Are you still saving files on your computer’s disk or keeping photos and videos on your phone? Why not store them online? Get free cloud storage and encrypted cloud storage for your files.
Disk drives on computers grew as the cost of them fell and the price per gigabyte of storage became cheaper than ever. We created and stored increasing amounts of data on them. Then solid-state drives replaced them and the amount of storage was much reduced because of their increased cost.
Fortunately, cloud storage has increased in capacity and the price per gigabyte has fallen in recent years. Where once we would store files on a big hard disk in the computer, now we can use super-fast SSDs and store files online in the cloud, accessed by high-speed internet connections instead. Local storage is needed much less these days now that we can work with files online.
Phones quickly fill with photos and videos and uploading them to online storage is useful for avoiding running out of space. Saving them elsewhere also means that if something happens to the phone, you will not lose all of your photo and video memories.
Where should you store files online? Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box are among the most popular and need no explanation from me. Who hasn’t got an account with one or more of these? OneDrive is built into Windows and Google Drive comes with Android phones.
A big advantage of Google Drive, OneDrive, Box and Dropbox is the ability to create and manage documents and collaborators online. Google and Microsoft office suites are excellent for documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. Box lets you create office documents and Dropbox has extra tools like Paper, teams and collaboration features.
However, if you are looking for an alternative to these, here are three services that could be just what you need. They offer free and paid accounts, encrypted cloud storage and up to 10 PB of space. One-time payments mean that they work out cheaper in the long term than pay-monthly services.
- Backup your PC to online storage for free with CBackup
- Solve sync problems with OneDrive on the Apple Mac
- Take control of Microsoft OneDrive sync settings and options
- Remove Duplicate Files from One or Multiple Dropbox Accounts
pCloud cloud drive
pCloud offers 2 TB of online cloud storage in its top paid plan, but if you do not need that amount, there is a cheaper plan that provides 500 GB. There are also business and family plans, monthly, annual and lifetime on-time payment plans.
When I visited, I was offered a one-off payment of $149 for lifetime storage, which is a 65% discount on the normal price. I don’t know how long this offer will last, so it may or may not be available when you visit.
How much space you need depends on what you want to use it for and you can get up to 10 GB for free. That’s the plan I have and you can sign up and install the apps on a PC, Mac and phone easily enough.
You start off with 2 GB of free space and earn more, one gigabyte at a time, by performing tasks like installing apps, uploading and downloading files, sharing a link with friends and so on. I earned 7 GB of space in about five minutes.
A minor irritation with the installation and setup is that the default settings are to upload almost everything from your computer and phone. A couple of days after signing up, you could find yourself out of storage space, so pay attention and clear all the upload and backup options if you don’t want them or don’t have sufficient online storage.
pCloud encourages you to back up everything on your devices online, which some people will find useful, but you may not want it if you already have backups elsewhere. It can also back up other online storage, like Google Drive and Photos, Dropbox, Facebook and OneDrive.
A nice feature of pCloud is that 256-bit AES encryption for all files on paid plans and there is an option for an extra layer of encryption. There are also five copies of files on different servers, so you should not lose files.
pCloud web access and apps
Like OneDrive, Google Drive and other online cloud storage, pCloud can be accessed using a web browser. Windows PC, Apple Mac iPhone and Android phone apps are available too.
Some folders are ready made, like My Music, My Pictures and My Videos, and you can make whatever others you need. Files can be uploaded by dragging them from the computer and dropping them on the web browser or by clicking the Upload button.
Files and folders are shown in list or grid views and the latter is useful for the My Pictures folder where images are shown as large thumbnails. A search facility enables you to find files if you know the full or partial name.
Files and folders can be shared in two ways. A link can be created that gives anyone with the link access to the item and they don’t need to be pCloud members or you can invite other pCloud members to access a folder. Permission can be granted or denied to download files, upload files, password protect files, and set an expiry date. The sharing features are good and you have a lot of control over who can do what.
Photos can be viewed and videos and music played, all within a web browser provided they are in common file formats. You can even create playlists for music and save them.
I tried the Android phone app and found it to be pretty good. It enables you to browse the online storage, view photos and videos, and listen to music. Playlists can be created, whole albums stored and music streamed. pCloud could be your personal music streaming service. Photos and videos can automatically be uploaded and stored online if you don’t already do this elsewhere. Files can also be made available offline too.
One or more folders on a PC or Mac can be created and automatically synced to your online storage in a similar way to OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and others. This works well and only slightly slower than OneDrive, which I normally use. There is also a virtual drive. It looks like all of your pCloud folders and files are on the computer, but really the files are online. It is similar to OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature and you have access to everything, but without using local disk space.
I found pCloud to be good. Encryption costs extra, but is worth it if you really value your privacy and security.
- Cheap one-time payment for online storage
- Back up folders to the cloud
- Sync folders on a PC or Mac
- Browse photos, play music or videos
- Good phone app
- Swiss privacy laws
- Encryption costs extra
- Lacks Microsoft’s and Google’s online office suites
Internxt cloud drive
Internxt provides cloud storage for your files and a massive 10 TB of space is available if you need it. Most people will not need that much and 1 TB was available for a one-time fee of $112 when I visited the site. That is one third of the usual price and is surprisingly low, making Internxt very cheap. Be aware that this offer may not be permanent.
There is also a free plan and you start off with 2 GB of free cloud storage. You can earn up to 10 GB free by performing tasks and you get an extra 1 GB for each one. For example, install the app on a computer and upload a file, do the same on a phone, sign up for an email newsletter, invite a friend, and so on. I had earned 6 GB of free storage around five minutes after signing up.
A major benefit of Internxt is that files are encrypted before being uploaded to the storage. This means that the company does not know what your files are and is unable to access them. Privacy is an important feature and it could tempt you away from other online storage services that don’t encrypt files.
Internxt web access and apps
Internxt cloud storage can be accessed in a web browser, so it works on any desktop operating system. It creates Personal and Family folders by default, which is a bit strange. Aren’t they the same? However, you can create your own folders, then upload files to them, browse them and download them.
Web browser access is OK, but not quite as good as some rival cloud storage services and it lacks a few features. For example, you cannot view thumbnails of images. Image files can be clicked to view them, but thumbnails would make it so much easier to tell what an image is. PDFs can also be clicked and viewed online.
Files can be shared and there is a useful option to limit the number of times they can be viewed. However, a folder cannot be shared, so you couldn’t create a Public folder for example. The sharing features are limited compared to pCloud for example.
Apple Mac, Windows PC and Linux desktop apps are available and they enable you to create a sync folder, a folder on the disk that is a mirror image of your online storage. You can also use Internxt as a file and folder backup service.
Syncing is a bit slow, but files uploaded elsewhere appear eventually. There is a sync button you can click to force a sync if you don’t want to wait. The main problem is that the local folder appears to be a copy of your online storage. Does this mean that if you have the 10 TB plan you need 10 TB on your computer to store all the files? Surely not, but it looks that way unless I missed something.
The phone apps are simple, but OK. You can browse folders and files, upload files, take a photo and upload it straight away or browse your photo library and upload previously taken ones. Tapping a photo downloads and displays it. PDFs can be tapped to download and view them, they open in whatever PDF view is on your phone.
Internxt needs some development and it needs to be improved to compete with others. The encryption is good for privacy, but it needs more features.
- Cheap one-time payment for online storage
- Simple design and features make it easy to use
- Encrypted files and good privacy
- Lacks features compared to rivals
- Lacks Microsoft’s and Google’s online office suites
Mega cloud drive
Mega has both business and personal accounts and you won’t believe the storage available for businesses. Mega lives up to its name and you can have up to 10 PB. That’s not a typo, it is an astonishing 10 million GB! Unsurprisingly, you’ll be paying tens of thousands a month for it. Nice if you can afford it though.
Personal plans offer less storage and cheaper prices, and I was offered 400 GB for $4.83 a month and 16 TB is only $28 a month. Of course, there are always people who either can’t or don’t want to pay anything and there is a very generous free plan. Sign up and you get 20 GB for free. Perform a few simple tasks like installing the Mega desktop and phone apps and you can earn more. I have 35 GB of free storage, which is excellent.
So, cloud storage for your files is big and cheap, but how good is it? It is actually very good. Files are encrypted and Mega has no access to them. In fact, you are provided with a unique encryption key, which you must keep safe somewhere because it’s the only way to get into your account if you forget the password.
In addition to cloud storage, you also get an encrypted chat service for text, voice and video calls. Mega is clearly positioning itself as an alternative to Microsoft and Google for businesses.
Mega web access and apps
Mega online storage can be accessed using a web browser on a desktop computer and the OS doesn’t matter. It looks good and has easy-to-access features that make it nice to use. Folders can be created and files uploaded with the Upload menu or drag and drop from the computer. It supports uploading whole folders, which is useful.
Files and folders can be shared and it provides a link you can give to people. Paid plans allow you to set an expiry date and a password on shared items. Colored labels and a favorite icon can be added to files, which can help you to find and manage important ones. Images show as thumbnails, which makes them easy to browse and select. You can also list recents and there is a Rubbish Bin for deleted files.
The desktop app is good and runs on WIndows PC, Apple Mac and Linux. You can choose to sync the whole of your cloud storage and have everything offline as well as online, or you can choose to sync one or more local folders. You can always see and manage everything in a browser, but the desktop app only shows the sync folder. Files types can be excluded and up and download rates can be set. The desktop apps have a good range of features.
The phone apps are good and I used the Android app. It is like the web browser in that you can browse and access all cloud files and folders. Recently access files and offline files are listed. Buttons across the top enable you to show only images, docs, audio or videos. Choose Images and they can be browsed by years, months or days. The app can be set to automatically back up photos and videos online as you take them. The phone apps are very good.
Mega offers a great free cloud storage plan and huge amounts of paid storage that stretches into petabytes. Web access is good, desktop apps are good, phone apps are good. mega ticks all the boxes for cloud storage. It really only lacks an integrated office suite.
- Cheap online storage and lots of it
- Very generous free account
- Encrypted files for privacy
- Good desktop and phone apps
- Back up phone photos and videos
- Sync selected folders or all cloud content
- Encrypted chat included
There are many alternatives to the online drives from Microsoft, Google, Dropbox and Box. One big advantage of the alternatives on test here is that they offer more privacy, or at least they are not the usual players, which are often in the news for privacy issues. If you are worried about what information the internet giants collect about you, an alternative may be attractive.
Lifetime deals for storage and encryption from Internxt and pCloud save you a lot of money in the long term. A one-time payment is cheaper than paying monthly forever. I was offered big discounts that save even more. There is no guarantee the deals are permanent, so check the websites for the latest prices.
Cheap is not always best of course and Internxt lacks features found in other cloud storage services. The web interface, desktop computer and mobile phone apps all have fewer features than rivals, so I put it in third place.
pCloud is much better and it has more features. The web interface, computer and phone apps are better too. You can browse and view media, making it useful for storing photos, videos and audio. A reasonably good range of features combined with a one-time fee makes this well worth considering if long term cost is important. It is almost as good as Mega.
Mega is the best of the three alternative cloud storage providers on test and the winner here. The web interface, desktop and phone apps are all very good. A clean interface with useful features, like photo and video handling, quick views of media or documents, online or offline files, and so on, are good. The amount of free storage is excellent and the space available for paid plans is in the petabyte range. Everything is encrypted for privacy too.