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Best Cloud Storage Software Options

Here are the best options for cloud storage that makes it easier than ever to back up photos, videos and files.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
7 min read
Cloud storage icons on a phone screen

Do you use a cloud storage service? Here's what you need to know.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's never a bad time to take steps to protect your precious files. Backing your data up on an external storage drive is a great place to start, but you'll want to keep the most important stuff somewhere that can never be lost, damaged or stolen. That means you'll want to use the best cloud storage service available; one that allows you to access your files whenever, wherever, while also saving space on your phone, tablet or computer.

There are plenty of free cloud storage services available, whether your needs are professional or personal. Many offer upgraded paid plans, which means it's easy to find a plan that can meet your needs to keep your data stored safely. For this article's purposes, we'll be focusing on plans for the average person.

We've compiled a guide to the most popular cloud storage services: how they work, their strengths and weaknesses. We've even included some lesser-known services if you want to get away from the mainstream. To be clear, we haven't tested these services -- this is an overview and some analysis of some of the top options in the market.

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage is a type of computer data storage that allows your files to be immediately available on almost any internet-connected device anywhere. Files are stored on servers in a data center, instead of directly on your device.

Cloud storage comparison

Google DriveMicrosoft One DriveApple iCloudDropbox
Free storage 15GB5GB5GB2GB
Paid plans Basic offers 100GB of storage for $2 a month ($20 annually); Premium offers 2TB of storage for $10 a month ($100 annually); AI Premium offers 2TB of storage with Gemini support for $20 a month.Microsoft 365 Basic offers 100GB of storage for $2 a month ($20 annually); Microsoft 365 Personal offers 1TB of storage and costs $7 a month ($70 annually); Microsoft 365 Family offers 6TB of storage and costs $10 a month ($100 annually)iCloud Plus offers 50GB for $1 a month; 200GB for $3 a month; 2TB for $10 a month; 6TB for $30 a month; 12TB for $60 a monthDropbox Plus offers 2TB of storage for $12 a month (or $120 billed annually); Dropbox Essentials offers 3TB for $20 a month (or $199 billed annually)
Supported OS Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and browsersWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android and browsersMacOS, iOS, Windows, Apple TV and browsersWindows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux and browsers

Best cloud storage service options

Sarah Tew/CNET


  • Affordable, customizable personal plans with features that make sense for the average user
  • Neat management in a dedicated app
  • Easy to use for existing Google accounts 


  • No VPN included anymore

How much free space you get
Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage.

What you'll pay for 
If you're looking to expand your personal plan (which defaults as a basic free account), you'll need to check out Google One.

Google One offers four different membership plans: Free, Basic, Premium and AI Premium. The Basic plan provides 100GB for $2 per month. The Google One app makes it easy to manage your account, swap between plans, free up account storage and take advantage of special member benefits. The AI Premium tier, which sets you back $20 per month, includes 2TB of storage along with a Gemini Advanced chatbot support. Gemini even seamlessly integrates into Google apps like Gmail and Google Docs to help you edit drafts or create visuals for Slides presentations.

If you visit Google's Workspace website, you'll see business plans between $6 and $18 per month per user -- the Enterprise plan, which supports 1,000 video meeting participants and offers 5TB of total storage, doesn't have a price listed (it says "Contact sales for pricing"). Every business plan comes with a 14-day free trial. 

Supported OS 
Google One and Google Drive business accounts are supported across Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows and web browsers.

Bottom line
If you're looking to expand your personal storage, Google One is an easy-to-use app that demystifies cloud storage and how to get the most out of your plan. 

Sarah Tew/CNET


  • Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family offer a ton of storage for a reasonable price


  • There isn't a middle-ground option to get a ton of storage without extra features

How much free space you get
Microsoft OneDrive offers 5GB of free storage with the Free account.

What you'll pay for
Microsoft has a robust selection of plans. For personal needs, users can choose between Microsoft 365 Free, Basic, Personal and Family plans. Personal and Family offer the most bang for your buck, but if you're just looking for storage, these options are loaded with features you don't need. Microsoft 365's entry-level Basic tier includes 100GB of storage for $20 annually (or $2 monthly) which might be a better choice if the free 5GB plan is a bit too limiting, but the 1TB and 6TB plans are overkill. 

Supported OS 
Microsoft OneDrive works on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS and browsers.

Bottom line 
Microsoft's plans offer generous packages at reasonable prices for the average user.



  • Paid tiers are affordable
  • Strong focus on privacy
  • Homekit integration


  • Account creation only available on iOS
  • Not all Plus subscribers use HomeKit

How much free space you get
Apple iCloud offers 5GB of free storage for all Apple device owners.

What you'll pay for
If 5GB isn't enough space, you can upgrade to iCloud Plus and get 50GB for $1 per month, 200GB for $3 per month, 2TB for $10 per month, 6TB for $30 per month or 12TB for $60 per month. All paid plans include Private Relay, Hide My Email, HomeKit Secure Video and Family Sharing for up to five family members.

Supported OS 
Apple's iCloud storage is available for MacOS, iOS, TVOS, Windows and browsers. 

Bottom line 
Apple iCloud is an easy cloud storage service for Apple users to check out because it's already native to the device. Upgrading from the basic tier is easy and Apple thankfully doesn't tuck away useful features behind the highest-priced plan.



  • Clean, easy-to-navigate website
  • App integrations with Slack, Asana, Zoom, Google Workspace and more


  • Offers the least amount of free storage of any cloud storage provider we tested
  • Expensive plans
  • Personal plans don't differ enough to warrant separate, differently priced plans compared with the Family Plan

How much free space you get
Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage

What you'll pay for
Dropbox provides Plus and Family plans for $12 per month ($10 per month billed annually) and $20 per month ($17 per month billed annually) respectively. Both plans offer 2TB of storage, with Family divvying up the space among six users. Based on the site's comparison, there don't appear to be enough differences to warrant charging almost double for the Family plan. For more than 2TB of storage space, you can sign up for Essentials, which offers one user 3TB of storage for $20 per month (or $16.58 per month billed annually).

For small- medium- or large-sized businesses, Dropbox offers Business, which costs $18 per user per month (or $15 per user per month billed annually) or Business Plus for $30 per user per month ($24 per user per month billed annually). 

Supported OS 
Dropbox works on Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and iOS.

Bottom line 
Dropbox's plans are loaded with features but offer very little middle ground for user customization. Adding one more personal plan ahead of its Plus tier could give customers a bridge between 2GB and 2TB. 

Other cloud storage options

Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and iCloud aren't your only cloud storage options. 

SugarSync is 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 100GB for $7.49 a month, $250GB for $10 a month or 500GB for $19 a month. The service offers secure file-sharing (even for folks without an account), collaboration, file syncing, as well as remote data wipes in the event of loss, theft or damage. 

Another option for cloud storage is pCloud. The service offers annual and lifetime plans for individuals, families and businesses. pCloud doesn't limit file sizes and doesn't throttle your upload or download speeds. While your pCloud files are securely stored on the company's servers, you can add an extra layer of protection by purchasing pCloud Encryption, which provides client-side encryption -- the encrypted versions of your files are stored on pCloud servers, but the plain-text files stay on your computer. With your pCloud Encryption password, you can encrypt or decrypt your files. 

You can subscribe to Premium 500GB ($50 a year, $200 for a lifetime subscription), Premium Plus 2TB ($100 a year, $400 for a lifetime subscription) or Ultra 10TB Plan ($1,190 for a lifetime subscription). Family 2TB runs you $595 for life, while Family 10TB costs $1,499 for a lifetime subscription. Business includes 1TB of storage space per user for $10 per month per user ($8 per month per user billed annually), and Business Pro sports 2TB of storage space per user for $20 per month per user ($16 per month per user billed annually). Customers can start with annual plans and upgrade to lifetime plans later if they choose.

Cloud storage: Terms to know

Cloud: This refers to software and services that are stored on the internet, instead of locally on your computer or phone. The cloud allows you to access your files anywhere with an internet connection.

Data center: Even though your files are stored in the cloud, there is still physical hardware involved. The company that you've purchased cloud storage from -- like Google or Apple -- will have actual servers where customer information lives. 

Terabyte: A terabyte is a unit of measurement for digital data. One terabyte equals about 1,000GB. 

Google Drive and OneDrive online cloud storage

Which cloud storage service is right for you? 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Frequently asked questions

How do I clear my cloud storage?

The process for clearing your cloud storage may vary depending on which service you use. In the Google One app, for example, there's a Free Up Account Storage button. 

Why use cloud storage? 

Instead of having to remember a thumb drive, or emailing items to yourself, cloud storage lets you access your files, documents and photos on demand. If your computer or phone crashes, you don't have to worry about losing your content, because those files are stored on a separate server. Cloud storage can be a convenient option because options like Google One, iCloud and OneDrive are built into services many use on a daily basis. Cloud storage also lets you keep your device's local storage freed up.

Is cloud storage safe? 

According to Norton, cloud storage is a safe option for users because the on-site servers are usually located in warehouses that few employees have access to. In addition, the files stored on the servers are encrypted, adding another layer of security. 

No type of digital storage is risk-free, but cloud storage services also offer more immediate security features like two-factor authentication and security checkups. Privacy and security features may vary between services.

How much cloud storage do I need? 

How much storage you'll need will depend on what you're storing. A student will likely need a smaller storage plan than a professional photographer. If your needs change, most plans let you easily upgrade or downgrade.

For more information, check out how to clear up space in your Google Drive and the best iPhones of 2024.

Sarah Mitroff contributed to this article.

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