Cloud storage is something ever more useful and ever more popular, but there's also a ton to choose from.
Fortunately, most also have free trials, and any storage provider worth its salt is going to give you a few gigabytes of space for free anyway to try to get you to stick around.
Let's take a look at a few of the major cloud storage providers and see how pricing stacks up. We'll leave it up to you to pick your favorite, but this should give a good idea of what you'll pay, as of today.
It's worth noting, of course, that most cloud storage providers also give the opportunity to earn free space, either by spamming your friends with referral requests, or as part of a promotion with another company. Dropbox, for example, will give you up to 16GB free through various activities, including getting your buddies to sign up. It's very much possible still to get enough cloud storage to suit your needs without spending a penny. So long as your needs are within certain boundaries.
Also, there are usually corporate pricing options, which may get you a buttload of space at your boss' expense, so it's worth asking about that, too. And services like Box have options for multiple users.
What follows here, however, is a breakdown of what it costs across each of the big players to get yourself a personal account.
Article updated February 2016 to remove Copy following the news it will be shutting down. Be sure to check out the other choices if you're affected and need a new home for your cloud files.
Apple has its own cloud offering so if you're on a Mac, iPhone or iPad why wouldn't you consider it? Everyone gets 5GB for free which, frankly, doesn't go far at all. Especially if you're backing things up regularly. But the latest price plans are competitive with the rest of the market and you can of course now actually use it as a proper cloud locker.
All with the added bonus of being able to keep various app content in sync across all your devices.
Your Google Drive storage is actually split across three different Google products so it's important to take that into consideration. Gmail, Photos and Drive stored files all go towards whatever your limit may be. But, if you're a user of Google Docs, Sheets or Slides, anything you create in these apps won't count towards your limit.
Part of the strength of Google Drive is that it doesn't promise "unlimited" storage, instead offering some massive tiers to satisfy the hardest of users. However high you go, the price per TB remains the same.
Dropbox is one of the staples of the cloud storage game and a name that most will be familiar with. Sadly it has one of the poorest free tiers you'll find anywhere, but you can bump that without charge by referring other people to sign up. One of the added bonuses to Dropbox is that many apps hook into it, meaning it's more than just your files that can live there. But be prepared for the fact you'll probably have to pay to get the most from it. But at 1TB for $9.99 it's no more expensive than Google Drive and you're getting decent value from it.
Microsoft may have recently slashed its OneDrive plans to ribbons but it still offers a compelling product at a decent price. In paying for 1TB you also get an Office 365 personal subscription. This allows you one install of Microsoft Office on a Mac or PC, use on a tablet or phone and some bundled Skype minutes. Not everyone will want or need this, but it does offer something the competition does not. And at a very reasonable price.
While Microsoft eventually did a U-turn and gave its existing customers chance to retain their free 15GB allowance, the details below reflect the current state of affairs for new customers.
5GB - Free
50GB - $1.99/month
1TB - $6.99/month (Office 365 personal, includes Office apps for one computer)
1TB - $9.99/month (Office 365 home, includes Office apps for five computers)
Box is probably more of a business tool than something you'll entrust your personal cloud files to, but it does offer a reasonable free tier along with mobile apps available across platforms. But when you start paying the value for money goes down substantially. 10 bucks a month for 100GB just isn't good enough.
Of course Amazon has a cloud storage service. It's got just about everything else, right? The neat thing about Cloud Drive is that you get a three month free trial up front, which is ample time to decide if you like it or not. After that you've got two options, neither free. You can go for an unlimited photos only plan that actually included 5GB for non-photography related files, or you can go for an "unlimited everything" plan. There's that word again.
So, yes, treat with a little caution. Unlimited has a habit of becoming limited.
If ever there was a red headed step child of the cloud storage world, Mega would be it. What it promises is ultimate security with end-to-end encryption for your files and a whopping 50GB of free space to fill up when you set up an account.
It also offers a range of "Pro" paid up accounts with varying levels of storage and bandwidth allowances. But when it comes to free storage, nothing else comes close in terms of quantity.
There's more to consider than just pricing. But, how much you get for how little is probably the first thing you're going to consider. And this should at least help you down that road.
So, what would we recommend? If you're looking at spending absolutely no money then you get more than most for that none-outlay with Google Drive right out of the gate. Google Drive doesn't offer a referral program though, so there's no set way to earn more free storage. Promotions aren't uncommon though, but you also have to be eligible. You also can't ignore Mega. It won't suit everyone, but if you want the most you can get for absolutely nothing, it's currently untouchable.
When it comes to paying up for more, Microsoft is still offering the best all round value proposition. 1TB for $6.99 a month is as cheap as you can get from these choices. But throw in the Microsoft Office apps as well to use on your Mac, iPhone and iPad and you've got a superb package. But you're also likely to have at least some iCloud storage going on, right?
Aside from that, Box is really the only one we can't recommend. The price per GB just isn't competitive enough.