As is often the case with online services, paid cloud storage subscriptions bring out the best features and capabilities in a service, but most users prefer to experiment with free plans first. Some eventually make the jump to paid plans, while others intend to obtain the maximum amount of possible storage without spending a single dime. If the previous description fits your profile, you’ve come to the right place.
Before diving further into the article, we’d like to mention that this particular list only includes cloud storage services that are useable for free in the long run. Meaning we won’t cover services that only offer free trials, nor will we mention services offering time-limited accounts. As a side note, free trials are a great way of test-driving a potential cloud storage service. If you’re looking for the top 10 cloud storage providers regardless of pay, click here.
To each and every one of us, the word “best” may have different meanings. For example, some may just want as much free cloud storage space as they can get, while others may prize enhanced security, and others still will be looking for the ability to play videos or open documents directly in a browser. To help solve potentially confusing recommendations, we’ll outline the best free cloud storage services based on storage space, functionality and security.
Storage Space – MEGA
If getting the biggest amount possible of cloud storage space is top priority, then MEGA should be your first choice, as the service offers 50 GB of free cloud storage space to new users.
Unfortunately, although MEGA offers significantly more free cloud storage space than any other competitor, the reality is there are many aspects where MEGA needs to improve. One downside of MEGA is the highly simplistic web interface: all you can really do is upload new files or download older ones. There is no document editing/preview mode, videos cannot be previewed in the browser, and the service is not as reliable as we’d want it to be.
Here is a quick review of MEGA’s Pros & Cons:
- 50 GB of free cloud storage
- Sync app for Windows
- No video preview in the web browser
- No document preview in the web browser
- No app available for Mac or Linux
Web-based Interface – Google Drive
Although a lot of people hold a grudge against Google for one reason or the other, the reality is that Google Drive is one of the best free (and paid) cloud storage services currently out there. Google Drive offers 15 GB of cloud storage space right off the bat, which is more than most other free cloud storage providers, and has a dedicated “Sync” app that’s available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android.
The best thing about Google Drive is that its web-based interface includes a myriad of features that stand out from the crowd. This includes the ability to edit/view documents, slidesheets and presentations (even Microsoft Office formats such as doc, xls, or ppt can be imported), complete with a real-time collaboration feature. Other strong points of Google Drive include the ability to preview music, videos, and images directly from any browser, and the ability to create permissions for the people you share files and folders with.
On the downside, many experts have criticized the lack of any security guarantees from Google. In the light of the recent PRISM scandal, this should weigh-in a lot when deciding to go for one cloud storage provider or the other based on security.
Here is a quick review of the Google Drive’s Pro & Cons:
- 15 GB of free cloud storage
- Sync app available for PC, MAC, iOS and Android
- Best cloud storage web-based interface
- Real-time collaboration feature
- No Linux app
- Lacks advanced security measures (Google can access your files if they want to)
Data Security – Dropbox
When it comes to data security, Dropbox is one of the best cloud storage providers that you can choose from. Dropbox uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to transmit data between server and machine, and AES-256 bit encryption to encode the actual data. Furthermore, Dropbox users can opt to implement a two-step verification feature for added security.
When it comes to the amount of storage Dropbox offers for free, most users will probably need more than the 2 GB offered right out of the box. Fortunately, there are multiple tasks you can do in order to increase the free storage quota, out of which the most important one is referring your friends. You get 500 MB for each user referred to Dropbox, up to a total of 16 GB.
As far as the features go, Dropbox is right up there with the best of them, with a file sync app that’s available for most platforms, and a web-based interface that can preview videos, music and images, as well as a bunch of document formats.
Here’s a quick review of the Dropbox Pros & Cons:
- SSL & AES-256 bit encryption
- Two-step verification
- Good web-based interface
- Earn up to 16GB of additional storage space by referring your friends
- Just 2GB of free cloud storage initially
At the end of the day, you’re probably going to want to use Dropbox or Google Drive as your main cloud storage services, given that they are free and very versatile. You can try to combine the two stellar free cloud storage providers to gain more space. For instance, you can use Google Drive for your documents, and Dropbox for other files.
Do you know of a free cloud storage service that deserves to be on this list? Drop us a comment and we’ll see if it makes the cut!