In an age of eroding online privacy and increasing corporate surveillance, many are looking for a good alternative to Google Drive for their documents and files. After all, why would you want to store your private data with the world’s largest advertising company? This is especially true when you consider that Google has a financial incentive to collect and analyze your data.
Guest author Heinrich Long is the editor behind Restore Privacy, a blog dedicated to inform about best online privacy practices, secure your electronic devices, unblock restricted content and defeat censorship.
Even if finding a good Google Drive alternative has not been a top priority, it is another service worth replacing if you are planning to fully restore your privacy. And by selecting a reliable and secure Google Drive alternative, you will have more control of your data. You will also be supporting some great privacy-focused businesses while steering clear of surveillance capitalism.
Google Drive data privacy
First, we do need to point something out. Google Drive keeps your data secure against outsiders. However, this is a distinction from privacy. That’s because Google themselves can read your data if they wish. Here is what the Google Drive Additional Terms of Service, dated March 31, 2020, has to say on the subject (emphasis added):
We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our Program Policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do.
What? It seems to be saying that they want you to act like your data is private even though they can look at it whenever they feel the need to do so. We don’t actually provide privacy but you should pretend that we do?
Unless you are part of an organization where you are required to use Google Drive, it should be relatively easy to switch to a more private cloud storage service. Replacing it will be an easy step toward a long-term goal of replacing all your Google apps and services.
Finding a secure cloud storage service takes on more importance when you think about all the sensitive data you are storing in the cloud. Add in the number of nasty cloud storage hacks that have occurred over the years and you might start feeling a sense of urgency.
Best Google Drive alternatives
Moving away from Google Drive is complicated by the fact that it works with various other services such as Google Docs, Calendar, and more. If you use the full suite of Google apps, replacing Drive could be challenging. However, if you have some flexibility in the additional apps and services you use, I can show you some secure cloud storage options that can act as Google Drive alternatives that also keep your data private.
|Price||$10.42/mo; 200 GB|
Tresorit is our pick for the best Google Drive alternative today. It offers a full set of features that could be useful for individuals and teams, as well as businesses. You also get end-to-end zero knowledge encryption that ensures your data is really private and secure — even from the people at Tresorit.
If you are on an individual plan, your data will be stored in Ireland. But if you spring for a business account, you can select from several jurisdictions to meet your regulatory and business requirements. Tresorit has also been audited to confirm that the product delivers on its promises. Ernst & Young did it in 2019 and rated Tresorit as a trustworthy service.
Tresorit doesn’t connect to the same range of business apps that Google Drive does, but it does integrate with Outlook, Gmail, and Active Directory, making it easy to use Tresorit with your existing infrastructure.
Their business-oriented plans also give you tools for managing users and their data across the organization. When you factor in Tresorit compliance with HIPAA, GDPR, FedRAMP, and numerous other data protection regulations, you get a secure cloud storage offering that works in a business environment.
Tresorit isn’t just resting on its past achievements, either. One recent addition to the product was Tresorit Drive 2.0. Tresorit Drive allows you to access and edit cloud-only files without downloading or syncing them. It is available for Windows and Mac OS.
Tresorit is a great Google Drive replacement for business users but might be overkill for individual users. The free plan offered by the company is very limited, while individuals will probably have little use for the business features while still needing to pay the product’s relatively high subscription fee.
Note: Effective July 6, Swiss Post acquired a majority stake of Tresorit. According to the company, the acquisition won’t change much from the perspective of users like you and me. We’ll keep an eye on the situation and let you know if anything significant comes up. Check out Restore Privacy’s complete Tresorit review.
|Price||$96/yr; 2 TB|
This Canadian company is one of the best alternatives to Google Drive for both individuals and businesses. The service has a zero-knowledge infrastructure that looks really solid and features that will appeal to any audience. The Sync.com free plan could be ideal for individuals who can get by with only a few gigabytes of storage (5 GB) and don’t need a Linux sync client. The company stores all your data in Canada.
Sync.com has a number of strong features for businesses. It has capable subscription plans with the ability to do things like view Office documents directly from the web, send and receive files securely, as well as unlimited storage and bandwidth. The plans are compliant with industry standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PIPEDA.
There are two potential drawbacks to consider if you want to use Sync.com for business. One is that you need to store all your data in Sync.com’s Sync folder. This could result in incompatibilities with other crucial business apps and services. The other potential drawback is that the company has not published any third-party audit results yet. Learn more about this Google Drive alternative in Restore Privacy’s Sync.com review.
|Based In||New Zealand|
|Price||$5.45/mo; 400 GB|
If you use Google Drive as an individual, rather than a team member or an employee, MEGA could be the Google Drive replacement you want. Among its Drive-like benefits, MEGA provides desktop and mobile clients for every major operating system, including Linux.
Like Tresorit, MEGA’s end-to-end, zero knowledge encryption means not even MEGA themselves can read your data. They also offer a generous free plan that includes 15 GB of storage (which you can boost to as much as to 50 GB if you complete certain tasks). One thing that hurts this service is that it has daily data transfer limits that can leave changes unsynced until the next day if you try to move too much data at once.
While MEGA has a lot to offer for individuals, it doesn’t look as good if you are looking for secure business storage. Their business plans can include unlimited storage and transfer capacity, plus built-in chat, contacts, and file preview capabilities. But Tresorit and other services like pCloud have stronger corporate offerings.
Another thing to be aware of with MEGA is that New Zealand law forces MEGA to include some worrying clauses in their ToS. You’ll want to study the ToS extra carefully if you are considering MEGA for corporate cloud storage. Learn more in Restore Privacy’s MEGA cloud storage review.
|Price||$3.99/mo; 500 GB|
Compared to the other Google Drive alternatives we’re looking at here, NordLocker is pretty bare bones. That’s because it is really a file encryption system with cloud storage capabilities. If you are looking for secure Google Drive replacement, the NordLocker Premium plan offers 500 GB of storage at a very reasonable price.
Consider NordLocker for business or personal use if you need the maximum possible security for your cloud storage. Conventional secure cloud storage services like Tresorit or Sync.com encrypt your data whenever it is in motion or when it is on their servers. No one, not even them, can decrypt your data in these circumstances.
But conventional cloud storage services do not encrypt the data when it is at rest on your devices. If a malicious actor gains access to your device, they will also have full access to your files as well.
NordLocker eliminates this problem. You put files and folders you want to store in the cloud into a special folder called a locker. Lockers are encrypted by default, even on your device. Unless you open NordLocker (which is password-protected) your files remain safely encrypted at all times. This results in an additional level of protection beyond the other products profiled here.
NordLocker has one other nice trick on offer. The service provides its own secure cloud storage for lockers just like everyone else. But NordLocker lockers are also compatible with any other cloud storage service. That’s a big deal. It means you can store lockers in other cloud storage services (including Google Drive), and know that your data is secure. Learn more about this versatile tool in Restore Privacy’s complete NordLocker review.
Nextcloud is a free and open source suite of client-server software used to create and manage file hosting services. Depending on how it is configured, Nextcloud can serve as a secure cloud storage service for individuals, a functionally similar replacement for Google Drive in the enterprise, and anything in between.
If you have the technical expertise, you can host Nextcloud on your own servers, which offers the potential for a very secure configuration. Or you can use Nextcloud through a third-party service provider to eliminate setup and maintenance headaches. Nextcloud is also very versatile and expandable.
One example of this is Nextcloud Hub. The hub allows you (and your team) to:
- Share and collaborate on documents, send and receive email, manage your calendar and have video chats without data leaks
- As a fully on-premises solution, Nextcloud Hub provides the benefits of online collaboration without the compliance and security risks.
Given what we’ve seen so far, Nextcloud looks like it should be one of the top Google Drive alternatives. There are, however, a couple of drawbacks. First, Nextcloud’s end-to-end (E2E) encryption is not fully functional yet. This makes the ability to host your Nextcloud system within a secure firewall very important.
Another issue is that you need to be alert to how secure and private each of the components you connect to Nextcloud is. Using Nextcloud as a secure and private alternative to Google Drive requires some technical experience. Even so, Nextcloud seems to have a bright future as a powerful, flexible, and free cloud storage solution once they get their E2E encryption solution completely ironed out. Here’s Restore Privacy’s full review of Nextcloud.
Alternative Google Drive FAQs
Here are some detailed answers to some of the additional questions people have about alternatives to Google Drive.
Does it matter where the company is located?
Where a Google Drive alternative is based matters. If it is based in a country that doesn’t provide strong privacy protections, the company may be forced to hand over your private data to the government or other third parties. In many cases, the company will be legally required to turn over your data, regardless of what their Terms of Service or other policies say.
However, the Google Drive alternatives we recommend feature zero knowledge, end-to-end (E2E) encryption. What this means is that no one, not even the company that runs the service, can read your files. The file encryption used by modern services is believed by cryptographers to be secure against cracking by even the most powerful current computers. So while it is best if your files are never turned over to anyone, the data within them will be safe if that does happen.
There is one other thing to discuss. The fact that a snoop can’t read your encrypted files doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no usable data available about your files. The service may still have access to:
- Billing information
- Metadata such as your IP address and when you log on or off the system
- Who you share encrypted files with
- The names of the encrypted files or folders you are storing in the cloud
You should think carefully about the threats you want to protect your data against (your threat model) before evaluating alternatives to Google Drive.
Does it matter where my data is stored?
Yes, it matters. But with the secure, private cloud storage services we recommend as Google Drive replacements, it doesn’t matter too much. If you’ve read the main article, you are now aware that your data is not always stored in the same country your cloud storage service is located in. For example, Tresorit is based in Switzerland, but it stores your data in Ireland or various other countries. Meanwhile, Sync.com is based in Canada and stores your data there.
The laws of the country that your data is stored in can affect your data and make it available to the local government or other organizations. But once again, since the Google Drive alternatives we recommend provide strong security (Nextcloud being a current exception) the local authorities won’t be able to read your files even if they do grab a copy of them. At best, they will be able to get the same kinds of metadata that we listed in the previous question.
That means that even though your data is secure in any location, if you have the option, go with a service that is both based in, and stores your data in, a privacy friendly jurisdiction.
Why can’t I use a free account?
While using a free Google Drive alternative sounds appealing, there are several good reasons to pay for your secure cloud storage. They include:
- Limited functionality – Free accounts are meant to lead you to subscribe to the paid version of the service. To that end, they always have limited functionality. Whether it is more stringent limits on the amount of data you can store, limits on the amount of data you can upload and download in a month, or the amount of time you can use the free account, or something else, the paid version of any alternative will usually be a better option.
- Limited support – Support costs money, and free accounts don’t earn any money. As a result, they usually provide limited customer support.
- Limited features – You usually get more features with paid accounts, too. Things like file version tracking, enhanced security features, and business-oriented features are usually only available with a paid account.
The best use for a free account is to test the service. That way, you can be sure the service will meet your needs before investing money into it.
Should I use a VPN with my Google Drive alternative?
You should always use a VPN with the cloud storage service you choose as a Google Drive alternative. While secure services like those we describe prevent prying eyes from reading the data in your files, there is still metadata that can be recorded about you. Services often use your IP address to know whose metadata they have collected.
Their gathering of your personal data helps them but offers no real benefits for you. If you use a VPN to connect to a Google Drive alternative, that service won’t be able to see your real IP address and location. Instead, they will see the IP address of the VPN server you are using. Since each IP address of a popular VPN is shared by many other VPN users, it will be very hard for anyone snooping on your connection to be able to associate your online activities with your online address.
What’s the difference between end-to-end encryption and zero knowledge encryption?
People are sometimes confused about the difference between end-to-end (E2E) encryption and zero knowledge encryption. Here’s a quick explanation:
E2E encryption means that messages or data are encrypted before they leave your device and remain encrypted until they arrive at their destination. They’re encrypted from one end of the connection to the other.
Zero knowledge encryption takes things one step further. With zero knowledge encryption, the user controls the encryption keys. The cloud storage service (or whatever other service you are talking about) doesn’t know the encryption keys and has no way to find out what they are. In other words, the service has zero knowledge of the encryption keys and therefore cannot read your data. Period.
As mentioned earlier, a prime requirement for these cloud storage services is that they provide the privacy and security that Google Drive does not. Time and again, cloud storage services have proven to be prime targets for hackers from run-of-the-mill creeps to high-powered hacking teams backed by national governments.
Finally, take any services you like out for a test drive. Spend a few days or weeks testing it to see if it really meets your specific needs as a Google Drive alternative. We’re confident that one of these will meet your needs and let you move away from Google Drive with little stress.