Best Cloud Storage 2021: Business, Personal & Top Free Options
In the modern world of cloud connectivity, it is more important than ever to have access to your business files anywhere at any time. Whether reading drafts or writing copy, proofing designs or building presentations, files need to be accessible from any given device, whether it be desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. To serve your cloud storage needs there are a number of enterprising companies, all vying for your attention and loyalty.
Here’s the thing, though: not all of these cloud storage apps were created equally. Some are ideally suited for business use while some are best for individuals. Some come with features that go beyond simple document storage, but these are often paired with a higher price tag. Add to these factors the additional pressures of brand aversions and affinities and you have a decision that should be simple, but ends up being more complex.
Enter Merchant Maverick: your go-to software advice dispensary. Join us as we break down the top cloud storage picks, determining which are best for enterprise and personal use, as well as highlighting the best free options currently available.
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Top Business Cloud Storage
When considering which cloud storage service is best for business purposes, I usually look for what additional features are included with the subscription beyond baseline storage space. What collaboration tools are available? How easy is it to communicate with team members? Of course, price also features in this decision; is there a good deal available for big orders? With that in mind, here are my top picks for business cloud storage:
Box for Business
Box is designed for graphic designers, engineers, and other professionals who need a high degree of customer interaction. With unlimited external collaborators and a strong list of integrations, Box is one of the best options for cloud storage currently available. Pricing for business starts at $15/user/month, which comes with unlimited storage. You get data loss prevention at this price point, but for more advanced administrative features or HIPAA compliance, you will have to pay more. At this point, Box gets pretty expensive, especially if you have more than one team using it. It may be worth it, though, if you need the external collaborators or integrations.
Dropbox for Business
I recently compared Drop and Dropbox in a separate post, so I don’t want to spend too much time pointing out their similarities and differences here. However, I will point out that Dropbox is very slightly cheaper for comparable features, starting business pricing at $12.99/user/month. Dropbox also offers its proprietary Dropbox Paper to business subscribers. Paper is difficult to describe, but in brief, it operates something like lite project management built into document storage. It allows you to manage workflows that interact with Dropbox files, which can be pretty handy. If your project management needs are light, the existence of Paper is almost enough to instantly favor Dropbox for your cloud storage needs. On the other hand, Dropbox does not include HIPAA compliance at any level, so if that is part of what you are looking for, you may need to go with a different option.
G Suite Business Solutions
Google is everywhere on the internet, and, of course, cloud storage is no exception. Google Drive is a nearly ubiquitous tool, and when paired with several other Google products, you can get it for your business as part of G Suite. Depending on your opinion of Google, the bundling of Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, and more may be a benefit or detriment, so keep in mind that if you want cloud storage from this deal, you would be signing on for all the other services as well. If you are ok with that, you will be pleased to know that there are a number of pricing plans available aimed at small, medium, and enterprise level companies. These start at five dollars per month but run as high as $25 for larger plans.
Top Personal Cloud Storage
For personal use, the most important aspect of a cloud storage selection is whether or not your pick is compatible with the other products, apps, and services you use personally. If you do not use Apple products, you aren’t going to want Apples iCloud Drive, for example. Similarly, there won’t be nearly as many reasons to use Microsoft OneDrive if you are not invested in the Microsoft office infrastructure. The decision ends up being relatively subjective for that reason. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best cloud storage options for personal use:
Google recently rebranded the paid version of Google Drive to Google One for reasons that…I do not truly know. My best guess is that you get all of Google’s many services in “One” place, so that makes some kind of sense I suppose? Despite the bewildering branding, Google One is one of the most cost-effective options for personal cloud storage, with 100 gigs of data costing $1.99/month. Want an extra 100 gigs? Add a dollar to that price tag. Need the full terabyte? That will run you $9.99/month. With this comes seamless integration with Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets, plus the excellent Google Photos and more. Google Drive sets the bar high for cloud storage in this sector with instantaneous sync on any device, plus the ability to work with files offline if necessary. If you are comfortable using Google’s simplified Docs and don’t mind giving into the Alphabet Corporation’s dominance of the internet, this is probably the best choice.
As I mentioned above, if you are already a Microsoft Office user, you may find yourself tempted by Mircosoft’s contender in the cloud Storage sector. For $1.99/month you get 50 gigabytes of storage. What is more interesting, though, comes a bit higher up the pay scale. For $6.99/month, you unlock Office 365 and an entire terabyte of storage space. Office 365 gives you Microsoft Office across all your devices and advanced sync similar to Google Drive. If you have family or friends who also need cloud space, $9.99/month gets you up to six user profiles with a terabyte per person. This is a pretty good deal, though you miss out on many of the extras from a paid Google subscription. As I said, though, if Microsoft is your jam, it would be tough to go wrong with OneDrive.
While Google One is excellent, you may find that its Google-centric nature makes using other, more specific filetypes more complicated than it may otherwise be. Dropbox, on the other hand, can handle a wider variety of filetypes with aplomb. There are no low subscriptions, though, and prices start at $8.25/month, though you do get a full terabyte at that level. Unfortunately, Dropbox cannot boast the same instantaneous synchronization as Google (unless you pay for the Professional subscription which costs $16.58/month), which a fairly serious downside.
Top Free Cloud Storage
Obviously, if you are looking for free cloud storage, you are going to have to accept some trade-offs for the whole not-having-to-pay thing. Most of these options come with just a few gigabytes of storage, which means you will have to be picky about which files you back up to the cloud. With that in mind, here are your best options:
Once again, Google features high on our list. The free version of Drive comes with a relatively ample 15 gigs of storage, more than any other option on this list. You also get full access to the dizzyingly long list of Google apps, with no penalty for not subscribing. Google Docs are some of the best collaborative tools in the world right now, from education to marketing, engineering, and many more applications. Once again, it is hard to go wrong with Google… if you are comfortable with the idea of giving the company even more market dominance.
Microsoft cannot really compete with Google’s gift of 15 free gigabytes. Instead, the free, basic version of OneDrive comes with just 5 gigs. It is pre-installed on most new Windows PCs, however, which does make it a convenient choice. Windows has a better privacy track record than Google as well, while still coming with the reliability of a major software developer. As with the paid subscription, if you already use or plan to use other Microsoft products, there is a good chance this is the best choice for you.
Apple’s cloud storage is mostly lackluster, but the free version is worth a mention here. With your Apple ID, you get 5 free gigs of space and the ability to access the files from pretty much any Apple device. You can also install iCloud on a Windows PC, though realistically if you are thinking about using Apple’s cloud service there is a strong chance you are pretty dedicated to Apple products already. As with the free version of OneDrive, the 5GB on offer here will not last long for most users, but will serve as a decent taste of what is on offer should you decide to pay for additional space.
What Type Of Cloud Storage Is Right For You?
In the end, in terms of pure storage, it seems to me that Google offers one of the more attractive packages across all three categories. Though Gsuite for business offers slightly less utility in terms of dedicated cloud storage, the other features might compensate enough to make it the best choice across the board. In the personal and free sectors, Google is clearly the best option, with competitors playing catch-up trying to emulate features that Google pulls off with greater success.
If you are not thrilled with the prospect of contributing to Google’s monopoly over internet traffic, though, there are other options that should work well for you, especially in terms of cloud storage for business use. Box and Dropbox are strong competitors that offer more, in some ways, than Google brings to bear. In the personal category, OneDrive is impressively affordable, especially when you factor in access to Office 365.
In short, you have options and choices you can make to tailor your cloud storage selection to your contextual needs. Once you’ve made that decision, come on back and let us know which option you decided was best and we will continue the conversation in the comments below.