MEGA Cloud Storage
Founded by the legendary Kim Dotcom in 2013, MEGA, touts itself as one of the most secure and privacy focused cloud storage providers on the market today.
Its certainly easy to see why they make such claims, with all files encrypted locally by default, a zero knowledge storage policy and users themselves holding their own encryption keys it is probably one of the most sophisticated end-to-end examples of encrypted cloud storage available today.
MEGA also offer some very generous storage quotas with one of the most generous free accounts as of today providing 50GB of storage with premium offerings providing up to 16TB for as little as €29.99 / month.
Add onto the above the excellent iOS and Android apps, desktop synchronisation apps, command line operation, encrypted link sharing, communication functionality plus much much more, MEGA really does have just about any cloud storage use case covered.
- Great design with a very easy to use interface
- PC / Linux / Mac synchronisation software
- Smartphone apps for iOS and Android
- Generous 50GB free account
- All files encrypted locally by default
- Zero knowledge encryption
- Great file sharing system built-in
- Support for 2FA!
- Support for cryptocurrency payments
- No lifetime plans
Signing up to MEGA
Signing up to MEGA is very quick and easy, simply provide a name, working email address and then a strong password in order to set up a new account.
The password needs to be really strong as this will form the basis of the encryption applied to you files whenever they are stored on MEGA. It is also really important to point out here that MEGA have no knowledge of this password as all encryption is done locally on your own device prior to any uploads taking place.
Put simply this means that should you, for any reason, forget your MEGA password you will loose access to all of your files, forever. Being a zero knowledge operation, MEGA, will in no way be able to help recover files from an account where the user has forgotten their password. This is made very clear during the sign-up process so if you do sign up for MEGA please take notice of these warnings.
Once the account has been created you will be logged into the MEGA web interface, from here files and folders can easily be uploaded to the account by either dragging and dropping them over the webpage or using the more sophisticated file transfer tools to select 1 or more items stored locally.
Files and folder can also be downloaded from MEGA to your local device in much the same way as above, in addition to this items can also be shared using MEGA’s sophisticated link sharing system which I will look at in more detail a little later on.
Installing and Using the MEGA Client Application
Whilst the web console is undoubtedly a great tool, MEGA have gone much further than this by providing users with a very useful desktop app available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
One of the main features of this app is the ability to configure a synchronised folder between a folder on the local PC and a folder on the MEGA cloud, once configured the MEGA desktop app will then keep these two folders automatically in sync with each other.
In addition to the folder synchronisation the desktop app also provides interfaces for bulk uploading or downloading files to or from MEGA, this means you don’t have to be logged into the web interface should you quickly need to move some files around. Any files or folders which are been actively transferred using the MEGA app in any way can be monitored using the built in Transfer Manager, this tool is built into the desktop app and allows quick and easy monitoring of what the app, if anything, is transferring.
Another, potentially very useful feature built into the desktop client is the ability to stream media content directly from MEGA and view it on the local PC. This means that any media such as videos, for example, can be stored on the MEGA cloud yet consumed on a local device.
What makes this streaming functionality even more impressive is that the media can be streamed from another users MEGA account via the use of a sharing link, simply enter the MEGA sharing link into the streaming manager (as shown above) to get started.
Finally, one of the other great features of the MEGA desktop app is the ability to control network connectivity and bandwidth settings, this is especially important to those working on slower networks where transferring of files might have a noticeable effect on network performance.
As can be seen above, the application allows for strict bandwidth limits to be adhered to for file transfers as well as a specified limit on the number number of TCP connections in use to be set. In addition to this we can also specify whether HTTP or HTTPS is used for transfers, HTTPS is more secure (but slower) and in most cases not really needed as all files are encrypted before leaving the local PC. Whilst not really needed (because of the ‘always on’ encryption) t is nice to see MEGA have allowed users the option to have HTTPS transfers should they still wish to.
Using the MEGA Smartphone Apps
MEGA have smartphone apps available for both iOS and Android, for the purposes of this review I will be focusing on the Android version.
Installing the MEGA app onto an Android device is, as would be expected, really quick and easy via the Google Play store. Once installed the app can be signed into using your regular MEGA username and password.
Once logged into the app we can see all files and folders stored within our MEGA account, clicking on the menu icon next to any file or folder provides a set of options for said item such as downloading to the local device storage, deleting it or creating a secure sharing link.
I will cover the secure link sharing system a little later on but for now it is good to see that this has been fully implemented into the app and that links can be shared publicly or privately all from within the MEGA app.
Another really useful feature integrated into the MEGA app is the camera uploads function. Once enabled this will automatically upload any newly taken photos on the phone directly to the users MEGA account. Whilst becoming somewhat common now on cloud storage apps this feature allows users to to easily backup photos to their MEGA account and easily share them using the MEGA sharing system.
And finally, the MEGA secure chat features available in the main MEGA browser app have also been made available via the smartphone app, users can easily contact existing contacts or add new ones thanks to integration with their phone. This means, together with the features above, MEGA have created a very powerful and very useful smartphone app to compliment their already feature heavy web browser and desktop applications!
Working with and Sharing files within MEGA
So far it is clear that MEGA are a very serious player in the cloud storage world and with over 178M registered users they are clearly doing a lot of things very well!
One of the things which makes MEGA stand out so much from the competition, along with the end-to-end encryption is the excellent file sharing system built directly into their offering. This comes in two forms, the first being the ability to create public sharing links and the second in the form of sharing folders directly with other MEGA users.
To share any file with a publicly accessible link simply right click on the item in question and then select “Get link”, this will take you to a sharing screen like the one below.
As can be seen above we have two main options, these are the sharing of the link and encryption key together or the sharing of the link without the decryption key included in the link. Choosing the link and decryption key combination will allow anyone who has the link to access the content whereas sharing the link without the key wont. If you were to share the link without a key then the secure decryption key could be sent to the recipient later on using a secondary secure channel (remember that everything is always encrypted on MEGA hence this approach).
If you are sharing with another MEGA registered user then things becomes even easier and more integrated, simply clicking on “Sharing” when right clicking on any folder and entering the other users email address will allow a direct share to be made. What this means is that the shared folder, which you both now have access to will be accessible form the shared folders section on each MEGA account making for easy collaboration and sharing of files.
When sharing folders with other MEGA users in this way it is also important to note you can set permissions for these shares including read only, read and write and full access, ideal for small business and freelance users working with clients!
Whilst all of this sharing mentioned so far is available with a free MEGA account they do reserve a couple of useful features for their premium account holders, these are mainly the ability to set an automatic expiry date for a shared link and also set an (additional) password for the download.
Another useful feature which is included by default in all MEGA accounts is the file versioning feature. With file versioning turned on (which it is by default) means any files which are updated can be rolled back to older versions whenever necessary. The number of versions is limited only by the storage available in the account so this function is ideal for those looking to use MEGA as some form of backup or for recovering shared files which might have been changed by mistake.
Encrypted Audio, Video and Chat with MEGA
One of the other great features which helps make MEGA a cut above many other cloud storage providers is the built-in secure communication systems. These are encrypted by default (as is everything within MEGA) and integrated into the MEGA apps themselves making for great ease of access.
Once you have added contacts to your MEGA account (who also have a MEGA account) you can then chat or make audio / video calls securely using the MEGA web console or mobile apps.
Enhanced Team Collaboration with the MEGA Business Account
Whilst I have focused my review on the personal account so far it is worth mentioning that MEGA also provide a business account for businesses with 3+ users.
With many of the features of the personal account included, the business accounts take user management even further allowing for files to easily be shared and user permissions to be set amongst team members. Business accounts also allow unlimited secure chat and audio / video calls between team members as well as providing unlimited storage space for only €10 per user / per month.
MEGA Free vs Premium
The free MEGA account offers a whopping 50GB of free cloud storage to new users whereas the premium accounts offer either 400GB, 2TB, 8TB or 16TB of storage from as little as €4.99/month.
Whilst the 50GB on offer for free accounts might sound very generous it is, sadly, subject to various “achievements” being met in return for bonus storage add-ons which will expire after a set period of time. The base storage for free accounts with no additional bonus storage added on will be 15GB.
This achievements system allows the base 15GB of free storage to be extended up to various levels depending on certain tasks being completed. For example, MEGA will allocate free bonus storage for performing the following tasks:
A 35GB bonus will be allocated upon account activation, this will last for 30 days.
A 20GB bonus will be allocated for 180 days for Installing the MEGAsync desktop client.
A 15GB bonus will be allocated for 180 days for installing the MEGA smartphone app.
Each friend referred to MEGA will result in a 10GB bonus which is allocated for 365 days.
In addition to these account storage limits there is also a download limit enforced upon all free accounts of 5GB per session, once this 5GB is reached, users will be required to wait for up to several hours for their downloads to resume. This limit does not apply to premium accounts which have a set transfer quota and will operate uninterrupted whilst within their quota limits.
Full details of the MEGA premium accounts pricing can be seen below:
Security and Privacy are two areas in which MEGA really excels, this is evident from the way the software is built through to the philosophies of the company itself.
All files stored on MEGA are encrypted using 128bit AES encryption which is done locally before anything is transferred to the cloud. This encryption also extends to shared content whereby decryption keys must also be provided to recipients of a share before the content can be used (his can be either with or separate to the link itself).
Transfers from the desktop application are, by default done by unencrypted HTTP (this is fine since the files themselves are encrypted) with HTTPS transfers allowed should uses wish to turn them on themselves.
Privacy is also taken very seriously at MEGA with only a name and working email address required to establish a free account. Premium accounts can also be paid for using cryptocurrencies meaning no unnecessary personal is requested from Mega, even for the premium accounts. This is a very good setup and just what I like to see from a company proclaiming to be “The Privacy Company”!
MEGA operate a good knowledge base which provides answers to most common questions you might come across whilst using the service. Further support is only available via an online ticket form or one of several support emails.
MEGA offer a free account (with 15GB – 50GB of storage) alongside four Premium accounts. These premium accounts are:
- PRO LITE: 400GB for €4.99/m
- PRO I: 2TB for €9.99/m
- PRO II: 8TB for €19.99/m
- PRO III: 16TB for €29.99/m
Overall I think MEGA are being fair with these pricing plans, especially with the larger plans which I think offer potentially very good value for anyone needing so much storage. It would be good to see MEGA create a smaller premium offering (say 100GB) and price more in line with what Google Drive does for this amount of storage.
There is no doubt MEGA is one of the best cloud storage operators in the market today, no mater which way you look at it they have all of the tools and security features you could ever need from cloud storage built right in!
The whole MEGA ecosystem is also very nice to work within as well, from the excellent browser based tools through to the smartphone apps and desktop client software everything is very integrated and works exactly as it should do. I myself have been a MEGA user right from the very beginning and over these seven or so years have had very little to complain about.
Moving on to value, however, it is clear that MEGA might be falling a little bit behind in this regard. The larger of their premium accounts are fairly priced based on the amount of storage provided and have very generous transfer quotas however, I would like to see MEGA offer a smaller premium account (say 100GB) bringing it more in line with popular offerings from Google Drive. It is also disappointing to see no lifetime plans available form MEGA as this is fast becoming a popular way to purchase small amounts of storage for those not wanting (nor able) to pay continuous monthly fees.
All in all a very impressive cloud storage service which clearly takes security and privacy seriously. Well done MEGA!