Well-known free cloud storage providers like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud are convenient. They offer a generous amount of free file storage, but there are strings attached.
When you upload files to storage services offered by Big Tech companies, they have full access to your files.
Law enforcement may compel the company to provide access to your content. Despite budgeting for top security teams, data breaches also occur which may accidentally permit incorrect access across users. In the more egregious cases, these companies exploit your data to profile you for advertising or even repurpose your content.
These top cloud storage services offer complete control of your upload files.
What are the best free secure online storage services?
These cloud storage companies not only allow you to save your files to the cloud without cost, but they offer end-to-end encryption or self-hosting.
Let’s dig into the details of these top 6 secure online storage providers plus 7 more that can be made secure. We’ll also cover a couple of premium services along with some free options you may not have thought about.
13 Free Secure Online Storage Services
|Rank||Service||Free Space||Why It’s Awesome||Use Cryptomator|
|1||NextCloud||2-8 GB or Unlimited||Choice of Nextcloud provider location; Self-host to control your data in personal cloud storage||No|
|2||Keybase||250 GB||Includes other end-to-end encrypted tools like chat, team collaboration, cryptocurrency wallet, social media tools, and more||No|
|3||Sync.com*||5 GB||Up to 25 GB free cloud storage by referring friends||No|
|4||Mega||15 GB||Up to 50 GB if you’re an active user and work within Mega’s achievement program||No|
|5||pCloud||10 GB||Up to 20 GB free storage by referring friends; Linux desktop client available; Single-payment, lifetime plans available||Yes, unless you’re a subscriber|
|6||icedrive||10 GB||Single-payment, lifetime plans available; Multi-OS portable app; Beautiful web user interface||Yes, unless you’re a subscriber|
|7||Google Drive||15 GB||You probably have a Google account already for this cloud storage||YES|
|8||Box Individual||10 GB||Business focus including compliance with GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, GxP, & FedRAMP||YES|
|9||MediaFire||10 GB||Single-use, expiring sharing links for file sharing||YES|
|10||Amazon Drive||5 GB |
|Unlimited storage for photos for Amazon Prime subscribers||YES|
|11||Apple iCloud||5 GB||Tightly-integrated into Apple platforms and devices||YES|
|12||Microsoft OneDrive||5 GB||1 TB for Office 365 subscribers||YES|
|13||Dropbox||2 GB||Includes a suite of productivity tools||YES|
* affiliate/referral link
How To Secure Files In The Cloud On Any Online Cloud Storage Provider
The “Use Cryptomator” column in the above table indicates our advice to use file encryption before uploading. This is a crucial step to prevent Big Tech from leveraging your content for their own use. Cryptomator is an excellent project listed on PrivacyTool.io.
The desktop version uses pay-what-you-want pricing. There are versions for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
While I wish the mobile app was open-source, it is well worth the purchase on Android and iOS. The smartphone version offers automatic photo uploads, timed vault auto-lock, and fingerprint-based unlocking for your less-secure vaults.
This project gives users a truly secure cloud storage solution no matter where space is available. Turn any free cloud storage like Google Drive, iDrive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc into secure and private storage.
Cryptomator pairs well with ExpanDrive which makes using cloud storage providers show up as a drive on your operating system easily expanding your computer’s storage space.
Besides using encryption, consider the following simple tips for storing files online:
- Avoid trusting Big Tech GAFAM providers with your files: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft
- Compartmentalize where you save files.
- Save your files in a different service than your email, contact, and calendar
- Save your types of files at different cloud services. For example, use one service for sensitive files, another for media like photos and video, and a third for less-secure data.
- Spreading your data across storage providers ensures files are also in different data centers.
- Access your cloud-stored files only from trusted devices.
- Share links to your files sparingly and manually expire them when you’re done.
- Ensure your files in cloud storage service allows long strong passwords and includes two-factor authentication
- Know in what country your files are stored. The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway among others have laws that favor privacy including cloud storage providers.
Easy Built-In Encryption Via These Paid Providers
There’s nothing better than owning your own data. But, if you want to focus on your expertise and put your trust in reputable, secure cloud storage, consider one of the following. There’s no need to use Cryptomator.
These commercial cloud storage services offer top-notch security through their software tools and operational procedures. They do not have free storage starter tiers but instead offer limited-time trial periods.
|Rank||Service||Storage||Annual Pricing||Why It’s Awesome|
|1||SpiderOak||150 GB||$69/year||High-quality desktop & mobile apps|
|2||Tresorit||200 GB||$109/year||Hosted in Switzerland|
|3||ProtonDrive||5 GB for Plus users, 20 GB for Visionary users||$48 or $288/year||From the trusted makers of ProtonMail and ProtonVPN|
Storage You Might Already Have
Memory Sticks, Cards, Hard Drives
Do you need to store all your files online? The best place for your sensitive files is often offline away from cloud services.
I found a couple of 8 GB USB memory sticks that I received at a trade show. Aside from the logos, I wiped them and used them for storing tax returns. Additionally, I’m not limited by some file size restrictions on some cloud storage providers. My total storage space is only based on how many drives I have on hand.
Did you get a “starter” memory card with your camera, tablet, or one of your kid’s toys? Some consumer electronics come with low-storage SD cards. We use these as more offline storage. Either insert them directly in your laptop’s card reader or use a USB card reader for less than $15.
Are you a DIYer with an old laptop? You can remove the hard disk drive from the computer, wipe the operating system, and repurpose it as a USB hard drive for less than $20.
Storing files directly on your mobile device is a bit riskier than cloud storage. There’s a higher chance of someone gaining physical access to your device. Use Cryptomator’s mobile application as local storage to make your spare storage secure.
Are you a Microsoft Office 365 or Amazon Prime subscriber? Many cloud services offer large amounts of online storage as a perk. Take advantage of this benefit saving your less-secure files.
Again, plan carefully what you upload and encrypt the files first. Despite Big Tech’s best efforts, access errors occur. Google allowed the export of private user data to random other Google users.
There are lots of good, free options for storing files in the cloud. Even with our higher rating on services that respect your content and privacy, be skeptical. Prefer online storage services that have end-to-end encryption. Alternatively, use open-source tools that encrypt your files before you uploaded them to public cloud storage.
It’s your data. No one else is going to care about it as much as you do.