There are many cloud storage services to choose from these days, from Dropbox to Box and iCloud. You may not be able to see the forest for the trees. That's why in this article we list the pros and cons of the best 9 free cloud services we found.
What are the Top 9 Best Free Cloud Services?
- Google Drive
- Microsoft OneDrive
Read on for all the features and the pros and cons of these 9 free cloud services.
In which scenario is it better to use a cloud service with a lot of storage space, which service works best with others and which storage space works best under Linux? To answer these questions, we put iCloud, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, MediaFire, SpiderOak, Mega, to a test. Every service discussed has strengths and weaknesses.
If you use an iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Mac, you quickly come to iCloud integrated into the Apple operating system. The service is also available for Windows 7 and 8, but not for Windows RT. To view your iCloud, you can use the website. Apple offers free 5GB of storage as standard, but you can upgrade if you want.
iCloud provides storage space for photos and documents that you want to share between different devices. Device settings can also be backed up to iCloud, which is useful if you want to upgrade or upgrade the device to a newer version of a device. Backup also saves app settings.
iCloud's web interface should work on any browser, but we noticed in the test that an alternative browser can cause problems, especially on Android. You can sync iCloud with Microsoft Outlook for email, contact lists, and calendar, but you'll need an iCloud email account for that.
Using iCloud on Mac is easy as it's already built-in. For use on Windows you will need to download the iCloud Control Panel. Once the Control Panel is downloaded and installed, you will have to tell it what it is going to sync before it happens. Once set, it will happen automatically in the future.
iCloud does not provide ad hoc document storage in Windows or Linux. You can also not share music files with others via iCloud.
Pros: Ideal for iPhone, iPad and Mac, back up devices easily
Cons: less suitable for alternative browsers and operating systems, no music sharing
Box has been around for years, but the service has only recently started to profile itself as a business platform focused on collaboration. With a free account you can save 10GB. Companies can also opt for a Business-. Business Plus or Enterprise version. An app is available for all mobile platforms and on Windows and Mac computers you can download the Box Sync client.
Box Sync works differently from other services discussed. Although Box can sync with any folder, you will first need to drag the folder to the 'My Box Files' desktop folder. Only then does the synchronization begin. When you then make changes to the folder, they are also made in the desktop folder. You can also sync shared folders to 'My Box Files' from elsewhere.
As mentioned, Box's real focus is on collaboration. An example of this is accessing files with multiple users. When a group uses Box, they see each other's updates, can comment on each other, make adjustments, and share likes. In addition, you can adjust what others can and cannot do and limit access to files.
Box uploads are quite fast because Box uses an upload accelerator that is very similar to a content distribution network. This means that files you upload to Box are first stored on a regional server before being sent to the actual Box servers later.
Box is not intended as an online backup system, but focuses more on sharing files with devices and people. It is excellent for that purpose.
Pros: lightning fast, easy to manage, ideal for collaborating on files
Cons: cumbersome installation, not for Linux, not particularly suitable as a backup
Dropbox has since become synonymous with a cloud storage service. At its core, Dropbox is a place in the cloud where you can store files. This can be documents, but also music, videos or photos. It is an ideal concept to share files from your home or work computer with mobile devices as well.
The free Dropbox offers more than just storage. The service offers apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Kindle Fire. There is a third-party app for Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 already has it installed by default.
Version tracking is applied within Dropbox so that you can see exactly who made which changes and you are able to revert to a previous version. The version history covers 30 days for a document or other type of file.
Dropbox works by creating a folder on your computer and sharing its contents with the cloud. That cloud synchronizes again with the devices on which you have Dropbox installed. You can also get to your own Dropbox by navigating to the website.
In addition to the free version with 2GB of storage, Dropbox also offers a standard and advanced package. The standard gives you 5TB of storage, the advanced version has unlimited storage.
A business version is available that offers unlimited storage, version history and more access options for $795 per year for up to five users. After that you pay an extra $125 per user.
Pros: simple operation, largest user base, Linux support, version control
Cons: reportedly added to PRISM, not super secure anyway
Google Drive once originated as a derivative of Google Docs; a place primarily intended to store shared documents. You can still use it for that, although the options are now much more numerous.
When installing Drive on Windows, you get the option to install an entire office package that works together with the cloud. On other platforms, only a standalone Drive app will be installed. Access is also possible via a browser and with this the platform also works closely with the Docs functionality.
The disadvantage with Drive is that users are not automatically logged out when ending a browser session, which poses a security risk if you sometimes use a shared PC or tablet.
The operation of Drive is in most ways the same as that of other discussed services, although Google does give away 15GB for free when creating an account. For businesses, there's Google Apps for Business where you can get unlimited storage for an account (or 1TB per user with fewer than five users).
It should be noted that Google sifts through the files you store in Drive in order to show you personalized ads based on them. Conversely, this also has a positive effect on the search function in Drive, which functions very effectively. Drive works quickly and offers the advantage over other services that you can request a preview of files.
Pros: lots of storage space, tight integration with Docs and other Google services
Cons: not NSA-proof, not suitable for users with few or no Google services
Everyone with a Microsoft account already has OneDrive. So whether you use a Windows Phone, an Xbox, Skype or Outlook.com; you can get started right away with the storage service.
Microsoft OneDrive has many applications. It is suitable for sharing files, synchronizing folders and backing up to the cloud. For Windows Phone and Windows tablets, photos are already stored in OneDrive and the client is already set up. For the operating systems Mac, Android and iOS (and of course Windows 7, 8 and 10) you can download a client that lets you automatically synchronize files - for example photos.
OneDrive integrates tightly with many Microsoft applications, including Office. For companies, there is a business version that works with SharePoint in addition to Office 365 and offers a cloud-based library for business documents and facilitates collaboration.
Users get 5GB for free within OneDrive. Office 365 users get 1TB of storage for 10 euros per month. There is also a subscription available for 2 euros per month, for which you get 100GB.
Pros: integration with popular Microsoft software, works well on Windows devices
Cons: requires a Microsoft account, doesn't always work perfectly on other platforms
MediaFire is a cloud storage space that mainly focuses on sharing media files. This way you can stream music and video directly from the website. Unfortunately there are limitations. For example, some file formats are not recognized or not supported. Uploads are also slower than with other services, according to our tests.
MediaFire lets you create a public link for files that users can stream from the website. You can also create a link for your own website where other users can send files. Up to 10GB the service is free, after that prices go up to 40 dollars per month for 100TB.
For business users, MediaFire offers custom branding, so you can use your own logo for the service and also customize the widgets. Paying users can also upload entire folders, rather than just individual files.
MediaFire has apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux.
Pros: streaming media, receiving files from unknown users
Cons: slow upload, some file types don't work
SpiderOak mainly focuses on privacy. According to the company, the service is so secure that they also have no view of the data. According to SpiderOak itself, the service is so secure that the NSA will never be able to break into it. Unfortunately, I couldn't get that confirmed from the NSA.
Files uploaded to SpiderOak are encrypted during upload and within storage. A disadvantage of this high level of security is that there is no password recovery. If you lose the password, you're out of luck. Without a password, your data will remain under lock and key forever.
SpiderOak offers a 21-day free trial with 150GB of storage. The most expensive option is 5TB for $29. You can use the service for backup, but it becomes very expensive with large amounts of data.
For many users, secure storage in the cloud is especially important. SpiderOak offers apps for Linux, Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. If you work with another operating system, you can use the website, but it has the necessary limitations.
For example, you cannot upload files via the browser interface and there is no preview function for files in the SpiderOak Hive folder. Unfortunately, there is often no preview available for files that are placed outside this folder.
Pros: very safe, solid apps
Cons: relatively small storage capacity, not a pleasant browser interface
Mega is a project by internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. It's similar in some ways to its predecessor, the defunct Megaupload, but the cloud aspect is much more present with Mega.
The fact that the service comes from Dotcom makes it worth trying out. Dotcom is known for its commitment to the free internet, and Mega is a prime example of this. Privacy is very important - if for privacy reasons it's not even possible to request a new password, lost password means lost files. Dangerous, but so safe.
In practice, Mega works the same as other services. Uploading and downloading files is a piece of cake, an account is created in no time and file sharing is also done in no time. Mega is also working on several (beta) side projects, such as a contact list and a secure chat facility.
Another big advantage of Mega is the storage capacity. You always get 50GB for free, much more than competing services. For less than thirty euros per month, you also have 16TB of storage space.
Pros: Safe, lots of free storage space
Cons: Lost password lost files, owner under magnifying glass
Under the name STACK, the Dutch hosting provider TransIP offers no less than 10000 GB storage capacity for 50 euros per month. The cheapest option is 250GB for € 3.02 per month. Ideal, because the use of Dutch servers has a favorable effect on upload and download times. It is true that you need an invitation code to use the service.
You can request this via the website without any problems, but take into account a (very!) long waiting time. Once you receive the code, you only have one week to redeem it. This registration procedure is of course cumbersome, but all the effort is rewarded with a solid online storage service.
For example, there are no file limits and the user environment is very nicely designed. You have access to your own cloud via a unique STACK url. The nice thing is that there are several options to sort the files, such as by name, file size and date.
STACK adds all images to its own photo viewer, so that you can easily browse through the pictures. This cloud service also effortlessly plays video files in the browser, such as flv and avi videos. There is even an integrated PDF reader.
On November 10, it was announced that the free version of STACK will be discontinued. Anyone running this free version must migrate their files to another platform before February 2021.
Pros: No file limits, Dutch servers.
Cons: Cumbersome registration procedure, long waiting time.