Cloud storage services computing (we have already dealt with what cloud means, "on the cloud" or on the Internet) are used to store any type of file or information on an online space.
Basically it is as if the files were saved in a virtual hard disk, always available from every computer connected to the internet (cloud services are offered by large servers connected to each other and always available anywhere in the globe).
If you are new to cloud services and don't know which one to choose, we will show you in this guide what parameters to use to choose the best cloud drive storage service among all those available, comparing them.
Best free cloud services to save files online
The various services are very similar to each other: they offer one online storage space, files can be accessed anywhere and from any device, files can be shared with other people, and support file synchronization so that if a document is edited on one computer, the changes are propagated to all other computers or devices mobile instantly.
Everyone can register an account in these free services, but it is obvious that they cannot be kept on the PC or on the devices all together (if you want you can also do it but we risk making too much confusion) so, to choose the best one, we will perform a comparison of the best cloud services also free by looking at the paid options to increase storage space.
The discussion will mainly focus on three most used services: OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox.
1) Supported platforms
Let's take a look at the supported platforms, so you can only choose the service that supports all of our devices:
- Dropbox is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android devices.
- Windows OneDrive is available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone and Android phones
- Google Drive is currently available for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
None of these support Windows XP.
Another very important parameter for choosing a cloud computing service is the space offered free of charge for users, who will thus be able to save the right amount of files based on the chosen service.
- Dropbox offers 2 GB of free online storage (can be increased in a few guided steps);
- Onedrive offers 5 GB of storage space to new users while the old ones could use 25 GB for free;
- Google Drive instead offers a space of 15 GB which, however, is also used by the Gmail and Google+ applications.
Other cloud storage such as Box.net, pCloud, Yandex, Ozibox, Syncplicity allow you to save files in the cloud (cloud) up to 10 GB while Amazon Cloud, Cubby, Sync, iDrive, Apple's iCloud, Asus Web Storage offer 5GB as Onedrive.
One of the services with the largest storage space is Mega, which offers 50 GB usable from any platform.
Using the synchronization program on your computer, you can upload files of any size to Dropbox and Google Drive while with the Onedrive client you cannot upload files over 10 GB online (which is really a lot).
Dropbox allows you to upload files up to 300 MB from the web browser, while this limit is 1 GB in the case of Google Drive.
3) Paid storage plans
Regarding the prices to expand the cloud storage, let's see together the applicable prices:
- dropbox: starting from € 10 per month with 1 TB of available space;
- OneDrive: starting from € 10 per month (or € 99 per year) with 5 TB usable by 5 users (1 TB per user);
- Google Drive: starting from € 2 per month for 100 GB, or € 10 per month for 1 TB.
The prices between the various competitors are in line with each other, but Google Drive offers the cheapest subscription (to have 100 GB), while OneDrive offers the most complete service thanks to the integration with Office 365 Home included in the subscription (we can edit and create documents in online sharing).
4) Website and file viewer
Both Onedrive and Dropbox provide web applications equipped with file viewers for most common files, including Office documents, PDFs, videos and images.
Since Google Docs is a universal online viewer, Google Drive is definitely number one for this feature.
Note that Box.net connects to Google Docs to view files online via browser.
5) File history
- Free Dropbox account saves file history for 30 days - if you accidentally delete or modify a file, you can easily revert to the previous version within the next 30 days.
- Both Onedrive and Google Drive store previous versions of all files even if it is not known for how long.
If you delete a file or folder within the Onedrive web app, it is deleted forever, while, in the case of Dropbox and Google Drive, the files are moved to the Trash from where they can be easily restored.
6) Account and data security
- Since Google Drive is linked to your Google account, you can set up security with two steps of verification for Google login, very powerful indeed.
- This additional level of protection is also available for Dropbox and Onedrive which binds to the Microsoft account and also for iCloud which binds to the Apple account.
Using a plugin you can protect files saved in Dropbox with a password on your computer
7) Search for files
Google Drive is clearly superior in this respect to the others that do not allow you to find words and text within documents, PDFs and even scanned images saved in the cloud.
8) Offline Access
The mobile applications of Dropbox and Google Drive allow you to save any document or file on your mobile for offline use.
Google Docs can also be used offline on your computer by enabling the function manually.
9) Selective synchronization
If you have multiple computers, these cloud drives copy files to all machines where the client application is installed.
Sometimes, however, you do not want this to happen and both Onedrive and Dropbox and Google Drive offer the possibility to synchronize folders selectively, excluding others.
10 ) Sharing and collaboration
All three big ones allow you to share files by sending the link via email or chat, so you can work on a document in a group even at the same time (documents written by several hands).
In conclusion the best cloud storage services for online file storage are:
1) Microsoft OneDrive, 5 GB of free space upon registration, also offers the possibility to download all the files of any other computer connected from the browser.
Onedrive is mandatory for those who often use Microsoft Office because it gives the possibility to edit documents in the web browser, preserving the formatting and is integrated as a cloud service within Windows 10, so using it is much easier than other services.
2) Google Drive it has the nicest interface, great search function, integration with Google Chrome and Gmail, Google Office applications and great online collaboration features.
Those who live and use Google web applications will undoubtedly choose this service.
3) dropbox has the smallest free space online with only 2GB available for free but easily expandable at no cost.
Dropbox wins over all if you think of the numerous applications and plugins that can enhance its service (you can do a search from the search box of our site to find many different uses of Dropbox).
Other cloud services
In addition to these three we have mentioned in this article many other cloud services that can be viewed below:
1) Apple iCloud, offers 5GB space and is only useful for saving the backup of settings and photos from iPhone and iPad;
2) Amazon Drive free only with Amazon Prime subscription;
3) Box.netOffers 10 GB free, it is very reliable even if more oriented to business users and companies;
4) pCloud, which offers 10 GB for free and the guarantee of an ultra-secure and secure cloud service;
5) Hubic, currently the one that offers the most free storage space, a whopping 25GB;
6) Yandex Disk, Russian service, with 10 GB of free online disk space;
7) Asus WebStorage, convenient service for those who have a smartphone, a tablet or an Asus PC, with 5 GB of free space;
8) iDrive 5GB of space and complete, encrypted security;
9) iDrive, among the best online backup sites;
10 ) MEGA Cloud with 50 GB of space but so many legal problems that make it unreliable.
Comparison of free Cloud Drive to save files online