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Apple, Google or Microsoft? How to match cloud storage to your computers – and cut costs

  • November 27, 2021

The forecast for your next phone, tablet, laptop or desktop includes not just a chance of clouds but a choice of them. As in, which cloud-storage service will you use to back up your files? 

The wrong answer is “none.” Any device that will leave your house needs a backup system that doesn’t depend on you remembering to plug it into a drive or another computer once at home. Plus, cloud storage vastly eases access to your most important files across all your devices.

But unless you exist entirely in Apple’s orbit, you’ll have to choose between cloud services that fit better on some devices than on others.

Here are your options from Apple, Google and Microsoft, with costs on an annual basis:

  • Apple’s iCloud+ gives 5 gigabytes of free storage, after which you can buy 50 GB for $11.88/year, 200 GB for $35.88/year, or 2 terabytes for $119.88/year;
  • Google One starts with 15 GB free, then offers 100 GB for $19.99/year, 200 GB for $29.99/year, and 2 TB for $99.99/year;
  • Microsoft’s OneDrive provides 5 GB free, followed by a 100 GB tier at $23.88 a year and a 1 TB offering at $69.99 a year, plus a family plan with 1 TB per person for up to six people for $99.99/year.

On Macs, iPhones and iPads, iCloud+ allows for the simplest backup and now offers such additional privacy features as iCloud Private Relay to cloak your browsing and Hide My Email to create random addresses that forward to your actual email. 

In Windows, OneDrive provides equally simple backup of your core data folders as well as the useful extra of Microsoft Office’s apps. 

Gmail inbox that’s grown beyond your ability to keep it under the 15 GB line. 

►How to get it together:5 tips to help you organize your iPhone, Android apps and control the chaos

►Unfriending Facebook:How to deactivate or permanently delete your Facebook account

Beyond those three, you can also buy cloud storage from the likes of Dropbox, where 2 TB run $119.88/year, while Amazon Prime subscribers get unlimited Amazon Photos storage; those third-party services, however, lack their integration with major computing platforms.

My advice: Let the computer that most needs online backup – meaning the device that spends the most time out of the house and holds the most content in need of safekeeping – drive your cloud choice. In my case, that device is an HP laptop running Windows 10, so I pay for OneDrive to sync its documents, photos and music.

My other advice: Try not to pay list price for cloud storage if you can help it. Credit card cash-back offers such as a targeted American Express 20%-off deal for Google One may trim your costs, but you can also often purchase Apple and Google gift cards, good for their cloud services, at a discount. 

For example, Target rewards buying a $100 Apple gift card with a $15 gift card, Amazon earlier offered a $5 credit for buying a $50 Apple gift card, and AARP members can buy $15 Google Play gift cards for $13 through that organization’s AARP Rewards page

Subscription fatigue is real, but chipping away at these expenses is one way to feel less weary about this cost of doing digital business.

Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, email Rob at Follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.

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