Best Free Web Storage (Part 1)

7/28/2013 6:55:46 PM

We round up the leading storage services for saving and syncing your files and reveal how to get 1TB for free!

Cloud storage is simply a way of describing files you keep online. Post a photo to Facebook, for example, and you use a form of cloud storage. But cloud storage usually refers to tools and services that let you save files and folders to the internet and synchronize them across two or more computers, smartphones and tablets.

When you sign up for such a service, you’ll receive some storage for free (usually a couple of gigabytes), after which you’re expected to pay per GB. You can build up more with little effort - up to 1TB in fact. But is cloud storage safe to use? Which service is the best? And how do you get bonus storage for free?

Amazon Cloud Drive


We like: Free music player; low cost; just updated to include synchronization

We don’t like: Android-only mobile app

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon Cloud Drive is available to anyone with an Amazon account. You get 5GB of free storage, with extra storage available for a fee. However, 1TB costs $500 a year, so check the box on page 59 for tips on bagging extra cloud storage for free.

The new version, updated in April, lets you back up and synchronize files. Just pop your files into dedicated folders and the contents will be mirrored to other computers or devices on which you use Cloud Drive.

Another useful extra feature is free storage of up to 250 music tracks on the separate Amazon Cloud Player (250,000 tracks can be stored for $33.99 per year). This lets you upload tracks and play them from any web browser, or through free Android and iOS mobile apps. You can also buy music from Amazon’s MP3 Store via the Cloud Player. However, Cloud Drive itself isn’t currently available as an iOS app - only for Android.



We like: Easy syncing between PCs; Windows Explorer integration; mobile apps; file histories

We don’t like: No backup service; expensive subscription

Dropbox, which is compatible with Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Kindle Fire devices, sets the standard when it comes to synchronizing files and folders.

It is great for accessing the same files on different PCs or devices, but it’s not designed for backup. The free allowance is 2GB, but you can earn loads more (see the box on page 59). The minimum subscription package is 100GB, costing $99 a year, making it an expensive jump from the free version.

On your PC, Dropbox adds a folder to Windows Explorer’s Favorites. Files copied into this are automatically synced to Dropbox and any other devices running it. A special public link can be created to allow anyone to download a file. Folders and files can be shared privately with other Dropbox users. The service keeps 30 days’ worth of deleted files and previous versions of changed files, so you can revert to an earlier document or an unedited photo, say (paid-for accounts store unlimited file versions).

You can connect Dropbox with Facebook and Twitter, and photos can be viewed online. However, there’s no media player.

IDrive Backup


We like: File versioning; will back up network drives

We don’t like: Interface can be quite slow

IDrive Backup comes with 5GB of free storage for the basic service, with subscriptions starting at $49.9 per year for 150GB.

It automatically backs up selected files and folders including network drives. Backups can either be scheduled (the default is daily) or run continuously, backing up files whenever they are changed. The schedule settings can be managed from your computer or by logging in online. Files can also be restored from the app or website. There is no online file viewer, though. Files and folders can be shared via a link that expires after 15 days or 30 downloads. The website is well designed, with a clear layout. Apps for Android and iOS are available.

IDrive Backup will only copy changed files and folders to the cloud, but up to 30 versions are kept. Files that have been deleted from your computer also remain on the website, until you use the Archive Cleanup tool to re-sync the cloud with your devices.

IDrive Sync


We like: Lots of free storage; Out of Box feature

We don’t like: Uses different account to IDrive Backup

IDrive Sync

Users of IDrive Backup need a separate account for IDrive Sync, which seems a little odd. But it does give users a welcome 10GB of free space to sync files and folders. Extra space costs the same as IDrive, starting at $49.9 a year for 150GB.

It creates a special IDrive Sync folder, but it also has a very useful Out of Box feature that allows folders from anywhere on your computer to be stored in the cloud without you having to copy them to the IDrive Sync folder. Out of Box items are not synced between devices, but they can be manually downloaded. It’s effectively a very simple form of backup.

Old versions of synced files can be restored, while deleted files are stored in a Trash area for 30 days. The web interface is easy to use, and the PC app is managed from the Notification Area icon. Items can be shared, and contacts can be added using Facebook friend lists and email addresses.

Google Drive


We like: Collaboration; online office suite; file versioning

We don’t like: No backup service; website is complicated

Google Drive combines file and folder synchronization with an online office suite, letting you create, view and edit documents in a web browser. It requires a free Google account, and the first 5GB of storage is free. Upgrading to 25GB costs $2.99 per month.

You can add extra features, such as photo editing by installing suitable Chrome add-ons ( There are free Google Drive apps for Android and iOS devices.

Google Drive excels at sharing files, letting you collaborate on documents with other users. Using Google Drive on Windows lets you synchronize files across all devices. There’s no backup service, although Google Drive does keep 30 days’ worth of previous versions of files.

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