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Best cloud storage for 2021: How to choose between Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box

If you're looking for a way to store your files and photos in the cloud, we've compared the features and prices on some of the top options.

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Which cloud storage service is for you? We'll help you decide.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Storing files in the cloud has made my life way easier. I can view files and photos from any phone, tablet or computer that's connected to the internet, and download them as needed too. Even if you lose your phone or your computer crashes, cloud storage gives you a backup for files so they'll never get lost. Cloud storage is also important for people working from home who have to share files for their colleages. Many cloud storage services also have a free tier, and different pricing options.

For that reason, we've compiled a guide to the most popular cloud storage services: how they work, their strengths and weaknesses and some lesser-known services if you want to get away from the mainstream. (To be clear, we have not tested these -- rather, we are just providing an overview of some of the top options in the market.)

Cloud storage comparison


OneDrive Dropbox Google Drive Box Amazon Cloud Drive
Free Storage? 5GB 2GB 15GB 10GB 5GB
Paid Plans -$2 per month for 100GB of storage -$70 a year ($7 per month) for 1TB of storage. -Microsoft 365 Family offers a 1-month free trial, then costs $100 a year ($10 per month). -Family package offers 6TB of storage. -$20 a month for one user with 3TB of storage. -$15 a month for 5TB of space for Teams -$25 a month for customizable team storage (With a Google One membership) 100GB: $2 a month or $20 annually, 200GB: $3 a month or $30 annually, 2TB: $10 a month or $100 annually, 10TB: $100 a month, 20TB: $200 a month, 30TB: $300 a month -$10 a month for up to 100GB of storage -Several business plans -Unlimited photo storage with Amazon Prime account -$2 a month for 100 GB, $7 a month for 1TB, $12 a month for 2TB (with Amazon Prime membership)
Supported OS Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, Windows Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, MacOS Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire

Google Drive

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Google Drive gets you 15GB of free storage space.

Google

Google Drive storage

Google combines a complete set of office tools with cloud storage in Google Drive. You get a little bit of everything with this service, including a word processor, spreadsheet application, and presentation builder, plus 15GB of free storage space. There are also Team and Enterprise versions of the service. You can use Google Drive on Android and iOS, as well as on Windows and MacOS desktops.

If you already have a Google account, you can already access Google Drive. You just have to head to drive.google.com and enable the service. You get 15GB of storage for anything you upload to Drive -- including photos, videos, documents, Photoshop files and more. However, you have to share that 15GB with your Gmail account, photos you upload to Google Plus, and any documents you create in Google Drive unless you upgrade your plan with Google One, Google's cloud storage subscription

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A lot of Google One's features can be accessed easily through the app.

Shelby Brown/CNET

Signing up for a Google One membership gets you 100GB of space to use across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos for $2 a month. You'll also get access to a number of other features, like automatic backup for your Android device's photos, messages and contacts.

Read more: Google One FAQ: Everything to know about the cloud storage subscription

Google Drive pricing

Since Google One replaced Paid Google Drive Storage, if you need to expand on your Drive storage beyond the free 15GB, here's how the price breaks down with Google One:

  • 100GB: $2 a month or $20 annually
  • 200GB: $3 a month or $30 annually
  • 2TB: $10 a month or $100 annually
  • 10TB: $100 a month 
  • 20TB: $200 a month
  • 30TB: $300 a month

Microsoft OneDrive

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If you use Windows 8 or 10, OneDrive should be built into your operating system

Getty/SOPA Images

Microsoft OneDrive storage

OneDrive is Microsoft's storage option. If you use Windows 8 or 10, OneDrive should be built into your operating system. You should be able to find it in the file explorer next to all of the files on your computer's hard drive. Anyone can use it on the web, or download the iOS, Android, Mac or Windows app. The service also has its 64-bit sync available in public preview which is helpful for users who are dealing with larger files.

You can store any kind of file in the service, including photos, video and documents, and then access them from any of your computer or mobile devices. The service organizes your files as well, and you can change how OneDrive sorts your items or the layout. Photos can be uploaded automatically when you turn on Camera Upload, organize with automatic tagging and search by the photo contents.

By adding on Microsoft Office apps, you can streamline group work by sharing documents or photos with others to collaborate. OneDrive gives you notifications when something has been edited, lets you set passwords for shared links for extra security and the ability to set a file to be accessible offline. The OneDrive app also supports scanning documents with your phone's camera, signing and sending them. 

In addition, OneDrive backs up your content so even if your device is lost or damaged, your files are protected. There's also a feature called Personal Vault that adds an additional layer of security for your files with identity verification.

Microsoft OneDrive pricing

OneDrive has a basic free tier, with 5GB of free cloud storage, that's upgradable to three different paid plans. Other options include:

  • OneDrive Standalone: $2 a month for 100GB of storage
  • Microsoft 365 personal: $70 a year ($7 a month); offers OneDrive premium features, as well as 1TB of storage. You'll also get access to Skype and Office apps like Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint. 
  • Microsoft 365 Family: One-month free trial and then $100 a year ($10 a month). The Family package offers 6TB of storage as well as OneDrive, Skype and Office apps.

Read more: Microsoft 365: Here's how to get it for free

Dropbox

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Matt Elliott/CNET

Dropbox storage

Dropbox is a favorite in the cloud storage world because it's reliable, easy to use and a breeze to set up. Your photos, documents and files live in the cloud and you can get to them at any time from Dropbox's website, Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as iOS and Android. Dropbox's free tier is accessible across all the platforms. 

You can also have peace of mind when it comes to keeping your file safe with features -- even in the free tier -- like file sync from your phone, camera or SD card, file recovery for anything you've deleted in the past 30 days, and version history which lets you revert edited files back to the original within 30 days. 

Dropbox also offers easy ways to share and collaborate with others on projects -- no more annoying notifications that your attachment is too big. You can create links to share files with others to edit or view, and they don't need to be Dropbox users either. 

With paid tiers users can also take advantage of features like mobile offline folders, remote account wiping, document watermarking and priority live chat support. 

Dropbox pricing

While Dropbox offers a free basic tier, you can upgrade to one of several paid plans with more features. Dropbox's free version offers 2GB of storage along with file sharing, storage collaboration, backup and more. 

  • Individual professional plan: $20 a month, 3TB storage, productivity features, file sharing and more
  • Standard team plan: $15 a month, 5TB of storage
  • Advanced team plan: $25 a month, unlimited storage

Box

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Box has more of an enterprise focus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Box storage

Not to be confused with Dropbox, Box is a separate cloud storage option for files, photos and documents. When compared to Dropbox, Box is similar with features like assigning tasks, leaving comments on someone's work, change notifications and privacy controls. 

For example, you can decide who in your business can view and open specific folders and files, as well as who can edit and upload documents. You can even password-protect individual files and set expiration dates for shared folders.

Overall, while it's available for individual use, Box has more of an enterprise focus with built-in features that are particularly useful for businesses. In addition to collaboration with Box Notes and storage accessible across different platforms, the service offers Box Relay which helps with workflow efficiency, and Box Sign for easy and secure e-signatures.

Business users can also connect other apps, such as Salesforce, so that you can easily save documents to Box. There are also plug-ins for Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, Outlook and Adobe that let you open and edit files saved to Box from those applications.

Box offers three different account types -- Business, Enterprise and Personal -- that work with Windows, Mac and mobile apps. 

Box pricing

Box has a basic free tier with 10GB of storage and a 250MB file upload limit for both desktop and mobile. With the free version, you also can take advantage of file and folder sharing, as well as Office 365 and G Suite integration. You can also upgrade:

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon shopping app
James Martin/CNET

Amazon Cloud Drive storage

Amazon already sells you nearly everything under the sun, and cloud storage is no exception. With Amazon Cloud Drive, the e-commerce giant wants to be the place you store all of your music, photos, videos and other files too. 

When you sign up for Amazon, you get 5GB of free storage to share with Amazon Photos. While Amazon Photos and Drive are both cloud storage, Amazon Photos is specifically for photos and videos with its own app for iOS and Android. In addition, you can upload, download, view, edit, make photo albums and display media on compatible devices. Amazon Drive is strictly file storage, sharing and preview, but it's compatible with file formats like PDF, DocX, Zip, JPEG, PNG, MP4 and more. 

You can use them to save, organize and share your files across desktop, mobile and tablet devices. 

Amazon Cloud Drive pricing

With a basic Amazon account, you'll get 5GB of free storage to share with Amazon Photos. With an Amazon Prime account ($13 per month or $119 annually), you get unlimited photo storage, in addition to the 5GB of video and file storage. You can also upgrade from the boost you get with Amazon Prime -- for $2 a month, you'll get 100GB of storage, for $7 a month you get 1TB, and 2TB for $12 a month.

What about Apple iCloud Drive?

Apple's iCloud Drive isn't included in our list because the service isn't available for Android, and it's really meant to be used within the Apple ecosystem. But if you use iOS and Mac devices, it's a solid choice for cloud storage. For a full run-down of its features, pricing and availability, check out CNET's guide to Apple iCloud Drive.

Other cloud options

Of course, Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box and Amazon aren't your only cloud storage options.

Another is SugarSync, a Dropbox-like alternative with apps for every mobile platform. The service offers personal and business plans with a 30-day free trial to start. With a personal SugarSync account, you get 250GB for $10 a month. The service offers secure file-sharing (even if they don't have an account), collaboration, file syncing, as well as remote data wipe in the event of loss, theft or damage. 

A business account is $55 a month ($550 annually) and offers 1TB of storage, admin control, remote wipe for synced devices, and more. 

Another option for cloud storage is iDrive. The service offers unlimited backup on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android, with the option to connect external hard drives. Files and folders can be synced across all the connected devices. You can sign up and get a free 5GB plan and upgrade later. 

There are personal and business packages as well. iDrive Personal supports one user -- 5TB for about $52 per year, or 10TB for about $75 per year (this was a limited time sale at time of publication). iDrive also offers paid Team, Business and Enterprise plans.

For more, check out how to share files with your team while working from home and the best Wi-Fi extender for almost everybody.

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