Over the last 4 years we’ve helped thousands of internet users to find a suitable cloud storage provider. Today – we’re here to help you.
To help you select the best cloud storage provider for your needs, we’ve put together a simple cloud storage comparison chart. Simply click the button by any cloud storage providers that look of interest to be taken to further information:
A Closer Look at the Top Cloud Storage Companies
Not decided yet? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular cloud storage companies to help make your decision easier…
Livedrive is currently the largest cloud storage provider in both Europe and the USA.
One of the key reasons for this is that they offer unlimited storage capacity so you never run out of space on your account.
With many of Livedrive’s competitors you need to spend quite some time working out exactly how much storage space you need – and also projecting this into the future.
With unlimited cloud storage, Livedrive is a “future-proof” solution where no matter how many photos, music tracks, documents or videos you might save to your computer you can rest easy that there’ll always be space available on your account.
In addition this makes their pricing structure very simple indeed. There’s no need to try and hazard a guess about what storage space you’ll need in the future or any other complicated decisions. All accounts offer unlimited storage – and there are just three main account types to choose from – which we’ll cover in just a moment.
But it’s not just the unlimited storage space that makes Livedrive our #1 cloud storage recommendation.
In terms of value-for-money and customer satisfaction they also rank amongst the very best of them. The way they achieve their low cost without compromising on quality is through the use of a “modular” account system.
In essence there are two main features of cloud storage accounts. The first is to back up all the documents on your computer (and/or smart phone) and keep these safe so that if you ever have computer problems you can quickly re-install all your precious files.
The other is a “syncing” feature that let’s you easily access your files from any computer – including sharing them with other people when necessary.
Frankly, the first option is key, while the second is really a nice add-on that only certain users will want.
So Livedrive has split their offering into three accounts. The first offers only backup. The second offers just the file sharing and syncing options. And the third combines both these options and is the most complete solution available.
In offering three main account types you’re able to select the account that offers the features that you need without having to pay for – or learn how to use – any that really don’t matter to you. And this helps to keep the cost right down – with the basic backup account costing a matter of a few dollars a month for complete peace-of-mind.
JustCloud are owned by one of the largest cloud storage companies in the world, who operate a wide range of different online backup brands.
This “pedigree” means they have extensive experience in the market and one of the most reliable backup services around.
That said, there is an Achilles heel to their service which has dropped them down to our #2 ranking; namely they a little bit “sneaky” with their pricing structure.
While they do offer excellent value for money, JustCloud seem to do everything possible to hide their pricing and they make it very difficult to really know what you’re signing up for before you get to the payment page.
For example while they promise unlimited cloud storage, the truth is that they offer a range of accounts, with their lowest prices reserved just for their smaller 75GB account.
If you’re seeking their unlimited storage option you’ll find that Livedrive actually works out better value-for-money. However for smaller account where you only need to back up smaller amounts of data, JustCloud – which is run on “best in breed” Google cloud servers is one of the best cloud storage options around both in terms of features and value for money.
If we were going to describe Safecopy in one word it would be “simplicity”.
Quite simply one single Safecopy account will back up all of your computers and mobile devices – irrespective of how many you have.
Having a single, dedicated place where all of your files from all your various devices are backed up easily makes this one of the best cloud storage providers.
Take into account that they currently offer 3GB of storage for free and it’s easy to see why their offering is so tempting.
For any light computer user who has minimal files on their computer that they want to protect, Safecopy is therefore one of the handiest solutions around.
That said, you should be aware that if you need more space than the free account provides (as most average computers will need) their pricing structure is less competitive than either Livedrive or JustCloud hence the reason for rating them as our #3 choice. Apart from this we highly recommend them as a solid solution for your online storage needs.
SugarSync was one of the first cloud storage companies that we ever tested – and we still rate them as one of the better cloud storage accounts (though there are a few issues you should be aware of).
Typically, the average backup provider will keep a copy of all the main files on your computer – such as your music, photos and videos. However what they won’t do is back up other computer files like your emails or Evernote notebooks. For these you’ll need a whole new tool.
Now – for most people this certainly won’t be a deal breaker. After all, how often have you lost an email that you couldn’t find in your trash folder?
But if you’re sending a lot of emails or you spend a lot of time using other cloud apps online, you’d do well to take a look at Sugarsync. One of the things that really makes Sugarsync one of the best cloud storage providers is simply how feature-rich their software is and how it effortlessly interfaces with a whole host of other services.
This means that Sugarsync is one of the few backup providers to have the ability to easily and quickly back up your whole “online life” as well as the files on your hard drive.
That said, it’s only fair that we point out why we moved away from SugarSync in our office. The answer is quite simply that we found their software was quite slow. Not painfully-so, but in comparison to some of Sugarsync’s competitors, waiting for your files to sync can be a frustratingly long-winded process and eventually we got bored with waiting for the software to do it’s job and instead decided to look for a faster solution.
Dropbox is the best-known of all the top-tier cloud storage providers but they’re very much a “Jekyl and Hyde” provider – being fantastic at some things but lagging behind the back in others.
In terms of their strengths, Dropbox not only offers free cloud storage (though you need to pay if you want more storage space) but they’re also one of the simplest and most user-friendly online backup providers around.
Furthermore their service works seamlessly allowing anyone to quickly and easily back up any important files on their hard drive.
So that’s the good. However before you sign up, you should be aware that there are a number of problems with Dropbox. Arguably the biggest – and reason why they’re bottom of our list – is that they don’t offer automated backups.
According to research, the biggest reason why computer users don’t back up daily is quite simply because it doesn’t happen automatically. All of the other providers mention here will back up your files automatically after a short initial setup. After that, all your backup happens behind the scenes without you needing to do anything. In essence, they’re hassle-free and require no effort to maintain your secure backup.
Sadly, Dropbox is different. In order to back up a file to Dropbox you need to manually save it (or drag it) into a specific folder on your desktop. Anything outside of this folder isn’t backed up so to use Dropbox you’ll need to constantly be manually adding any important files to this folder.
Not only is this boring and time-intensive, it’s also a highly risky strategy that encourages you to only backup a handful of your files while leaving the others at risk.
In other words, despite Dropbox’s enviable reputation and large audience of raving fans, in comparison to the best cloud storage accounts we believe they still lack some of the most important online backup features.
We don’t want to sound like we’re belittling Dropbox. They’re a great company but when you line them up against their competitors the fact is that we believe they have a way to go before they take the crown as the best cloud storage provider. If you’d like to learn more you can check out our full review here.
Conclusion: Who Is Really The Best Cloud Storage Provider?
Deciding on who is the top cloud storage provider is never going to be easy and everyone has their own opinions on the providers listed above. However after not only test driving the providers listed above but also comparing their pricing, features and general feedback we currently rate Livedrive as the best cloud storage provider for 2015.
Alternatively, test drive our free cloud storage comparison tool by filling in the form below…
Features to Look for In the Best Cloud Storage Providers
One of the things that makes it so difficult to choose the best cloud storage for your needs is the vast number of different features you need to consider. Sometimes it can feel like cloud storage providers go out of their way to make their services sound as complicated as possible, making comparisons near-on impossible.
We therefore thought it would be useful to draw your attention to what we consider to be the five core features you should be looking at when buying cloud storage. In this way you’ll be able to “drown out the noise” and focus purely on those features which really matter.
When it comes to choosing the best cloud storage, here’s what we suggest you keep an eye out for…
Possibly the most important factor of all when choosing cloud storage is just how much storage capacity you actually get. Clearly you’ll not only want to ensure that you can back up your entire hard drive, but also that you have some room to grow. The last thing you want is to run out of space half way through backing up your computer for the first time!
To get an idea of how much space you’ll need, try examining the amount of data stored on your hard drive at the moment, then add a contingency for future growth. Alternatively, consider one of the accounts that offers unlimited storage so you can feel confident that you’ll never run out of storage space.
When you update a file you end up with two different versions; the original version and the new, updated version. In order to save space, many cloud storage providers will only back up the very latest version of your files. That means that if you make a mistake and want to roll back to an earlier version you’re going to be disappointed.
Generally speaking, cloud storage providers that offer greater numbers of “file versions” are better, as they give you greater flexibility and more options for recovering lost or damaged files.
Deleted File Restoration
When you delete a file off your computer, what happens to the version on your cloud storage account? The answer is “that depends”. Some storage providers will delete the version on your storage account too, in order to help keep down your storage needs.
The question is what happens if you realize you ever need that file again? For example, what if you suddenly realize that you deleted the wrong file? Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to access even files you’ve deleted?
That’s exactly what some of the better cloud storage firms offer. Typically they’ll store deleted files for a specified period of time – such as a month – unless you manually delete them from your backup sooner. A handful will even store deleted files indefinitely so you’ll never lose a file by accidentally deleting it. Remember: the better the deleted file restoration, the safer you’ll be.
Let’s be honest here; very few cloud storage companies offer large free accounts. Don’t misunderstand us; there are some free accounts out there but these typically offer minimal storage space. So you’re almost certainly going to want to invest in a paid account.
The mistake that some people make is that they make price their primary decision making factor. However we believe that’s a mistake. You need to be looking primarily at value – at what you get for what price. The more you get, the better.
We strongly urge you to take price into account when deciding on the best cloud storage for your needs, just don’t make it the only factor you consider when shopping for a new cloud storage account.
To keep you secure, all cloud storage accounts use some kind of encryption. In such a way, when your files are transferring to or from your account over the internet, you can feel safe that your files are protected from prying eyes.
However storage providers use different levels of encryption. If you’re transferring just family photos and simple word processing documents then a standard encryption level will likely be more than sufficient. However if you’re going to be backing up rather more sensitive files like bank accounts or your accounts then you might want to opt for a higher level of encryption. You can learn more about cloud storage encryption here.
The Benefits of Cloud Storage
Online storage companies have gained significantly in popularity as both unmetered broadband and generous cell phone data plans have become commonplace.
As the speed of Internet connections improves while the cost of accessing the web continue to drop, cloud storage is becoming an ever-more practical solution to many common computing problems.
There are four main benefits that the best cloud storage solutions offer to all their customers which can make your computing experience safer, easier and more enjoyable…
Live Backups of Files
When you install cloud storage software on your computer your files will be automatically backed up to your account whenever you connect to the Internet. In this way should you ever be unlucky enough to suffer a loss of data either as a result of a computer malfunction, theft or even an unfortunate accident you can feel confident that restoring all your important files can be both quick and simple.
In most cases, the process simply involves downloading another copy of the software they have been using and then clicking the “restore” button whereupon all their files will download once again from the Internet to their computer.
For those who need to back up huge numbers of files, some of the best cloud storage solutions will even send you out a CD Rom or external hard drive containing all your files to save the time it would take to download all these files over the Internet.
However be aware that it’s not just the fact that these files are stored and backed up that is so powerful; they are also updated live. In the past, backing up a computer generally involved saving important files to an external hard drive or a CD Rom; a process that was manual and time-intensive. Every time you created a new document or changed an old one your backup became out-dated.
Because of this issue, backing up your computer to a cloud storage is really the only real practical solution to this common problem. By selecting one of the best cloud storage accounts available you’ll find that the moment you update any file on your computer these changes will be instantly reflected on your backup, meaning that no matter what should happen to your personal computer you can feel confident that a system restore is both simple and worry-free.
Unlimited Storage Space
Every home computer has only a limited amount of memory to store files on.
Memory-intensive files like video and audio can quickly eat through your memory allowance, forcing difficult decisions about which files to keep and which to delete in order to fit everything onto your computer.
In contrast to this, the best cloud storage solutions have virtually unlimited capacity for storage. You simply need to select which account size is most appropriate for your needs and of course you can upgrade your storage account at any time to facilitate new files.
A small number of online backup providers even offer unlimited cloud storage accounts; perfect for those people who don’t want to worry about file size limits.
This means that no longer will you need to make difficult decisions about what files to keep; you can simply upload the lot to your cloud storage account and rest easy. Even better, many of the most popular accounts will even store unlimited versions of each file so that every time you save a document a new version is created. This can be a life-saver if you realize you just made a mistake with a file and saved it over another.
Increased Computer Speed
The way in which file storage can be “outsourced” to your online backup account can also help to keep your computer lean and fast. Since each computer only has so much memory, storing large memory-sucking files in an external location helps to speed up your computer and allow it to focus on everyday operations rather than on document storage.
Access Files From Anywhere
Whilst not all online backup providers offer this service, many of the best cloud storage services enable you to access your files from any Internet-connected device.
This means that even when you’re away from your home or work computer you’ll still be able to easily gain access to your files and a number of software applications will even let you access, modify and save your documents directly from your smart phone. Blackberry and iPhone users are arguably best serviced, though there are options for those with Android and Symbian phones.
How Cloud Storage Software Works
Dropbox – one of the best cloud storage providers cloud storage software works on a simple set-and-forget model. Typically after registering with a reliable service provider you will be given access to download their own bespoke software onto your computer. As stated previously, mobile applications may also be available depending on the provider you select.
Once you have installed your cloud storage software some initial setup will be required. While the exact process varies from provider to provider most commonly this involves setting up a unique username and password to access your online storage account, creating some simple “rules” about which folders or file types you would like automatically backed up, and how often you would like these backups to occur.
For the best levels of safety and security it is generally advisable to back up all files – even those of your operating system and software applications if possible rather than just your photos, videos and text documents.
Additionally, whilst continual backup may slow down your computer slightly because the software runs in the background checking for new files and uploading these to your account, it is often a compromise worth making as it ensures that your online backup is always up to date and reflects your latest file changes.
Once this initial setup is complete the cloud storage software will begin to upload all your files to your secure backup area. This initial process may take several hours to several days if you have plenty of files to upload, but once this is done the first time, supplementary uploads take a matter of moments and happen in the background while carrying on your normal computer use.
After the initial installation, setup and the upload of your hard drive contents the hard work is all but over. Simply ensure that you keep paying your monthly bills and all your files will be saved securely for ever more without you needing to take any further action.
The software you’re running will then follow the rules you’ve set, keeping your computer files safe and secure at all times and making backups to any new files you create or existing files that you modify.
How Much Does Cloud Storage Cost?
The cost of cloud storage differs considerably based on a range of factors such as the size of the storage account that you need, the company that you use and how many computers you would like covered by their system.
Generally the costs of cloud storage are surprisingly reasonable with some of the best cloud storage companies charging as little as $5-10 per month, though discounts are often available when subscribing for longer periods of time (such as paying for 12 months cover upfront rather than paying on a month-by-month basis).
Most companies won’t tie you into a contract and you have little or no commitment so are free to jump from one service to another if you find a better deal. That said, remember that the initial setup process can take considerable time so settling for one of the better accounts initially is a decision worth putting some time and effort into.
How to Select the Best Cloud Storage
Let’s be honest here; there are a lot of different cloud storage and online backup companies about so selecting the best cloud storage solution can be a pretty daunting task at the best of times.
Over the last few years we’ve not only tested dozens of different online backup providers but we’ve also helped a huge range of other people to select a company that they’re happy with and realistically it seems that choosing the best cloud storage account for your needs really comes down to two distinct elements that should be used in combination.
The first of these elements is to get an understanding of what the differences are between the various cloud storage companies. What sets one apart from another? While there are features that many competitors in the market offer, there can also be subtle differences between them that can make each provider more or less suitable for your individual situation.
For example some providers won’t automatically back up videos. Some won’t back up your software or operating system but instead focus purely on individual document backups. Some offer mobile apps, some offer unlimited accounts and so on.
By not only learning about the various features that are on offer, and then making a fair assessment of your own situation then you’ll quickly be able to narrow down the list of potential providers from dozens to just a limited number of providers that seem to offer all the features you’re seeking – at a price that seems reasonable to you.
The second element is really to examine third-party cloud storage reviews, such as the ones we publish from time to time on this site, in order to gain a fair assessment of which providers are really offering the type of support and customer service that you expect.
After all, if you’re trusting a company with your personal files – and they’re your “backup plan” if anything goes wrong with your computer then examining features isn’t enough; you really need to gain first-hand knowledge from people already using their services in order to ensure that they really do deliver on their promises.
By making a fair analysis of the features that are most useful to you, and then comparing these to feature-lists and first-person cloud storage reviews it should become a relatively simple task to make an informed decision about the best cloud storage provider for your own circumstances.