Whether you’re looking to store family vacation photos or mission-critical business documents, only the best file hosting services give you the protection and peace of mind needed when trusting another business with your information.
The need for additional storage and disaster recovery planning drive the personal cloud storage market, which is expected to reach nearly $126 billion by 2023 behind a 45% growth rate. These online services eliminate the need for tech users to acquire and configure additional hardware devices, instead enabling them to easily transfer, store, and edit data online.
Here, we cover our 12 favorite options for file hosting services and rank them for device compatibility, ease of use, price, and capacity, along with productivity and collaboration features. Read on for our comparisons and answers to any questions you may have.
Reborn from a company that originally focused on synchronizing images across multiple devices, SugarSync is an incredibly easy-to-use online backup and cloud storage solution that lets users save, view, edit, sync, share, and securely access their files. The platform comes in personal or business plans, the latter of which scales beyond 2TB of storage capacity and has the ability to control their bandwidth and permissions. Even better, customers can try each plan for free for 30 days.
- Important features: Automatic syncing across devices, remote deleting, secure file sharing, the ability to restore protected folders, automatic continuous backups, mobile apps for iOS and Android
- Cost: 30-day FREE trial, or plans starting at $7.49 per month for 100GB
- Website: https://www.sugarsync.com
We love that SugarSync works with customers on a month-to-month basis and doesn’t require annual contracts. The platform is among the more expensive ones on our list (you’ll pay $55 for 1TB), but usability, security, and handy mobile apps make SugarSync a worthy investment. The company uses TLS and AES-256 encryption, the same security protocol that many top tech companies and banks use to protect customer data.
Counting more than 70% of the Fortune 500 as customers, Box is a highly scalable file hosting option for those with demanding requirements. The company offers an intriguing 10GB free plan for individuals, but we found much more value in the company’s other packages. For just $5 per month more than the somewhat restrictive Personal plan, customers can unlock unlimited storage and additional security and reporting tools to enjoy a more transparent and protected experience.
- Important features: Automated workflow, collaboration, and machine learning tools, plus 1,500 third-party integrations, easy and secure file sharing, and intelligent classification and categorization of files
- Cost: FREE up to 10GB, or plans starting at $10 per month for 100GB
- Website: https://www.box.com
Business customers can enjoy massive scalability with Box, which introduces more features for collaboration and governance in its enterprise-grade packages. The company boasts data residency in nine countries, providing an easy path to GDPR, PCI, and HIPAA compliance. Founded in 2005 with a mission to make it easy to access information from anywhere and collaborate with anyone, Box is a well-rounded tool for both teams and individuals.
One of the first and most popular applications built on Amazon Web Services S3 (Simple Storage Service), ElephantDrive leverages powerful technologies and partnerships with leading network attached storage (NAS) manufacturers to provide a multi-faceted cloud storage virtualization and online backup solution. Sure, the 2GB free plan isn’t all that exciting, but its reasonably priced introductory plan gives users 10 times more storage space for only a dollar or two more per month. Plus, each premium ElephantDrive plan comes with a 30-day free trial.
- Important features: Native integration with many NAS devices, automatic syncing across devices, compatibility with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, as well as 256-bit AES and 128-bit SSL encryption
- Cost: FREE up to 2GB, or plans starting at $10 per month for 1TB
- Website: https://www.elephantdrive.com
ElephantDrive is one of the few options on our list to support Linux machines, as well as offer an option for Windows server backups. The company recently announced HIPAA compliance and ransomware protections, giving developers and businesses ample ways to sync, share, and access their data. ElephantDrive lags slightly behind the industry leaders when it comes to productivity app integrations, but we love that the company’s introductory plan includes support for 10 devices and three subaccounts — features usually reserved for business-grade packages.
In the data backup and storage game since 1995, IDrive offers a robust set of features that help users accomplish complicated processes within easy-to-use online dashboards. The cloud storage, online backup, and remote access specialists provide incremental and compressed snapshots of unlimited PCs, Macs, and mobile devices to ease bandwidth consumption and increase performance. Plus, IDrive gives users 5GB of free storage — not as much as competitors do, but we always appreciate a well-appointed no-cost option.
- Important features: Real-time file syncing, data retrieval and restoration by mailing a physical drive, remote computer management, 256-bit encryption, server backup scripts, and bare-metal disaster recovery services
- Cost: FREE up to 5GB, or plans starting at $52.12 per year for 2TB
- Website: https://www.idrive.com
Behind advanced features like HIPAA compliance and specialized server and database cloud backup tools, IDrive particularly resonates with businesses and developers looking to protect sensitive data. The company provides good cost-per-terabyte benefits, and the new web-based thin-client application provides a much better, more minimalist interface for end users.
Closely intertwined with Office 365, Microsoft OneDrive similarly blends superb productivity and collaboration tools with ample amounts of cloud storage and file syncing. The platform comes with significantly less free storage than Google Drive, and the next step up — a storage-only option for 100GB for $1.99 per month — isn’t much better. Customers won’t really start to see the advantages of OneDrive until they reach the Office 365 Personal plan with 1TB of storage for $69.99 per year.
- Important features: Offline access, SSL encryption, multi-device compatibility, the ability to set an expiration date on shared links, locally installed versions of Office, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook, ransomware detection and recovery
- Cost: FREE up to 5GB, or plans starting at $1.99 per month for 100GB
- Website: https://onedrive.live.com/
On the business side of the file hosting and collaboration spectrum, OneDrive scales to meet the challenge with Exchange email hosting and Sharepoint intranet, along with advanced data loss protection services and in-place holds that preserve deleted and edited documents. Users can access, edit, and share files from their PC, Mac, web browser, or smartphone.
Combining the most popular email platform in the U.S. with an incredible amount of cloud storage, Google Drive is a tough option to beat. Perfect for individuals and small businesses, the platform boasts some of the best productivity tools in the industry and lets users create, edit, share, and save across multiple devices and programs. The familiar interface is a natural extension for current Gmail users, and upgrading to unlock more resources is extremely affordable.
- Important features: Compatibility with multiple files and devices, intuitive search, data loss prevention rules, and more than 100 productivity apps that cover everything from forms to sketches
- Cost: FREE up to 15GB, or plans starting at $1.99 per month for 100GB
- Website: https://www.google.com/drive/
Where Google Drive falls short, however, is with some of the enterprise-grade security features you’ll find with other competitors. While we trust Google’s reliability, privacy may be a concern. Users can’t protect files or folders with passwords, meaning you’ll have to pay close attention to how sensitive data is shared. Finally, the platform’s frustrating desktop utility stores information locally. Despite the tough love, though, we still give Google Drive two solid thumbs up.
Every month, more than 840 million people use MediaFire to send and receive files. Boasting 50 million registered users, the file hosting and cloud storage experts provide one of the best deals around. For less than $5 per month, users receive a whopping 1TB of room to store their documents and other content. MediaFire’s well-appointed free plan comes with 10GB of storage, but users will see several display ads when downloading files. However, those free users can earn up to 40GB more storage as reward for tasks like connecting a Facebook or Twitter account or referring friends.
- Important features: Password-protected files, one-time links, detailed security logs, social media sharing, unlimited bandwidth and downloads, plus bulk downloads
- Cost: FREE up to 50GB, or plans starting at $3.75 per month for 1TB
- Website: https://www.mediafire.com/
MediaFire provides downloadable clients for desktop and mobile that are compatible with Windows and Mac devices but have varying degrees of functionality and effectiveness. Power users will want more features for collaboration and workflow management, but we highly recommend MediaFire as a simple storage service known for its affordability and massive capacity.
Created as a personal solution when the founder got frustrated with always losing his USB drive, Dropbox has since become one of the most recognizable names in the cloud file hosting industry. The company originally concentrated on reaching individuals and small businesses but is now expanding into the enterprise market. Dropbox remains one of the more affordable options out there, especially given the huge amount of space available. In addition to the 2GB free plan for individuals, business plans come with a 30-day FREE trial.
- Important features: Remote device wipes, two-factor authentication, 256-bit and TLS encryption, Microsoft Office 365 integration, administrative console and audit logs
- Cost: FREE up to 2GB, or plans starting at $9.99 per month for 2TB
- Website: https://www.dropbox.com/
Because Dropbox is such a big target, the company has occasionally run into trouble with security vulnerabilities. That said, we appreciate the high-grade encryption, granular sharing controls, two-factor authentication, remote device deletions, and other security features that Dropbox has implemented. Some of the collaboration tools may be a little cumbersome, but we have no problem recommending Dropbox to teams of all sizes for its in-depth administrative dashboards and oversight.
Attracting more than 8 million users in less than a decade of existence, pCloud excels at providing individuals and businesses a solution that balances cutting-edge cloud technologies with user-friendly, simple interfaces designed for efficiency. We especially appreciate how users can customize and brand their download links and pages, providing a consistent and professional appearance to colleagues, collaborators, and external customers.
- Important features: Customizable download links, optional client-side encryption, selective offline access, built-in video and audio players, 30-day file versioning, and unlimited file size limits
- Cost: FREE up to 20GB, or plans starting at $3.99 for 500GB
- Website: https://www.pcloud.com
Similar to MediaFire, pCloud gives users 10GB for free and the opportunity to earn more by sharing files and folders, connecting social media accounts, and other options. U.S. users may balk at the Switzerland-based company’s server locations, but the added pressure of complying with GDPR security and privacy requirements bodes well for users looking to protect sensitive information.
Launched in 2008 with the goal of making data backups and syncing simple and trouble-free for all, Livedrive brings military-grade security and unlimited cloud storage to individuals and small businesses. As a sister company with SugarSync (the pair of brands, among others, is owned by J2 Global), Livedrive provides a more focused and streamlined solution. Customers can choose from a backups-only product, a syncing platform, or a combination of the two.
- Important features: Unlimited cloud storage, team folders with permissions, PCI compliance, U.K. datacenters protected by 24/7 physical security, and support for Windows, Mac, and mobile devices
- Cost: 14-day FREE trial, or plans starting at $8 per month for unlimited storage
- Website: https://www.livedrive.com
The company’s U.K. datacenters likely mean U.S. customers will want to look elsewhere, and the steep prices are hard to justify when Livedrive lacks many of the collaboration and productivity features that larger brands can provide. For those looking for tons of cloud storage space and security, however, it’s tough to argue with Livedrive’s attention to detail and unlimited file hosting capacities.
Geared for businesses with large teams and even larger files to share, Hightail considers itself the leader in the enterprise information management sector. With the company’s high-powered platform, organizations can move faster, streamline information governance procedures, and reduce security risks. Hightail is focused on helping users securely send and share files as large as 100GB with real-time notifications of when that data is received, downloaded, and accessed.
- Important features: File delivery and download tracking, custom branding, password protection, real-time comments and discussions, side-by-side version compare, approval routing, and task management
- Cost: FREE up to 2GB, or plans starting at $12 per month for unlimited storage
- Website: https://www.hightail.com
The company does provide a 2GB free plan, but uploaded files automatically expire after seven days — fine for users who want a slightly upgraded file sharing experience, but definitely not ideal for anyone looking for a long-term storage and archival solution. Paid customers can choose an expiration date for time-sensitive information or prevent expiration altogether.
Built under the mantra that cryptography must not interfere with usability, MEGA pushes browser-based performance with end-to-end encryption. Impressively, the company gives users control of their encryption keys, meaning MEGA is a zero-knowledge file hosting service that has no idea what information and data users are storing on their servers. The company doesn’t exactly lead the way in file sharing and collaboration features because of the attention to security and privacy, but its secure sharing and communication methods help mitigate that loss.
- Important features: End-to-end encryption, desktop and mobile apps, command line tool, plus secure messaging and audio or video calls.
- Cost: FREE up to 50GB, or plans starting at $5.45 per month for 200GB
- Website: https://mega.nz/
The company touts what seems like an impressive 50GB free plan, but there are more than a few aggravating catches: 35GB of that space will expire after 30 days. You can earn more storage by installing the MEGA mobile app or desktop application, but those benefits expire after 180 days; the 10GB of storage you gain by referring a friend expires after a year.
A major benefit to file hosting is the ability to allow others to access files without having to deal with annoying email attachments or flash drives. The former comes with restricting file size limitations, while the latter requires you to be at the same location as those you’re looking to collaborate with.
Most worthwhile file hosting platforms offer ways to let others see or download the files you upload to your storage, typically by sending a shareable link. However, other services focus solely on enabling you to share large files with others without providing permanent storage or file organization systems.
Generally speaking, file hosting is any service that allows you to upload and maintain your own files on another company’s servers. File sharing involves getting a link that enables someone to download a specific file. File sharing services like WeTransfer don’t require you to create an account and operate on a file-by-file basis — simply upload the document, get the link, share it.
Most of the options on our list of the best file hosting services include some sort of a free option. It may be a trial period that gives you time to get comfortable with the platform’s features and interface, or a no-cost plan that restricts your storage capacity or the tools available for you to use. Here are the best free file hosting plans on our list:
- Box (10GB with a 250MB file upload limit)
- pCloud (Up to 20GB with no file upload limits)
- Google Drive (15GB with no relevant file upload limit)
- MediaFire (Up to 50GB with a 4GB file upload limit)
- MEGA (Up to 50GB but most storage expires)
It’s a roundabout way to get free cloud storage, but most new Chromebooks come with Google Drive built in — as well as 100GB of free storage for two years. Several others on our list have free plans with smaller capacities. For instance, IDrive and Microsoft OneDrive give users 5GB for free, while ElephantDrive, Dropbox, and Hightail allocate 2GB for its free plan.
Whichever free option you choose, even if it’s not on our list, be sure to do your homework about a platform’s security, privacy, and technology features. Free web hosting plans can be notorious for cutting corners in these departments, sacrificing both your personal information and your data’s integrity and safety.
All the services in our list meet the basic requirements of file security, user privacy, and data protection. The vast majority encrypt your files with 256-bit encryption, which has long been the standard protection trusted by the U.S. government and many others worldwide. Additionally, most services will also protect your data as it is being uploaded, downloaded, or sent to someone else by layering on SSL encryption (or, more accurately, TLS encryption). This protects your data as it moves from one device to another and prevents man-in-the-middle attacks.
In addition to file encryption and private SSL certificates, be sure to look for other security features that show a file hosting service take data protection seriously. Malware and ransomware protection and two-factor authentication are excellent tools to start with, along with strong password protection features — both for your account and for your ability to protect certain files and folders from prying eyes.
As the big titans of the file hosting space, Google Drive and Dropbox have seen more than their fair share of attacks — and even breaches. While concerns with those platforms are certainly not unfounded, we still have no trouble recommending them for the vast majority of users with basic needs. For businesses and those with more sensitive information, look into HIPAA- or PCI-compliant solutions, as well as zero-knowledge platforms like MEGA.
With all online services, much of your security is dependent on how you protect yourself. Use strong passwords, and look for solutions that enable access logs or other administrative features that allow you to track who accesses files, how often, and how those files are changed.
Cloud-based file hosting and sharing services, as well as solutions for boosting online productivity and collaboration, abound on the internet.
If you’re still not entirely sure about signing up with one of the companies we recommend above, here are some of the file hosting and file sharing platforms we examined that didn’t quite make the cut:
We’ve covered the essential security features to look for in the previous section, but only you know what features will resonate with you the most. Price is always a major factor in purchases, and the user interface design is a personal experience that may not yield the same results for everyone. Choose your file hosting provider carefully, looking beyond just cost and storage capacities.
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About the Author
Laura Bernheim has spent more than 12 years crafting engaging and award-winning articles that share the passion behind organizations’ products, people, and innovations. As a freelance contributor to HostingAdvice, she combines a reputation for producing quality content with rich technical expertise to show experienced developers how to capitalize on emerging technologies and find better ways to work with established platforms. A professional journalist, Laura has contributed to The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, the Sun Sentinel, and the world’s top hosting providers. In addition to conducting interviews with industry leaders, Laura drives internal writing and design teams to deliver stellar, timely content that clearly explains even the most difficult concepts.