These days cloud storage is all the rage, offering the convenience of access to your digital files without having to clog up your mobile devices' storage. Provided you've got internet access, everything is hunky-dory.
Owners of Macs, iPads and iPhones will naturally tend to favour iCloud, Apple's own cloud service, because it's so well integrated with those devices' operating systems. iCloud is a user-friendly and generally reliable service, which Apple is working hard to improve. But there are other options out there.
In this article we round up all the best iCloud alternatives: the cloud storage services for Mac, iPhone and iPad that offer the most appealing combination of price, features, security and reliability.
Apple iCloud Drive
As an Apple user, you'll have heard of iCloud, but we don't blame you if you find it confusing. It's Apple's own cloud-based storage system, and if you own an iPhone or iPad and have an Apple ID, you'll have 5GB free storage.
It's the easiest way for those bought into the Apple ecosystem (users of iPhone, iPad and Mac) to sync contacts, notes, files, photos and more across devices.
iCloud Drive is also an app that lets users see into the file system on iOS, something Apple has always avoided doing on mobile devices but one that is entirely necessary for such a service.
We like using iCloud, but we also pay for it. Most decent cloud services require you to pay a small fee.
Amazon Drive is primarily part of the package that comes with an Amazon Prime membership. Alongside the free next-day deliveries on many items, TV & Movie streaming service, Amazon Music access, there's also Drive. This has seen a significant overhaul in recent years, going from something of an odd best into a now standard storage service for files.
It works across Mac and iPhone, has dedicated apps, and comes with 5GB of storage. While this is the same as iCloud, there's an additional feather in the cap for Amazon as it also provides unlimited free storage for photographs too. Videos count against the 5GB, but not having to include photos as well makes this a great deal if you're a happy snapper.
The storage capacity can be upgraded to 100GB for £16.99/$11.99 p/a or 1TB for £79.99/$59.99 p/a.
Box is primarily focused on its paid-for business accounts, which provide a wide range of additional features for larger organisations. There are a variety of different options available, including version-tracking controls, and tools for online collaboration and project management.
Sharing is obviously important for business users, and Box gives you great control by allowing you to specify preview, editing and downloading permissions for all your files.
If you want to share between a small team it's only £4/$5 per month per user, but for solo file storage it's not the best option as it's so focused on collaboration. Businesses will appreciate the focus on security though.
You do get 10GB of free storage with the basic account, but this is limited to 250MB per file. That being said, it's useful if you want another option for storing documents, photos, and a few music files.
Like Box, Dropbox has geared itself towards the business sector in recent years. Users must pay a minimum of £10/$12 per month per user, but this gets a very good 3TB of storage, extended file recovery, granular user options and decent security.
The free version is great for consumers, but only offers 2GB free compared to iCloud's 5GB, so it might only be worth it if you really need the extra storage. You can up this to 1TB for £7.99/$9.99 p/m, but this does make it one of the most expensive options, especially considering it doesn't offer extended versioning facilities or share permissions.
One useful feature is a little pull-down menu in your Mac's main toolbar, which allows you to monitor your files as they are uploaded, and you can also set Dropbox to automatically upload photos from your iPhone or iPad, or even to upload your entire iPhoto library for safekeeping.
Google Drive has grown into a very mature file saving and sharing platform, and is our recommendation if you don't want to use iCloud for whatever reason. Free app downloads for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android lets you log in and stayed logged in to all of your devices.
Drive works excellently on a Mac, letting you save directly into it via the file system rather than using a separate app. Upload time is good, and base storage starts at 15GB, three times as much as iCloud.
Sharing links to files, albums and more is very easy, and the simplistic but intuitive user interface is more friendly than most of its competitors.
It also plays nice with Microsoft, Apple and Google file types. It is the best all round cloud storage for consumers, though businesses should look to Box or Dropbox for more secure collaboration.
If you want more storage then you can join Google One (it's the same) and pay £1.59/$1.99 per month for 100GB storage, and can go up to 10TB if you really need to.
Microsoft's OneDrive comes as part of a Microsoft Office plan, be it one-off install or Office 365 subscription. The base yearly Office 365 pricing included a huge 1TB of OneDrive storage though, and is great if you're fully bought into Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
You can buy OneDrive without Office from free, but again we wouldn't recommend this if you have iCloud as it's only 5GB free. £1.99/$1.99 per month gets you a generous 50GB, but again does not have the service's full feature set. Its file directory design is more user friendly than iCloud's, though.
It should be the number one choice for Office users, especially users of Mobile Office. But for those not using Office, as there may not be enough features to be attractive and Google Drive does a much better job of working well with different file types.
pCloud might not be as familiar a name as some of the others on this list, but trust us, it's one you should definitely learn.
The service handles all kinds of files with ease and uses 256-bit AES encryption to ensure that they remain safe while online. The basic tier comes with 10GB of free storage, albeit with the need to unlock 3GB of this via a few task, such as informing friend about the joys of pCloud. To be honest, this is not much of a drag, as your friends will probably thank you in the long run.
There are no pesky file size restrictions, and 30-day versioning is standard, so if you accidentally delete a file you'll be able to recover it even after a few weeks.
If 10GB isn't enough then you can move to 500GB for £4.49/$4.99 p/m or there's 2TB available for £8.99 / $9.99.
Like pretty much all the services in this roundup, there's a free trial available that lets you see if the service fits your needs. We recommend you give each one a spin, and if you don't mind a bit of file juggling then you might find that using the combined free tiers of all of them gives you enough storage for all your data needs.