Best Cloud Storage Providers and What to Look For

You might be interested in cloud storage solutions for any number of possible reasons. Perhaps you work as an online professional and you want to make sure you have access to your most critical files no matter where your business might take you. Maybe you’re looking for a safe and convenient way to back up your personal data, just in case anything happens to your computer or external hard drives at home.

Whatever the case may be, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different choices. How can you choose between all these different cloud storage providers? What are the key features you should be considering? Just as you might want to think about technology, comfort, and fuel economy when choosing your next vehicle, there are several key factors worth considering when shopping for a cloud storage service provider.

File Size Restrictions

This isn’t necessarily an area of concern for everyone under all circumstances, but it could become a huge problem for certain people under certain situations. Most of us would assume that when we pay for a certain amount of cloud storage capacity that we can use that space in whatever manner we’d like. But this isn’t always the case.

In the case of Box.com, for example, you’ll find that the free individual plan applies a 250 MB file upload limit. This is terribly restrictive, especially if you’re thinking of uploading multimedia files. Video files can easily get much larger than 250 MB. Similarly, you may find that certain providers throttle your upload or download speed, hindering your ability to backup or access your files. That really detracts from the user experience!

Hosting and cloud solutions like pCloud suffers from neither of these issues, supporting unlimited file sizes (up to the capacity of your plan, of course) and unlimited upload and download speeds that are dependent only on your Internet service provider.

Security and encryption

When you deposit money at the bank, you have some assurance that your funds are safe. You don’t really have to worry about them stealing your cash and you can feel confident that when you want to withdraw the money, you will be able to. That just makes sense. Cloud storage needs to offer the same kind of confidence.

With reports of hacking and data leaks springing up on the web so frequently, it is of critical importance that you choose a cloud storage provider that keeps your data as safe and secure as possible. This is crucial for all your sensitive files, particularly family photos, financial documents, and other confidential information.

Positioning its cloud storage as a “digital safety deposit box,” CertainSafe prides itself on its “ultra-secure cyber security” with award-winning encryption technology. Unfortunately, it lacks some of the other features found with more consumer-targeted providers. Even so, most providers offer some level of security, but it is up to you to inquire further about how far that goes.

For for TLS/SSL encryption, for example, as well as the option to password protect certain files. Ideally, you want client-side encryption (rather than server-side encryption) so that no one except you will have the keys to decrypt the files.

Sharing and collaboration options

On the one hand, you want your data to be kept as safe and as securely as possible. On the other hand, you want to have the ability to freely share and collaborate with your friends, family, and colleagues too. This is true both of personal photos, for example, as well as professional documents.

If you’re already well ensconced in the Google ecosystem, then something like Google Drive seems like a great fit. This is especially true if you’re already using Google Docs and Google Sheets, but it may not be quite as ideal if you’re working with other software packages like Microsoft Office. Even so, collaboration is clearly one of Google Drive’s greatest strengths.

At a more fundamental level, look for different options when it comes to sharing the files you store in the cloud. Can you generate a public download link where anyone can access the file (but not alter it)? Can you offer a private link that only a certain person can use? What about sharing an entire folder rather than individual files? Is there a public folder option too?

Data backups, versioning and mobile access

Here is an area where you’ll find that cloud storage can often offer several advantages over the traditional local storage you have on your computer. When you change a file on your computer, you can’t choose to revert to a previous version that you had saved last week. You typically can’t access that file stored on your computer via your smartphone either unless you’ve set up a special configuration for remote access.

When shopping for the best cloud storage provider, you should make sure that you are offered such features as automatic data backups, file versioning, and remote mobile access. Data backups are important in case of any hardware failure, but also in case you accidentally delete or otherwise lose huge swaths of files and folders.

With file versioning, you can actually revert and restore previous versions of the same file. This is great if you’re collaborating, for example, and you want to go back to the version that you had uploaded originally or if anyone made any unauthorized changes… or even if you made those changes yourself. With pCloud, they’ll keep file versions for up to 15 days for free accounts and up to 30 days for paid users. They also keep deleted files for up to 30 days by default, extending to up to a year when you add Extended File History.

Another solution that provides many of these same features is ElephantDrive, which has cloud hosting plans that range from $7 per month for 100GB of space to $119 per month for 2TB, as well as a 2GB free account.

No matter which cloud storage provider you decide to go with, make sure they have data backup, versioning, and mobile access in place. While these might seem like premium features right now, they will be standard across all platforms soon enough.

Storage and value for money

Many people gravitate here first when looking for cloud storage, but if the service provider can’t offer the important features described above, getting loads of unusable, unreliable storage isn’t going to do you very much good. For the most part, many providers have a free account with a limited amount of storage and then you can upgrade for more.

Dropbox and Google Drive start you off with 2 GB and 5 GB of storage, respectively. With pCloud, users get started with up to 20 GB of free storage. But even when you start to look at the premium plans, you’d be surprised at how much variation you’ll find. Both Dropbox and Google Drive will give you 1 TB for $10/month, but you get twice the capacity (2 TB) for less money ($8/month) with pCloud.

An even better deal is if you sign up for a lifetime plan with pCloud where you get 500 GB or 2 TB of storage for a one-time payment of $125 or $250, respectively. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than this, especially with all the other features you get like the 30-day trash history, redundant file copies on different servers, file versioning, selective offline access, and 256-bit AES encryption too. There are other ‘lifetime’ storage plans that are available online, it’s just a matter of taking the time to look around and find the best ones. You will often find such deals from comparison shopping sites or during the holidays.

Cloud storage is about so much more than just having some space on a hard drive in some off-site server rack. It’s about having the features you need to get work done, share with friends and family, and enjoy the peace of mind that your data is safe and secure.

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