Cloud storage is one of the industries which has benefited most from the dramatic improvements in domestic broadband speeds.
To anyone struggling by on an ADSL connection, the prospect of uploading HD video footage or PST email archives would be daunting and depressing in equal measure.
Happily, the ongoing rollout of full fibre broadband deals means backing up data online is now a viable option for millions of UK households.
However, the best cloud storage in 2022 varies widely from one provider to another, with some services are aimed at corporate audiences while others prioritise domestic users.
To separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve outlined some of the runners and riders in this increasingly congested marketplace.
What is cloud storage?
Historically, when you created or edited a program file, it was saved onto the same device. This is known as local file storage.
By contrast, cloud storage takes place over the internet. A data centre somewhere in the world (you won’t be told where) sets aside a portion of one of its giant hard disk servers.
This is your exclusive fiefdom, where any files (within reason) can be permanently stored safely and anonymously, under military-grade security and with real-time backups in place.
We’ve previously explained how cloud hosting companies protect user data against theft, loss and damage.
The amount of space allocated to each customer is measured in gigabytes (GB), with a thousand gigabytes equating to one terabyte (TB).
The best cloud storage in 2022
For many PC users, Microsoft OneDrive represents the obvious choice, because it’s been baked into each version of the Windows operating system from 8 onwards.
OneDrive is bundled in free with a Microsoft 365 subscription, offering 1TB for Personal customers and 6TB for a Family subscription; an extra 100GB of storage costs £1.99 a month.
It automatically synchronises as files are added or deleted, including scanned documents, while shared links can be sent with passwords and files may be viewed offline.
A similar process occurs on Apple iCloud, though this time files are synchronised across all devices accessed using the same Apple ID.
This isn’t always beneficial, especially as users only get 5GB of free storage. A 50GB account costs 79p per month, 200GB is £2.49 and the more practical 2TB package is £6.99.
Obviously, this is mainly of use to Apple customers. There’s no Android app and no file versioning, though iCloud works reasonably well on Windows PCs.
Google has put its vast repositories of data servers and ultra-fast connectivity to good use with Google Drive, offering three times as much free storage as iCloud or OneDrive.
It works seamlessly with G Suite tools like Docs and Sheets, while it’s also useful for Android smartphone users wanting to back up data in real time.
Because data is shared across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos, it’s easy to fill the free 15GB. Adding 100GB costs £1.59 per month, and 2TB is £7.99 a month (or £79.99 per year).
Alternatively, if you don’t want to dovetail your productivity tools and cloud storage provider, standalone firms like pCloud may be worth considering.
Unlike its rivals, pCloud offers lifetime subscriptions; 500GB of storage costs £425 and 2TB is priced at £850, compared to £53.88 and £107.88 per year respectively.
It preserves old versions of documents for up to a year, mirroring local folder actions on PC, Mac, Linux, Android and/or iOS devices.
Dropbox provide another platform-agnostic service. It’s simple to use, but lacks the automation and advanced features of some competitor products.
However, no cloud storage platform makes it easier to share links to files and folders, while it’ll work on anything from a Linux PC to an Apple iPhone via an excellent app.
Pricing is comparable to other services, with 2GB free and 2TB costing £7.99 a month for a single-user account. Higher packages also provide offline access, camera uploads and more.