever you need them.

Sharing the HiDrive cloud is possible in many different ways. You can share your files with others, and even work on documents with friends and colleagues. This works not only for document files, but also mp3 files, for example. For paid subscriptions, you’ll also get share links to your drive, which can be accessed with a password. Furthermore, other people can upload files to your online storage, making collaborative work a breeze. You can also use this feature to share your photos with family and friends, avoiding the hassle of lots of large emails, which take up inbox space.

Pros

Cons

Free 5GB of storage, with possibility to expand

One user per account unless you go for the 500GB option

All packages can be adapted at any time

 

Google Drive

On the 24th of April 2012, the search engine giant Google launched its cloud service - Google Drive. At the time, the application extended and replaced the office solution Docs, which was integrated into Drive right from the start. Five years later, at the Google I/O developer conference, the company announced that the storage service had reached 800 million users worldwide. To get Drive, you'll need an active Google Account, which you'll also need for other Google services such as Gmail or Google Photos - which also connect directly to the cloud through interfaces. To get started, you get free access to 15 GB of storage space. By taking out paid subscriptions you can increase capacities (100 GB for approx. 2$, 30 TB for approx. 300$ per month, or even unlimited storage in the business tariff).

A glance into the main menu shows why Google’s program is one of the best cloud solutions for cooperative working, management and file or document editing of all kinds. With one click, you can upload or download files, and access the popular office services “Docs” in the form of file documents, tables, drawings, presentations, sites and “My Maps” - and you can also link to hundreds of third-party apps. Google Drive automatically synchronizes the stored data on all devices you use to access the cloud. For this purpose, applications for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android are available for free download if you do not want to use the web application.

Pros Cons
✔ Links to numerous Google services and third-party apps (optional) ✘ Storage on Google servers (without specific information about locations)
✔ Up to 15 GB of storage is available free of charge ✘ Google only relies on 128-bit encryption to store the files

Box

Since 2005, the US’s own online cloud storage company “Box” has offered both private users and companies the possibility of central, outsourced file sharing and management in the form of its cloud service of the same name. Right from the off, the development team focused on features that make it easier to share users’ boxes. For example, you can use bookmarks (favorites) to easily exchange links, create tasks (to-do lists), or take notes on the files and tasks of your choice in real time. All changes are recorded in the action history so that you always know which user made them (including time stamp). Determining which user is allowed to access which cloud area can be individually regulated by controlling the access authorizations.

Box also does well in terms of security and data protection: the cloud service supports customer-managed file encryption using the AWS (Amazon Web Services) key management service. Companies even have the option of backing up necessary encryption keys themselves by using an optional hardware security module (HSM). In order to comply with regional data protection guidelines, the cloud provider uses data centers of international partners (e.g. in Germany, Ireland, Japan and Australia).

Like many other cloud storage systems of this test, Box offers desktop clients for macOS and Windows as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android with which you can access your cloud storage (Box Drive) or create notes (Box Notes) from the device of your choice. Box provides up to 10 GB of storage space free of charge for its users (upload size limited to 250 MB per file). You can, however, upgrade to a paid plan for more space and faster uploads.

Pros Cons
✔ First-class memory sharing features (previously in the business subscription) ✘ Restricted functionality for home user accounts
✔ Box Zones help companies comply with regional data protection regulations ✘ Comparatively expensive

Tresorit

Tresorit is an online storage service published in 2014 by the company of the same name with offices in Switzerland and Hungary. The Tresorit team did not choose the name for its cloud service at random. Thanks to end-to-end encryption, your files are already encrypted before transfer and as secure in the Tresorit cloud as in a vault – the word “tresor” is cognate of the English treasure, and the German word Tresor literally means vault. Thanks to encryption, password-protected file and folder links (up to 20 GB file size), definable expiration dates and differentiable user rights, file sharing is more secure than with almost any other provider in the cloud. It makes no difference whether access is via the Tresorit browser application, the desktop application (Windows, macOS, Linux) or the mobile app (iOS, Android) - the security package applies to all clients.

In order to protect your privacy, the video will not load until you click on it.

One of Tresorit's greatest strengths is its comprehensive and yet clearly arranged admin center. Here, you get the perfect overview of your storage space and the users or devices accessing it. You can also manage individual user accounts and define security policies, such as blocking access to certain devices or IP addresses or enabling two-factor authentication.

Pros Cons
✔ End-to-end encryption for browser application, desktop clients and apps ✘ No free memory version available
✔ First-class security management ✘ Few features for working with saved files

iCloud Drive

Owners of an Apple device should be familiar with the iCloud Drive storage service. This cloud solution is part of the standard software package of iOS and macOS, which is why it is automatically installed and usable. However, Windows users can also access iCloud Drive through the web interface or through the desktop application available for download from the Apple website. The only requirement is a valid Apple ID, which you can create free of charge at any time. Together with other services such as the word processing editor Pages or the spreadsheet program Numbers, Drive forms the iCloud suite. This cloud offering is aimed exclusively at home users who receive 5 GB of free storage as standard. This can be upgraded to 50 (approx. 1$ per month) or 200 GB (approx. 3$ per month). For families (up to five users), Apple offers a 2-TB package for about $10 per month.

While cloud storage is not shareable compared to other solutions (except the family edition), iCloud's office services mentioned above allow for teamwork. To-do lists, schedules, presentations, etc. can be easily shared with other users, provided they also have an Apple ID. All your data is encrypted by Apple both during transmission and on the server (minimum 128-bit AES). Additional protection is provided by optional two-factor authentication, which links your cloud password with a six-digit verification code. This will be sent to a trustworthy device of your choice.

Pros Cons
✔ Already integrated on Apple devices ✘ Storage on Apple servers (uncertainty where the data will be stored)
✔ Inexpensive option for private users  

Dropbox

Dropbox has been one of the most popular and best cloud solutions for years. Founded in 2007 by students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, the company was one of the first providers to offer its users free online storage. Its special feature lies in the fact that the memory provided can be expanded by various actions such as inviting additional users. In this way, the standard 2 GB storage space of the free Basic Edition increases up to 20 GB. If you need more capacity, the “plus” (1 TB for approx. 10$ per month) and “professional” (unlimited storage space for approx. 20$ per month) plans would be the right solutions for you.

Dropbox Business is also part of the range, which is tailored to companies and provides access to additional administration and collaboration tools. For example, you can create user lists and define the access options for individual users. Activity reports tell you who shares, accesses, or deletes which files, and you can also see the space each person is using. For joint idea development and task management, Dropbox connects to the Microsoft Office suite, and has also integrated its own document tool “Paper”. Both during transmission (TLS 128-bit) and on the server (256-bit AES), your files are encrypted by Dropbox. The data is stored on servers worldwide, making it virtually impossible to control security standards.

Pros Cons
✔ Free storage can be expanded up to 20 GB ✘ Data is stored, processed and transmitted at locations around the world
✔ Business plans with powerful administration features available  

Livedrive

In 2008, tech entrepreneur Andrew Michael founded the British company Livedrive (taken over by j2 Global in 2014), which has since made its product of the same name available to customers around the world. However, Livedrive is not your typical online storage solution, because “backup” provides you with a tariff that is only conditionally related to normal cloud storage and rather makes automatic backups of your local files (PC or Mac). The “briefcase” plan (2 TB for 10$ per month), or alternatively, the “pro suite” package (17$ per month), which includes the described backup function (plus copies of data on mobile devices) in addition to 5 TB of storage space, provides you with the familiar online storage variant in which you can specifically determine which data you want to store in the cloud.

In order to protect your privacy, the video will not load until you click on it.

The business tariffs “express” and “standard” round off Livedrive's portfolio. The former grants up to three users access to 2TB of storage and automatic back-ups (35$ per month), while the latter is aimed at teams of ten or more users (10TB for 110$ per month). Team folders, where files can be shared, comments created and changes viewed, greatly improve the use of this shared memory. It does not matter from which device the access of the different participants takes place: desktop software for macOS and Windows is available as well as apps for iOS and Android. Alternatively, as with all cloud memories in the test, the path via the platform-independent web interface is possible.

Livedrive stores all data exclusively in certified data centers (ISO-27001) in Great Britain.

Pros Cons
✔ Very cost-effective storage and backup solution ✘ No free memory version available
✔ Powerful, well-secured servers in the UK  

A comparison of the listed cloud memories

  Free storage Desktop versions and Apps Server location Unique selling point?
HiDrive Cloud Storage - Windows, macOS, iOS, Android Germany Excellent pricing options for highly secure storage
STRATO HiDrive 5GB Windows, macOS, iOS, Android Germany Invite friends to gain more storage
Box 10GB Windows, macOS, iOS, Android Selectable (e.g. Ireland, Germany Japan, Australia) Box Zones help to comply with regional data protection guidelines
Dropbox Up to 20 GB Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android unknown Free memory can be expanded
iCloud Drive 5 GB Windows, macOS, iOS unknown Installed by default on Apple devices
Google Drive 15 GB Windows, macOS, iOS, Android unknown Link to other Google services
Livedrive - Windows, macOS, iOS, Android UK Back-up service included in most plans
Tresorit - Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android Ireland, Netherlands End-to-end encryption

The online memory comparison shows how diverse the selection of digital storage solutions is. Established providers such as iCloud Drive, Dropbox and Google Drive prove to be cost-effective and feature-rich services with first-class links to useful office applications, but they cause headaches when it comes to data protection due to the rather daring information on the server locations. Clouds such as 1&1 IONOS HiDrive or the completely free E-POST Cloud, whose servers are located in Germany, can dispel these concerns - however, these two solutions also lack end-to-end encryption, as offered by Tresorit. Globally operating companies will find Box to be a more than convincing cloud service, which is also appealing when it comes to its collaborative features. Meanwhile, the American investor j2 Global is launching an interesting mix of back-up and cloud storage solution with Livedrive, developed in the UK.

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Tip

If you want to be on the safe side when storing your files in a cloud store, you should encrypt all data on your own before transferring it to the cloud (unless the service already offers end-to-end encryption).


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