Our digital belongings are more important than ever. Most people now have digital photos, videos and other files which are extremely valuable to them, and losing them is a big worry. Backing up files should be something that everyone thinks carefully about. There many cost effective ways to do it, including using free cloud storage – so there is no excuse not to.
Traditional backups are physical in nature. Using external hard drives, USB sticks and SD cards is a great idea. Everyone should have at least one physical backup of their most important files and folders, but you should also keep a digital backup. Cloud storage services are perfect for this.
What is the cloud?
The cloud may sound ethereal and complicated, but it couldn’t be simpler. When people talk about the cloud, they simply mean an online resource, which is usually storage. This resource can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection via a secure login.
Cloud storage is hugely convenient and readily available. Most services offer a good amount of free storage as well as large paid storage solutions. For most people the free services which are available will be more than enough storage. The convenience of being able to access your files from the cloud wherever you are is a huge plus point. Services such as Google Photos allow you to access your photos from your phone even if you don’t have them saved on the phone itself.
Cloud storage services
Below is a list of the five biggest providers of free cloud storage. They are all reputable and trustworthy sites which provide a free allowance and paid options.
Dropbox was initially released in 2007 and is generally considered to be the originator of cloud based file storage and synchronisation. It is simple to use and offers both free and paid for options.
|1TB||£7.99 per month|
|2TB||£19.99 per month|
Dropbox offers an excellent service and seamless syncing, with various individual plans. It differs from the other options on this list because of local dropbox folders. Dropbox is also excellent at syncing and sharing all your files across multiple devices.
Dropbox will install a folder on your Mac or PC which you can drag and drop files into just like any other folder on your computer. This method is very convenient and intuitive. Files saved in your Dropbox folder will automatically sync with the cloud service, and in turn with all other instances of Dropbox on your other devices.
This process is all done behind the scenes and is a big reason why Dropbox is so popular. If you have a desktop computer, a laptop, tablet and a smartphone Dropbox allows your files to always be in sync across all these devices.
This is a great option if you want to keep costs down. Google offer a massive 15GB of storage absolutely free.
|200GB||£2.99 per month|
|2TB||£9.99 per month|
|30TB||£239.99 per month|
What makes using Google Drive even simpler is the fact that if you already have a Gmail account, then you can use the same login information. In fact, you can use your Google login to use a whole host of Google cloud based applications. Photos, Docs, Sheets and Keep are all free to use and seamlessly sync together using your Google Drive storage.
Should 15GB not be sufficient for your needs, Google One offers lots of paid options from 100GB to 30TB. The 100GB storage currently costs £1.59 a month. The larger options available are aimed at businesses who require massive amounts of connected online storage.
Overall Google Drive is a great choice. 15GB for free beats the competition, and gives you access to Google’s full suite of online applications.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service. You may have been invited to join if you own a Windows machine
|50GB||£1.99 per month|
|1TB||£5.99 per month|
|6TB||£7.99 per month|
In conjunction with the prices above, it is also worth knowing that the 1TB & 6TB services come with Office 365 included. Office 365 gives you access to Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. All of these can be installed on your phone, tablet and computer.
If you do go for Office 365 Home or Personal, you will gain access to some smart security and productivity tools.
- Offline folders – access folders on mobile without being online.
- Document scan – use your phone to scan and save documents to the cloud.
- Link expiration – set expiry dates on shared links which gives others access for a limited amount of time.
- 30 day file restore – recover accidentally deleted files
The free version of OneDrive doesn’t come with these advanced features. Visit the OneDrive Plans page to view the different pricing options.
The iCloud from Apple is something that will be familiar to most iPhone users. If you do have an iPhone, then you should check whether you are already using the service.
iCloud is fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem. So if you have an iPhone or iPad, you probably use some of the iCloud features already. Using the iCloud on various Apple devices means that things such as apps, photos and contacts are synced smoothly and automatically.
|50GB||£0.79 per month|
|200GB||£2.49 per month|
|2TB||£6.99 per month|
Free cloud storage is offered by all the big players, including Amazon.
|100GB||£1.42 per month|
|1TB||£6.67 per month|
|5TB||£33.33 per month|
To take full advantage of the Amazon Drive, you may want to become a Prime member. If you have a Prime account then you can use Amazon Photos to store unlimited photos.
Amazon Drive has a desktop app which can be downloaded. This is designed to work with the Amazon Music service and Amazon Photos. Using this app you can see the status of your files and utilise live synchronisation.
For security you can activate 2-factor authentication through your Amazon account. This extra security measure is a welcome addition, and will also beef up protection of you Amazon Prime account.
5GB of free storage is the same as offered by Microsoft and Apple. Although for the higher capacity options, the price rises quite drastically.
More advanced cloud storage solutions
If you require a more comprehensive cloud storage solution, then there are more advanced services available. These services may be better suited to businesses or power users.
Services such as IDrive can sync files saved on network drives. Mega and Box offer a high level of security and encryption alongside powerful business options. pCloud Premium Plus is suited to users who regularly exchange very large files.
No matter your requirements, there are plenty of free and paid cloud storage solutions out there. Makes sure you pick the one which best suits your needs.
Best Free Cloud Storage – Verdict
When considering what cloud storage service to use you should look at the devices that you own. For instance, if you have a Windows PC then OneDrive will integrate very well as both are Microsoft products. Similarly, owning an iPhone means that you can seamlessly use Apple’s iCloud.
If you don’t want to be locked into Microsoft’s or Apple’s digital ecosystem, then a stand alone product such as Dropbox is much more appealing. Dropbox also gives you a desktop folder where you can easily see all your synced files. Always having access to the latest versions of your documents, across multiple devices is a big plus point.
Being a member of Amazon Prime means that you can take advantage of their excellent unlimited photo storage. However, in order to keep this perk you would have to remain a member of Amazon Prime
Our top pick
In our opinion, the best option for most users will be Google Drive. 15GB of free storage comfortably beats what all of the other services offer. In addition to this free cloud storage, having a Google account gives you access to a great productivity suite which is also free. Google Docs, Sheets, Mail and Calendar are all provided alongside Google Drive, and documents created within these apps will automatically be saved in your drive.
As you can see in the tables above, all of these providers also offer paid pricing plans. These subscriptions are best for people with lots of digital storage requirements and perhaps small businesses. For most users, the free options will provide more than enough extra cloud storage.
Try them all!
Remember, you can always sign up to all of these services and take advantage of their free cloud storage packages. This may not be the most efficient or neat solution. Having all your files in one place is hugely convenient. If this doesn’t worry you however, then go ahead and create your free account for each site.
Backing up you files is more important than ever. We all have a collection of digital memories that need to be looked after. Don’t ignore the need to backup your photos and other important files and folders. Phones and laptops break, hard drives fail. Make sure that you are covered by taking advantage of free cloud storage.