Using a cloud service is one of the best ways students can store and organize their classwork-related files. Not only are these services fairly affordable, but they also typically allow you to share your files with others easily — something that's incredibly helpful when you and your classmates need to collaborate on projects. Additionally, your files can be accessed from a wide variety of different devices, making cloud storage more flexible than traditional external hard drives. There are many different cloud storage services available these days, but depending on what you're looking for, some are much better than others. Here are some of our favorite options that cater to the needs of students.
Google Drive is one of the best if not the best cloud storage solution for students who need something basic. Every Google account gets a hefty 15GB of free storage right off the bat, and you can upgrade to paid plans that offer up to 5TB of storage if necessary. There's encryption during transit and at rest, support for two-factor authentication, and the drag-and-drop interface is simple and easy to use. It's fully integrated with Google services like Docs, Slides, and Sheets as well.
Dropbox has been around for over a decade now, and despite the rise of numerous cloud storage competitors, it's still one of the best services out there. Free storage is limited to just 2GB and there aren't any low-cost plans, but you can get 5TB for a great $15/month price. Dropbox also has features that make it incredibly easy to share files with other people, including folks who don't use Dropbox themselves. Like Google Drive, there's encryption during transit and while files are at rest.
Microsoft OneDrive is a natural choice for students who use Microsoft 365, as you get 1TB of storage with Microsoft 365 Personal plans (6TB with family ones). Alternatively, you can get a standalone free version of OneDrive that offers 5GB of storage or subscribe to a paid plan. It's built into Windows and usable on Mac, iOS, and Android, too. Files are protected with an AES 256-key encryption, and there's a Personal Vault feature that allows you to protect specific files with two-factor authentication.
Apple's iCloud service is arguably the best option for folks who use Apple devices like iPhones or Macs. It's fully integrated into macOS and iOS, offers 5GB of free storage, and has very competitively priced paid plans. It also offers in transit and at rest encryption and reliable file sharing, and is also available on Windows devices. The only major downside is that you can't use iCloud on Android devices, but as long as you're not using one, that issue won't affect you.
If you need tons of long-term storage space and don't mind paying in bulk for it, IDrive is a fantastic option. You can get up to 10TB of storage for one year for $74.62 (subsequent years cost $149.25), and there are also more affordable 5TB plans as well. Those are great prices compared to what you'd pay monthly for the same amount of storage with other providers, and you get end-to-end encryption, too. Upload and download speeds are slow and there are few file-sharing features, though, so IDrive is best used solo.
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When picking a cloud storage service to use, there are several things students should consider. It's important to make sure that you're choosing a provider that offers a good amount of storage for the price, and if you need to collaborate with others, it's also a good idea to pick a service that makes sharing files easy. You should also make sure that the storage solution you opt for has good encryption security, as well as compatibility with the devices you daily-drive while churning through classwork.
Our overall favorite is Google Drive, which offers plenty of free storage, has integration with other Google productivity apps, can be used to easily share files with others, and works on phones, tablets, and computers across the Windows, Apple, and Android ecosystems. Dropbox is another excellent choice if you're looking for something perfect for collaboration, while OneDrive and iCloud are great if you're using a Windows 11 or macOS machine, respectively. IDrive, meanwhile, is perfect for students who need lots of long-term storage capacity and end-to-end encryption for a great price.
Keep in mind that while we strongly recommend cloud storage for students, a reliable external hard drive is never a bad choice for storage, either. Make sure to check out our roundup of the best external hard drives for other storage options to consider.
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