How to Choose the Best Cloud Storage Provider: A Detailed Guide

Enterprise Storage Forum content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Whether you’re a consumer or business/professional user, proper data storage these days requires more than the occasional backup to USB or portable hard drive. Cloud storage has become an indispensable tool for saving files and data in perpetuity, and an array of offerings have emerged in recent years to address a diverse set of requirements and use cases. Selecting the right vendor requires careful consideration of several factors—security, reliability, and cost-effectiveness, to name a few.

In this article, we’ll explore the critical measures for selecting a cloud storage vendor that aligns with your specific needs and requirements, as well as how leading offerings on the market today stack up.

Assessing Your Cloud Storage Needs

Prior to selecting a cloud storage vendor, you should first determine whether your organization is already using a specific cloud provider for hosting its IT infrastructure; if so, you may be relegated to one of the cloud storage services in your existing cloud provider’s portfolio. Otherwise, a personal cloud storage service will likely be a more cost-effective option for individual use.

The following criteria should be top-of-mind when assessing your cloud storage service needs:

Security and reliability

A competent cloud storage vendor should employ robust security measures such as access controls, continuous/automated data backups, and strong encryption. Vendors should also comply with industry standards and regulations, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), where applicable, and provide the proper attestations. Additionally, vendors should have disaster recovery procedures in place to guarantee that your data remains protected in case of an unforeseen event.

A vendor’s reliability and uptime are crucial factors in ensuring uninterrupted access to your data. Carefully analyze and evaluate a candidate provider’s service level agreements (SLAs) to understand the level of uptime they guarantee. Look for vendors with redundant data centers, backup systems, and a solid track record of minimal downtime. Customer reviews and testimonials can also provide insights into a cloud vendor’s reliability.

Read more about cloud security best practices.

Scalability and performance

As your storage requirements grow, you’ll need your cloud storage vendor’s features and high-performance capabilities to scale accordingly. Relevant factors to take into consideration here include the vendor’s infrastructure/availability zones, the size of its global network, connectivity options, and its ability to handle increased data volumes. 

Pricing and cost structure

Cloud storage vendors offer various pricing models, including pay-as-you-go, tiered pricing, or fixed monthly plans—depending your budget and anticipated usage patterns, you may opt to pay more upfront for a longer-term commitment (typically an annual contract), at a discount when compared to pay-as-you-go pricing. Other factors to consider include data transfer fees, additional features or services, and potential penalties for exceeding storage limits. 

Learn more about cloud storage pricing.

Integrations and compatibility

If you’re accustomed to using a particular suite of office productivity applications, selecting a cloud storage vendor that natively supports, or better yet, publishes that software will ensure seamless integration across your existing workflows. The cloud storage vendor should also support access via mobile devices and various operating systems.

AI-powered functionality

Many leading cloud storage vendors have incorporated artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) to unlock new data analysis and transformation capabilities in their offerings. For example, Dropbox’s Dash is an AI-powered universal search feature that connects all the relevant tools, content, and apps in a single search bar. Not to be outdone, Box’s AI feature enables its users to ask anything and get immediate answers—from summarizing a document to uncovering key findings in stored documents/reports. Unsurprisingly, Google Drive has long incorporated AI-powered search and discovery into its Drive cloud storage service, with Microsoft Drive following suit.

Learn more about using AI for storage management.

Customer support and SLAs

When it comes to critical data stored in the cloud, nothing beats prompt and reliable customer support when dealing with issues. Look for vendors that provide multiple support channels, including phone, email, or live chat; more often, they will also host a continuously updated status board displaying any service disruptions. SLAs should clearly define the vendor’s commitment to support and address any issues that may arise.

Learn more about how cloud storage works.

Leading Cloud Storage Vendor Roundup

When choosing a cloud storage service, it’s best to stick with battle-tested vendors with staying power—more than a few have come and gone over the years. The following cloud storage providers are established players that should prove a safe home for your data for years to come.


Dropbox was one of the earliest cloud storage providers and currently has a market share second only to Google Drive. Its cloud storage services are known for their collaboration features and in-app capabilities—for example, you can launch Microsoft and Google documents from within Dropbox, as well as collaborate seamlessly and co-author in real-time. However, this option may not be ideal for the budget-minded, as Dropbox is one of the more expensive cloud storage vendors.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is an attractive cloud storage option for Microsoft Office users and Windows aficionados looking for a seamless integration with their productivity suites and operating systems. With OneDrive, you can share any of your Office documents stored in the cloud, and multiple users can collaborate on them in real time. Any document changes are automatically saved to the cloud and instantly visible to all co-authors.

Google Drive

Like Microsoft, Google offers cloud storage services that integrate seamlessly with its own suite of office productivity applications—and similarly, Google Docs and Workspace users will benefit the most from Google Drive. Another compelling Google Drive feature is its app marketplace for integrating with other productivity solutions, as well as its low price point—in fact, Gmail account owners are already using Google Drive, free of cost.

Apple iCloud

Since iCloud is built into every Apple device, a vast number of consumers are already backing up their photos, videos, notes, and more to Apple’s cloud storage service. However, power users can upgrade to iCloud+ for more storage, enhanced privacy features, and stronger security controls.


Like its main rival Dropbox, Box offers cloud storage aimed at individuals, albeit professionals in a business setting. To this end, its features were designed to be more enterprise-focused: rich collaboration options, two-factor authentication, project management, and secure content management make it an attractive option for business users. That said, enterprise features come at an enterprise price tag, and Box falls on the steep end of the price curve. In terms of integrations, Box integrates with both Google Workspace and Microsoft Office.

Proton Drive

Switzerland-based Proton is most well-known for its end-to-end encrypted email service; for users with strict security/privacy requirements, the Proton Drive encrypted cloud storage service offers commensurate levels of protection with files, file names, and folder names and more, all fully encrypted at rest and in transit to its secure cloud. Proton has even made its solutions open source to bolster its approach to security by transparency.

Bottom Line: Choosing a Cloud Storage Vendor

Choosing the right cloud storage vendor requires careful consideration of your specific needs and a thorough evaluation of available features and options. In general, the safest bet is to go with one of the more established players in the cloud computing arena, and all of the previously mentioned vendors fall into this category. By assessing your requirements, evaluating data security controls, reliability, scalability, pricing, and integrations, you can make an informed decision that ensures the long-term safety and accessibility of your data.
Read next: What is Cloud Repatriation, and When Does it Make Sense?

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Cloud Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.

Latest Articles

15 Software Defined Storage Best Practices

Software Defined Storage (SDS) enables the use of commodity storage hardware. Learn 15 best practices for SDS implementation.

What is Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)?

Fibre Channel Over Ethernet (FCoE) is the encapsulation and transmission of Fibre Channel (FC) frames over enhanced Ethernet networks, combining the advantages of Ethernet...

9 Types of Computer Memory Defined (With Use Cases)

Computer memory is a term for all of the types of data storage technology that a computer may use. Learn more about the X types of computer memory.