The Best Cloud Storage Options for the iPad

Free space on your iPad with cloud storage

Using cloud storage is one way to expand your iPad's storage options while also serving as a built-in data-backup tool. No matter what happens to your device, files stored in the cloud remain there, ready for you to download. Cloud services also facilitate collaboration, allowing you and co-workers to access the same documents across multiple computing devices.

We looked at iPad cloud storage options and selected the five best providers based on ease of use, integration, cost, sharing options, and more. Take a look and see what's best for your needs.

There's no one best cloud storage option. Each has its pros and cons. Thoroughly review your cloud storage options before deciding which service is right for you.

01
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Apple iCloud Drive

iCloud home screen
What We Like
  • Seamless integration with iOS.

  • Free storage available.

  • Relatively inexpensive paid plans.

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks useful search abilities.

  • Only some file types can be edited in the cloud.

Apple's iCloud Drive is already part of the fabric of every iPad. iCloud Drive is where the iPad saves backups and is used for iCloud Photos.

iCloud Drive is an excellent all-purpose storage solution for the iPad. Although it shines in an iOS-centric world, it is somewhat limiting for users who share the workload between computers, tablets, and smartphones. It doesn't offer the same document editing, in-document searching, and other extras offered by the competition.

One area where iCloud rules the roost is refresh speed. It's lightning-quick to get a file you just popped into your iCloud Drive folder on your computer to show up on your iPad.

iCloud Photos is the easiest way to keep cloud backups of your photos if you use the iPad and the iPhone.

A free iCloud account comes with 5 GB of storage space, but some people with large photo and video libraries may want to bump up to the 99 cents-per-month 50 GB plan. Other plan options include $2.99 per month for 200 GB of storage and $9.99 per month for 2 TB.

02
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Dropbox

Dropbox free account screen
What We Like
  • Free plan available.

  • Useful sharing options.

  • Previews most file types.

  • Camera-upload support.

  • Edits some files.

  • Sorting options.

What We Don't Like
  • Can't preview archives.

  • Pricey paid plans.

Sometimes a platform tie-in is a significant bonus. For example, iCloud Drive works great with the Apple Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps. However, sometimes not having a tie-in to a major platform is an asset, which is the case with Dropbox.

While your cloud storage choice is ultimately about your needs, the Dropbox advantage is how well it works with all platforms. Do you use Microsoft Office? No problem. More of an Apple apps person? Not an issue.

Dropbox falls on the more expensive side. It offers 2 GB of free space and has a 2 TB one-user Plus plan for $9.99 per month and a 2 TB Family Plan (up to six users) for $16.99 per month. But the cost is worth it if you need the flexibility to work with any platform.

Setting up Dropbox on an iPad is easy and offers many advantages. Dropbox is one of the few cloud storage options that allow you to boot into Adobe Acrobat to edit PDF files on your iPad. For light editing, such as adding text or a signature, you don't need to load Acrobat.

Dropbox even comes with a document scanner, although if you have extensive needs in the scanning department, you should go with a dedicated app.

Dropbox has robust search capabilities and supports saving files offsite and sharing them across the web.

03
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Box

Box cloud storage
What We Like
  • 10 GB of free storage space.

  • Advanced settings.

  • Offline access.

  • Simple and easy to use.

  • Several search filtering options.

  • Collaboration features.

What We Don't Like
  • Sometimes slow.

  • Occasional syncing problems.

  • Free plan has a 250 MB limit.

  • No PDF editing.

Box is the closest to Dropbox in terms of being an independent solution. It has many of the same features as Dropbox, including the ability to save documents for offline use and to leave comments on documents, which is great for collaboration.

Edit text files on Box right in the iPad app, which is awesome. However, it doesn't allow PDF editing and isn't quite as ubiquitous in working with other apps like Dropbox.

One nice bonus of Box is the 10 GB of free storage, which is among the highest of any cloud storage service. Although the free storage plan limits the file upload size to 250 MB, it's attractive for moving photos ​off of the iPad.

The premium plan ups the file size upload limit to 5 GB and the overall storage to 100 GB for $10 a month.

04
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Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft One Drive cloud storage
What We Like
  • Inexpensive paid plans.

  • Drag-and-drop support.

  • Built-in file previewing.

  • Multiple account login.

What We Don't Like
  • Editing requires other apps.

  • No advanced link-sharing options.

  • Few customizable settings.

Microsoft's cloud storage options are ideal for heavy users of Microsoft Office. OneDrive interacts seamlessly with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and other Microsoft products. It also does a great job of marking up PDF files without leaving the app.

Similar to Dropbox and a few other cloud services, you can set OneDrive to back up your photos and videos automatically. It's fast when loading previews for all files except Microsoft files. For a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, OneDrive launches the Word or Excel app. This is great for times when you intend to edit the document, but for viewing documents, it makes the process much more awkward.

The best deal on OneDrive is the Microsoft 365 Personal plan that gives 1 TB of storage and access to Microsoft 365 for just $6.99 a month.

05
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Google Drive

Google Drive cloud storage
What We Like
  • Lots of free storage.

  • Fluid drag-and-drop.

  • Mimics the desktop version.

  • Save files for offline access.

  • Sharing options.

  • Advanced search tool.

What We Don't Like
  • Storage is shared with other Google services.

  • Doesn't automatically upload files.

  • Editing documents requires other apps.

  • Can't make new text files.

What Microsoft OneDrive is to Microsoft's apps, Google Drive is to Google's apps. Google Drive goes hand-in-hand with Google Docs, Forms, and Calendar. However, for everyone else, Google Drive is light on features, has an uninspiring interface, and is the slowest of any to sync your files.

Google Drive offers the ability to back up your photos automatically, and it's fairly quick when previewing documents. The search capabilities are lacking, and other than editing Google documents in Google's apps, it's a bit light in the content-creation department.

Google Drive comes with 15 GB of free storage, but this is somewhat offset by Gmail eating into that storage, something you'll experience if you tend to save emails indefinitely. Your 15 GB free allotment also includes all your Google Photos, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files.

If you find you need more storage, Google Drive offers a bargain with its Google One storage plan that comes with 100 GB for $1.99 a month or 200 GB for $2.99 per month. The price jumps to $9.99 a month for 2 TB, but if you only need 100 GB, the $2 deal is attractive.

How Cloud Storage Works

Cloud storage refers to storing your files on a computer that resides at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or another data center. Cloud storage servers are secure and protected, keeping your data safer than if it was stored only on your iPad or computer.

Cloud storage is even a more secure option than buying an external hard drive for your iPad.

Cloud storage works by syncing your files to your devices. For a computer, that means downloading a piece of software that sets up a folder on your hard drive. This folder acts like any other folder on your computer except for one difference; the files are regularly scanned and uploaded to the cloud server, and new or updated files are downloaded to the folder on your computer.

For the iPad, this function happens with a cloud service app on your device. You'll have access to the files you save on your computer or smartphone and can easily save new photos and documents from your iPad to your cloud storage.

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