Improving on Apple: alternatives to iCloud's 5GB of free space

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Maybe one day Apple will give us more than 5GB space without charging heavily but it's not exactly in a hurry to do so. So in the meantime, here are some AppleInsider-approved alternatives for getting more online storage and (maybe) paying less for it.




It's actually a good state of affairs when the primary complaint against iCloud is that you don't get enough of it. After more than a decade's slow evolution from iTools and .Mac to MobileMe and today's iCloud, Apple has become a strong cloud player. That's nice for them. It's also great for us because iCloud brings syncing between devices, it brings document sharing and it makes everything so seamless that you forget about it.

No kidding: the ability to just pick up your nearest device and carry on working on anything at all is remarkable and we simply don't appreciate it enough.

That's partly because Apple is frankly stingy about how much space it gives regular individuals. This March Apple announced that students will get 200GB instead but the rest of us won't.

Whether you're a student or not, you can buy more and we have, but out of the box most of us get just 5GB free. Worse, it's 5GB per Apple ID so if you have five iPads, six MacBooks and an unfeasible number of iPhones, you still get 5GB.

To be fair, it's getting better. There are now options for larger space than before and the prices have come down since launch.




So right now you can bump your iCloud space up to 50GB for a monthly fee of a buck. For three bucks, you can have 200GB.

Then for ten, you get 2TB.

Wait a second

Getting 2TB of storage space for $9.99 per month isn't bad. Then with any of these, you get that Apple brand of transparency. You don't think about your storage space, you don't have to remember to save documents to there, it just all works.

We think that's worth money. We even think it's worth 99c, $2.99 or $9.99.

It is just that we do resent the 5GB limit and if we have to pay to get more, we automatically start looking around -- and there are options, but not all of them are great for Apple users.

Dropbox

This may be the best-known online storage service in the world but Dropbox is also easily the least-understood. Unless you know to specifically switch on a feature called Selective Sync, Dropbox is no use to you for saving space on your Mac.

Dropbox cloud storage


By default, Dropbox gives you a folder on your Mac and it can hold up to however much you've paid the company for. Drag files in and out, save them there, delete them, it all gets diligently copied to the Dropbox cloud and then out to all your devices.

So if you pop a 10GB video file into your Dropbox folder on your Mac, it will be there waiting for you on your MacBook. Equally, if you delete that 10GB video file on the MacBook, it vanishes from the Mac too.

Except with Selective Sync switched on, you can make some choices. Tell Dropbox that this financial folder must always be on your computer but this one of holiday snaps doesn't. Thereafter, the holiday snaps folder is always available on Dropbox but it doesn't take up space on your Mac.

You have to think about it a tiny bit more than you do with iCloud but it works and the pricing is good.

There are several tiers of pricing depending in part on whether you're an individual or a business. Just to compare like with like, though, the closest equivalents to Apple's prices are mostly better than iCloud.

An exception is the free version: Dropbox only gives you 2GB free. It doesn't bother with 50GB or 200GB, though: if you pay for Dropbox then you get at least 1TB. For an individual, that price starts at $8.25 per month.

If you must have 2TB, then you have to be classed as a business user and then you'll pay from $12.50 per month. So that's a buck fifty more than Apple's iCloud.

The next level up, though, is excellent: for $20 per month per user, your business can have as much space as you want.

That's hard to top. Yet some companies have tried.

Google Drive

It is Google, so you're trading personal information for convenience here. Also, you think Google Drive will stick around forever but the company has shuttered many, many other seemingly successful ventures.

That said, never mind the security, feel the benefits: Google Drive will give you 15GB storage free. That's three times Apple's offering. It's seven times Dropbox's one.

Google Drive


The next level up is 100GB for $11.99 per year. Apple doesn't offer a 100GB option so a comparison would be at best a guess. Similarly, Google Drive does a 1TB option and Apple doesn't but there Apple's the better bet. For 1TB of Google Drive space costs $9.99 per month -- and that's exactly what you pay for 2TB at Apple.

So Apple's giving twice the space for the same price. It's not often you can say Apple is a bargain, but you can here.

There is, though, a 10TB Google Drive option for $99.99 per month which Apple doesn't match.

Box and Amazon Cloud Drive

These two are similar only in that fewer people have heard of them. Amazon's one is a spin-off of its hugely successful Amazon Web Services division which provides space to the biggest of companies. Box is more similar to Dropbox and popular in certain organizations such as the BBC.

Amazon Cloud Drive


Amazon Cloud Drive offers just 5GB free space, the same as Apple, but can go up to 1TB for the equivalent of $5 per month if you pay annually at $59.99 per year.

Box is more generous with a 10GB free option but what it gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. You can have that space but you can only upload files to it that are each under 250Mb.

That's unless you pay $10 per month for which you get 100GB storage and can upload files up to 5GB in size.

Microsoft OneDrive

What iCloud is to Apple, OneDrive is to Microsoft. They're even the same with their free offering: Microsoft gives you 5GB for nothing.

Microsoft OneDrive


Its next tier is 50GB for $1.99 per month, which you can only use for storage, not for any syncing.

Then you're into 1TB for $6.99 per month or 5TB from $99.99 per year. Confusingly, you may not always see that you've got 5TB: Microsoft assumes you're going to share that amongst your team and typically shows you 1TB space each for up to five people.

But, if you subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, you get 1TB for each user. Prices vary, on this, though, and you can sometimes get a deal on a code for the service. So, basically, subscribe to Office, get storage for free.

Enough with fiddling

You are more than capable of remembering that you're using Google Drive and where to save your work for it. If OneDrive needs some fiddling, you can do that.

We just find being able to open an app and have all of our work right there to be convenient enough that we stick with Apple's iCloud.

We have bumped up our iCloud storage to 200GB and we did justify it by saying we would share that with our family. Said family shrugged, saw no reason to care, and carried on using their 5GB version. What can we say? We offered. And if we've now got enough room that we no longer hit the out-of-space warnings, that's a very nice bonus.

For straight out free options, Google Drive's 15GB beats everything yet we expected to find that and we didn't expect to find our mind being changed about Apple. It's still true that Apple's giving you 5GB per person is stingy. Yet when we schlepped through the prices of the major competitors, we became grudgingly more okay with our iCloud bill.

All of these services offer free versions, though, so you can afford to try them each out to see what works best for you.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    majorslmajorsl Posts: 60unconfirmed, member
    One other thing: educational users get 5TB (that's a "t") of OneDrive storage if their institution is enrolled for Office 365.
  • Reply 2 of 38
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,108member
    You know what, you praise Apple in one breath for charging a measly $0.99 for 50GB and $2.99 for 200GB, which is literally less than (or the same) as sacrificing one of those Caramel Macchiato Latte's once a month, yet in the rest of this bash piece you claim you resent the 5GB? Self-entitlement complex much?

    Seriously, NONE of the other services offer the seamless integration of what iCloud offers with iOS and macOS devices, and MANY of them I wouldn't trust with any of my data.

    This whole article wreaks of bad advice, and endorsing inferior services, all to save, literally, a buck a month.

    I say, don't be cheap, pay the buck (or three) a month, and have piece of mind!
    thtmwhiteelijahgracerhomie3mattinozmattinozbshankRayz2016rob53
  • Reply 3 of 38
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,078administrator
    You know what, you praise Apple in one breath for charging a measly $0.99 for 50GB and $2.99 for 200GB, which is literally less than (or the same) as sacrificing one of those Caramel Macchiato Latte's once a month, yet in the rest of this bash piece you claim you resent the 5GB? Self-entitlement complex much?

    Seriously, NONE of the other services offer the seamless integration of what iCloud offers with iOS and macOS devices, and MANY of them I wouldn't trust with any of my data.

    This whole article wreaks of bad advice, and endorsing inferior services, all to save, literally, a buck a month.

    I say, don't be cheap, pay the buck (or three) a month, and have piece of mind!
    We get asked about options. We give them when we get asked. When praise for Apple is deserved, we say so. When other options are, we say that too. You're welcome to disagree, and say why, but slow the roll a little bit.
    edited July 2018 dewmeelijahgspace2001gatorguymuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 38
    FolioFolio Posts: 441member
    What about Google Photos? Should that enter into your equation of personal storage costs and options, in tandem with Google Drive? I've no idea what the privacy is related to free that photo storage, or if it's a potent enough rival to spur Apple to make more changes. (Personal Rant Warning: I do know Apple needs to up its game with regard to Photo storage and presentation, and start applying machine learning to ensure at minimum pictures are right side up. I could spend days correcting flipped text images on shots taken with iPad Pro and iPhone X. It's a simple solution, but Apples still in Stone Age here.)
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 5 of 38
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,093member
    You know what, you praise Apple in one breath for charging a measly $0.99 for 50GB and $2.99 for 200GB, which is literally less than (or the same) as sacrificing one of those Caramel Macchiato Latte's once a month, yet in the rest of this bash piece you claim you resent the 5GB? Self-entitlement complex much?

    Seriously, NONE of the other services offer the seamless integration of what iCloud offers with iOS and macOS devices, and MANY of them I wouldn't trust with any of my data.

    This whole article wreaks of bad advice, and endorsing inferior services, all to save, literally, a buck a month.

    I say, don't be cheap, pay the buck (or three) a month, and have piece of mind!
    Personally, this is an area Apple could do MUCH better. They have some nice backup and restore functions as well as nice cloud photos options but they are hamstrung by their measly free 5GB offering. Why not 5GB per device attached to an Apple ID? Or simply give every Apple ID 20GB and charge $1/month for 200GB. That would keep the $10 month for 2TB and be simple. Given a 4TB network class drive costs about $150, $120/year for 2TB of cloud sounds a bit $$$$.

    I would think a more reasonable price would be:

    20GB: Free with Apple ID
    500GB: $1/month
    5TB: $10/month

    They would still be making bank with these prices. 
    elijahgwilliamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 38
    "Maybe one day Apple will give us more than 5GB space without charging heavily..."

    Heavily? Seriously? 99 cents per month for 5 GB of storage seems like a 
    fantastic bargain to me. But then, it would never occur to me that I might need to access a 20 GB video on all of my devices all of the time. 
    magman1979StrangeDaysbshank
  • Reply 7 of 38
    thanx_althanx_al Posts: 46member
    Would seriously love selective sync on iCloud Drive. 
  • Reply 8 of 38
    robbyxrobbyx Posts: 430member
    Another thing to keep in mind is how these companies store your data and who has access to it. Dropbox, for example, allows certain employees to access your data under certain circumstances. In other words, while your data might be encrypted, they still hold the keys. I’m not sure about the other services mentioned, including iCloud Drive, but buyer beware. Your data is probably not 100% secure and private with any of these services.  The only service I know of that is 100% zero knowledge is SpiderOak. You should include them in your list, as well as looking into the encryption (when the data is both in transit and at rest on the servers) policies of each company. Apple touts privacy but I have yet to read anything that suggests iCloud Drive is a zero knowledge solution like SpiderOak. 
    edited July 2018 magman1979
  • Reply 9 of 38
    One concern: my wife and I have have Macs. We each have a separate Apple ID -- her purchases and mine are separate. I could see doing a family plan iCloud account with 2 TB at $10 a month -- very reasonable for the storage and ease of use, and the two of us together wouldn't consume 2 TB. But if I put her Mac onto that account (say it's in my name), how does that interfere with her purchases of apps, music, books, etc.? A second concern: what bothers her the most isn't the ability to sync, it's the backup, particularly of all her photos (from her iPhone, which she uses as a camera All. The. Time.). Her MacBook doesn't play well with backup over an Airport to a USB drive connected to that. She doesn't THINK about connecting a portable external HD. So a cloud backup (e.g., BackBlaze) would work, but now I'm paying for two services. Perhaps the AppleInsider gang could comment on the utility of iCloud as a backup, particularly for photos.
  • Reply 10 of 38
    Flickr (Yahoo) offers 2 TB free for photos and videos. It's more of a backup solution than a shared drive... Photos and videos default to private, unless you change this. Apple format 'llve photos' have only the still portion backed up though.
    matrix077
  • Reply 11 of 38
    ClydeEClydeE Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Surprised no post about Amazon Prime Photos https://www.amazon.com/Cloud-Drive-Storage/b?ie=UTF8&node=13234696011 has an app, install - syncs up all your photos, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/prime-photos-from-amazon/id621574163?mt=8 I think 85 percent maybe more of users that uses the 5gb storage space is mostly photos ?
    edited July 2018
  • Reply 12 of 38
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,894member
    Nice, fair, and balanced article.

    I think Apple's iCloud is a fair and honest deal. First of all, I trust Apple more than I trust any of the other cloud storage vendors. Second, unlike nearly every other subscription service that I pay for, Apple isn't constantly jacking the price up and tacking on bogus below-the-contract-line service fees (yeah AT&T - I'm talking about you) to line their pockets and to pay for chasing rainbows on our dime. There's something to be said for price stability when you're trying to manage a budget. Third, iCloud works wonderfully across all Apple devices. the Files App really makes iCloud hum. I'd like to see even more and better (mobetta) iCloud services, perhaps Time Machine in the Cloud and an iCloud Local Proxy service that actually works (unlike the High Sierra Content Sharing which only seems to work some of the time). No complaints about the iCloud pricing and throwing students a bonus bone doesn't bother me at all.

    Would bumping up the free tier make a big difference in terms of attracting new Apple customers? Probably not today. But I do think the 5 GB free tier capacity will absolutely go up, perhaps to around 25 - 50 GB only because newer always-connected future Apple devices and services (from Apple Watch level to pro level Macs) will lean even more heavily on shared content storage, cross-device synchronization, seamless workflow handoffs, caching, backup, location transparency, etc. The 5 GB tier will be an unacceptable bottleneck and limitation to delivering the fully integrated, fully connected experience that Apple absolutely wants/needs to deliver. They cannot afford to stumble over an artificially imposed limitation based on a historical context that will no longer be mainstream.

    Cloud storage is required to fully deliver cloud and hybrid (cloud + local) services. Cloud and hybrid services will be an integral part of Apple's device independent, totally integrated operating environment, not just an add-on. I fully expect the 5 GB limit on the free tier to be in the rear view mirror - very soon.

  • Reply 13 of 38
    Also, you think Google Drive will stick around forever but the company has shuttered many, many other seemingly successful ventures.“

    That’s a silly argument. They will not close that venture because their cloud service is central part of their cloud strategy. Chrome books form the hardware distribution of their cloud services and they have super strong apps and services (G Suite) that are light years ahead of what Apple has to offer. They also serve many large enterprise organizations, whereas Apple is stuck in “mommy wants to make a nice birthday card in Pages”.

    This article is not really comparing services fairly. They mention device/settings syncing with iCloud, which obviously works very very well since they own the ecosystem. I love iCloud for that. But then the article doesn’t cover G Suite. Cloud storage space isn’t about storage anymore, it’s about the entire ecosystem. And file management isn’t properly covered either. Meh.
  • Reply 14 of 38
    One concern: my wife and I have have Macs. We each have a separate Apple ID -- her purchases and mine are separate. I could see doing a family plan iCloud account with 2 TB at $10 a month -- very reasonable for the storage and ease of use, and the two of us together wouldn't consume 2 TB. But if I put her Mac onto that account (say it's in my name), how does that interfere with her purchases of apps, music, books, etc.? A second concern: what bothers her the most isn't the ability to sync, it's the backup, particularly of all her photos (from her iPhone, which she uses as a camera All. The. Time.). Her MacBook doesn't play well with backup over an Airport to a USB drive connected to that. She doesn't THINK about connecting a portable external HD. So a cloud backup (e.g., BackBlaze) would work, but now I'm paying for two services. Perhaps the AppleInsider gang could comment on the utility of iCloud as a backup, particularly for photos.
    The iCloud Drive isn't a "family plan"—you share your plan with your family. So, my wife and sons and I use the 2TB. Much like your wife, my wife takes a lot of pictures. My sons take a lot of video. It only made sense to go to the 2TB so they were able to utilize their individual iCloud Photo Libraries. Since I'm the one who manages the family, I bought the plan and then shared it with the family. Then each member of the family had to set their iCloud Drive to point at the shared plan. As for the backup: I wouldn't think of the iCloud Photo Library as a "backup," per se. It's more a service that allows access to all of your photos and video on all your devices and *can* be used as a backup in a pinch. You should have a backup in the house (get a NAS that does Time Machine—USB drives connected to AirPort devices aren't the most reliable in my experience) *and* one online (we use Backblaze). I know it seems redundant... but we're talking backups. Redundancy is vital.
  • Reply 15 of 38
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,805member
    “Also, you think Google Drive will stick around forever but the company has shuttered many, many other seemingly successful ventures.“
    Now with 1 billion active users too. It's not going anywhere. In fact the effort is being expanded with new benefits and support levels for paid Drive accounts under a Google One program. New support features, better plans (ie 100GB for $1.99/mo. 2TB at $9.99, etc), and sharing with up to 5 family members. 
    edited July 2018 CheeseFreeze
  • Reply 16 of 38
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,078administrator
    “Also, you think Google Drive will stick around forever but the company has shuttered many, many other seemingly successful ventures.“

    That’s a silly argument. They will not close that venture because their cloud service is central part of their cloud strategy. Chrome books form the hardware distribution of their cloud services and they have super strong apps and services (G Suite) that are light years ahead of what Apple has to offer. They also serve many large enterprise organizations, whereas Apple is stuck in “mommy wants to make a nice birthday card in Pages”.

    This article is not really comparing services fairly. They mention device/settings syncing with iCloud, which obviously works very very well since they own the ecosystem. I love iCloud for that. But then the article doesn’t cover G Suite. Cloud storage space isn’t about storage anymore, it’s about the entire ecosystem. And file management isn’t properly covered either. Meh.
    File management is an entire other ball of wax. There will be more pieces in this vein.
  • Reply 17 of 38
    stolatzstolatz Posts: 4member
    I have six people in my family with iphones and three were paying $1/mo and two others were not willing to pay so they just dealt with the out of space messages. We setup family sharing and for $3/mo have all six sharing 200GB with 70GB to spare. Also, in December we buy discounted iTunes gift cards (in 2016 we got them for 20% off, in 2017 we got them for 15% off). We also pay for Apple Music this way.
  • Reply 18 of 38
    thanx_althanx_al Posts: 46member
     And file management isn’t properly covered either. Meh.
    You can say that again. The lack of local file storage on iPad Pro is a serious PITA if one wants to truly use it as a laptop/computer replacement. Large files going up and down to iCloud Drive eats mobile data and forget about it if you are on a plane or traveling to a place with spotty/expensive internet. That said, Apple have done a remarkable job in iOS 11 making iPad more usable as a laptop replacement. I don't see any indication they'll bring it or selective sync in iOS 12 but we still have several betas to go. 
    entropyswilliamlondonCheeseFreeze
  • Reply 19 of 38
    I am  in the camp of people that value their privacy. Even though I trust Apple’s devices with encryption on board & encrypted communications (FaceTime & iMessage) , I do not trust the cloud. Anyone’s cloud. Apple has the key to open anyone’s data.Remember that. One bad or evil minded engineer can take advantage of it.Leadership can change. Maybe the guy after Cook will run for more users , and start monetizing our data. 
    That’s why I prefer using my own mac & harddrives for backup.Storage is quite cheap, & iTunes does give us the option of encrypted backup.
    Plus ,no pesky monthly bill to worry about.

    edited July 2018 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 38
    But there is an option out there you did not touch . That is Mega (50GB for free). It also works with the Files app on iOS.
    But I personally like Mega is because, the files remain encrypted, even on cloud. They don’t keep the keys.
    Mixersky
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