If you’re shopping for cloud storage, one of the big decisions you’ll make is how much of it to pay for. Starting at free plans for a few gigabytes to expensive subscriptions that offer several terabytes of storage space; you have a lot of choice.
To see how much space you need, it’s probably best to first figure out what type of files you’ll be storing, how many of them—and also why. For example, if you’re an individual that just wants a safe place to back up their family photos, you’ll have very different demands from a professional photographer that uses the cloud as a place to store work product.
As a rule, media files take up a great deal more space than text files do. A week’s worth of work from a tech writer at How-To Geek is a couple of MB, at best, while a photographer will likely shoot several GB worth of pictures in that same time. That’s not to mention people working with video, who can easily fill up a TB or two without breaking a sweat.
Picking the Plan for You
As a result of the difference in file size between different formats, your needs may be very different than that of another reader. To help you get an idea of what’s out there, we’ve put together three categories of plan. We’ve kept them broad on purpose, and there’s quite some room for maneuver in each.
Free: Up to 20GB
The first tier is people who don’t use cloud storage much or who mostly store text files with the odd image thrown in; let’s say people who need less than 20GB. In that case, there’s probably no need to pay for cloud storage as a free plan is likely all you need. The only reason you’d pay for storage is if you want some premium features: for example, Apple offers some special email features as well as its VPN-like Private Relay if you upgrade to iCloud+.
To get an idea of what’s out there, we’ve put together a selection of the best free cloud storage providers so you can see which suits you best. You have a lot of options here, and there’s no reason you can’t mix and match—for example, leaving your photos with one service and your documents with another.
Google Drive is a good option as it gives you a whopping 15GB for free, as well as giving you a lot of options for image storage through Google Photos. There’s also a nice productivity suite attached, including a word processor, Google Docs, and a spreadsheet tool, Google Sheets.
Also, don’t forget that Apple and Microsoft both also have free storage included in their accounts, which there’s a good chance you already use. Apple’s iCloud offers 5GB and some nifty backup features, while Microsoft’s OneDrive also offers 5GB and access to a productivity suite including Office Online.
Whatever you go for, there’s no real reason to pay for cloud storage if you need less than 20GB of storage space unless you need some exotic features. If your needs are modest, there are plenty of trustworthy free storage providers.
Medium: 100GB to 500GB
It could be that you need more than 20GB. A good example is if you’re storing a lot of pictures or running a small business with a lot of documents and more being created all the time. In that case, you may want to consider upgrading a little.
Many cloud storage providers offer plans in this segment. One good pick if you really only need a little more space is IceDrive, which has a pleasantly priced plan for 150GB which only costs around $20-$25 per year. This one is good if you just need extra space to store snaps or large documents.
Another good option is pCloud, which offers 500GB for around $50 per year. This is a big step up from 150GB, but it’s perfect for people that want to archive pictures or even a modest amount of video.
Large: 1TB and up
Our third and last group are the people that just need a lot of space. We suspect most of this group will be professional video and image editors that will leave most hard drives smoking if they try to store all their files on their machines.
Thanks to the lowering costs of data storage, these people are in a better position than ever before, with many providers vying for their custom. All our previous mentions have plans for them, as do Sync.com and OneDrive, though Microsoft’s offering is very expensive.
Generally speaking, you can expect to pay around $50 for 1TB per year (OneDrive is $70 per year). IceDrive offers 1TB for $50, while Sync.com and pCloud both offer 2TB for around $100. If you need more space than that, most services will have you covered with custom plans, though at around the 5TB mark, it may become a better deal to invest in external hard drives instead.
Microsoft 356 is a great value here: It gives you access to 1TB a person for up to six people (so up to 6TB total) for $99.99 per year—plus it includes access to Microsoft Office for all those people.
When it comes to cloud storage services, the customer is king: there’s a lot of competition in this market, and it definitely pays to shop around. Whatever size plan you need, there are going to be more than a few options out there, so make sure to shop around.