pCloud Cloud Storage
pCloud is a secure cloud storage service featuring many advanced features not usually available in the cloud storage market. Advanced sharing, encryption and security features are all built into the service along with the ability to use pCloud for backing up photos from multiple platforms.
With these features aside, pCloud also stands out by being one of the few cloud storage providers to offer their premium service with a single, lifetime subscription option. This lifetime subscription means with a single payment users of pCloud can enjoy all of the premium features along with a minimum of 500GB of storage without the need for any further monthly payments, a great option for freelancers and small businesses!
*** March 2021 Update***
This review has now been updated to include the new backup functionality built into the pCloud service as of March 2021. Please be sure to check out the Backing up with pCloud section in the main part of the review.
Key Features of pCloud
- (New) Built-in backup Functionality
- (New) European Datacenter location available
- (New) 1 Year of historic versions included within backup tool
- Well designed and easy to use cloud cloud storage
- Lifetime and monthly premium subscriptions available
- Free account featuring 10GB of free storage
- Premium accounts offering up to 2TB!
- Downloadable client applications for Windows, iOS and Android
- Ability to use like a network drive (i.e. saves local disk space)
- Synchronise folders automatically between devices
- Crypto Folder – super secure encrypted vault (Premium)
- Rewind option, recover deleted files up to 15 days ago (30 for Premium)
- Supports 2FA (SMS or Google Authenticator)
Signing up to pCloud
Signing up to pCloud is quick and easy via the pCloud website, from here users can enjoy instant access to the account, the free 10GB of storage and most of the great features pCloud has to offer.
Once signed up, pCloud will ask users to perform a few simple tasks to unlock the full quota of free storage, but don’t worry, these are just some simple things like confirming the email adders and uploading your first files to help ensure the account is genuine.
Once signed-up and logged in via the website, the web-based file explorer can be used, from here files can be dragged and dropped both to and from the account. The web console also allows access to the downloadable applications which mean pCloud can be integrated with many devices including Windows 10, iOS and Android amongst others.
Installing and Using the pCloud Software
Once installed the pCloud Windows client allows a much higher degree of integration with a pCloud account and a Windows device.
The account overview page shows an overview of the account for the logged in user, this includes the current space in use and the ability change passwords and unlink the account.
The Sync tab allows a folder to be specified which will be kept in sync with the pCloud account, any device which has the client application installed can benefit form this automatically synchronised folder.
To setup a synchronised folder means first specifying an existing folder (or creating a folder on the local device) and then specifying said folder to be synchronised with pCloud. Once configured there is little else to do as the synchronised folder will take care of itself going forwards, the only advanced option which can be set is a filter allowing specified file types to be excluded form the sync (useful if you don’t want large files consuming lots of bandwidth.
Sharing allows a folder on the device in use to be shared with other people, this can be other pCloud users or anyone else via the use of the email invitation service. The email based invitation service is especially useful and allows anyone with an email address to receive an invite and subsequently access the files on your pCloud drive. These files can be accessed as read only if necessary and shared users can be given right to edit any specified files if required.
Finally, under the settings tab the pCloud Windows app can be configured even further to suit the device in use. Form here users can specify whether or not pCloud should start automatically with Windows and if the file status icons and the context menu entries are in use within Windows or not.
There is also a very nice option to have any screenshots taken on the device automatically uploaded to the pCloud account, potentially very useful for anyone who makes a lot of use from this feature and would like such images automatically saved and shared.
Under the ‘Speed’ tab we can configure the bandwidth the current device can use. This means we can specify both the upload and download bandwidth of the connection to pCloud to accommodate any other network usage the PC might require and make sure pCloud does not slow other applications down.
Using the Crypto Storage within pCloud (Updated March 2021)
Another very useful feature of pCloud is the ability to setup a “Crypto Vault”, this is a secured vault from which only the account holder can access the files within. By the user setting the encryption password themselves and pCloud having no knowledge of the phrase, this becomes a very secure vault for storing anything In the cloud which needs to be kept extra secure.
Whilst this does create an additional level of security it must be stressed if this feature is used then pCloud will have no way to recover any files should the password be forgotten (so be very careful when using this functionality).
Once the encrypted vault is configured you will need to enter the password in order to access it on any device using pCloud, it will be made clear on the Crypto page when the vault is open or it will prompt for a password when closed / locked. The vault can also be easily locked at any time from within either the pCloud desktop app or web app when it is no longer needed, this is done by simply clicking the lock slider and will help maintain security even further.
Once the crypto vault is configured and activated any files can be uploaded to the crypto vault in the same way as the regular cloud drive, the exception being, of course, they will be encrypted on the local device before being moved to the pCloud servers and stored in this encrypted state until downloaded again by the rightful owner in the future.
Whilst pCloud do charge a small premium for this crypto service it is definable worth considering should you need to store sensitive files in the cloud yet still have easy access to them from any pCloud connected device. This is something which could be tricky to otherwise configure properly using cloud storage and as such it is clear pCloud have done a really good job in how this is implemented in this instance!
File Versioning within pCloud
So far it is clear pCloud is a great cloud storage option featuring some great security, synchronisation, sharing and configuration options via both the web interface and the Windows 10 desktop app. One of the other great features I have yet to mention is the built-in file versioning.
With file versioning turned on users will have the ability to search for and recover any files which were once stored in the pCloud account within the last 30 days (15 days for free accounts). This is very useful and when used right can help form a type of de-facto backup application assuming all important files on a device are included in the pCloud synchronised folder.
pCloud Backup – Backup Social Media and Cloud Storage
Another very useful feature which is included in both free and premium versions of pCloud is the cloud backup service. This service allows a pCloud account to be connected to other cloud and social media services including Facebook, Google Drive and Dropbox for the purposes of backing up and files and photographs back to the pCloud account.
During testing I have set this up with my Dropbox account, the process of which was very quick and straightforward and simply involves clicking the necessary “start” button on the backups page. Next, a pop-up window will then ask you to authenticate to the service in question, since I was already signed into Dropbox this was as simple as clicking allow access and the integration was complete!.
It appears that pCloud does a backup automatically every 30 days although this can be run manually whenever necessary from the “Backups” page, this page also gives an overview of the status of each backup and when it was last run.
*** March 2021 Update ***
Note that as of March 2021, pCloud have extended their desktop software to include a full PC backup client at no additional cost! More details can be found further down in this review under the pCloud Cloud Backup Functionality section.
Sharing files within pCloud
A very sophisticated file sharing system is built into pCloud which allows files to be shared not only with ease but also with security and monitoring also in place from the start. As with many similar services, when sharing a file, pCloud will produce a special link allowing those who have this link to download the file(s) in question. Email integration is also nice to see meaning this special sharing link can be sent out to a list of email addresses with ease!
pCoud takes this sharing a step further allowing a short-link to be created (a shortened URL), this is ideal for use on social media. In addition to this short-link pCloud also offer optional password protection on any shared files as well as the ability to enforce automatic expiry dates on shared files, these two features are, however, only for premium account holders at this time.
Once a share is established pCloud make monitoring this share easy and at a glance you can see how many times your shared file has been downloaded and the bandwidth consumed.
Another nice feature within pCloud is the ability to add branding to the pages from which people will download your shared files from. This is especially useful for small business and freelance users who need to keep their branding associated with their file downloads and look as professional as possible.
Whilst this branding is a great feature you are limited to only a single branded page in the free account, premium users can have unlimited branded pages for their downloads.
pCloud Datacenters (March 2021 Update)
One of the biggest new announcements (backup functionality aside) is that pCloud now give customers the option to choose whether their data is stored in the US or in the new European (EU based) datacenter which is located in Luxembourg.
Whilst very strict security and privacy standards are applied throughout the pCloud organisation regardless, the ability to have data stored within the privacy friendly EU will additionally appeal to many individuals and organisation also based within or near Europe and wanting to maximise the speed in which their pCloud drive operates at (being closer to the storage servers will, generally speaking, mean faster upload and download performance).
Whilst this ability to choose the US or Europe for basing your pCloud storage within is very welcome, it must be noted it is subject to a fee of (at time of writing) £17.99 to move between data regions.
pCloud Cloud Backup Functionality (March 2021 Update)
In March 2021, pCloud, announced that their cloud storage client would be upgraded to include built-in PC backup functionality at no additional cost to existing subscribers (including those on the 10GB free plan).
Naturally, I was very interested to have a look at this new functionality and see what pCloud can bring to the table, both as a backup solution in its own right and in addition to an already competent cloud storage service.
Starting off with the pCloud desktop client itself, once its updated to the latest version you will find the backup tools available within the main toolbar menu (as can be seen below).
The team at pCloud have made this initial engagement with the backup tool very easy to understand and get started with, simply check (or uncheck) all sections of the PC you wish to have backed-up (as per the left side of the above window) and then click on “Backup” to begin. Whilst this categorisation system will work well for many, the client will also allow other files and folders to be added to the backup set manually if and when needed using the “Choose other folders” link, useful for those who might make use of external drives etc.
As can be seen above, whilst we don’t have many other configuration options in pCloud backup (as of yet) we do at least have the option to exclude selected folders and file types from being backed up should we need to.
In-fact, pCloud currently provide very few configuration options in general for this new backup feature, the backup is done in “real-time” meaning scheduling isn’t really needed and the set-up will automatically keep up to 1 years worth of historic revisions, again, without any further configuration needed (a very reasonable amount for such a tool).
After the initial backup has been run, the PC being backed up will be visible in our pCloud account and the files recoverable from anywhere with access to the pCloud interface (via the web, smartphone apps etc.).
As can be seen above, any PCs backed up will now be visible under the “Backups” menu, clicking into any PC here will allows us to browse the backed-up files in the same way as any files stored on pCloud.
Interestingly, we must move or copy any files form this backup section over to the regular pCloud cloud drive section in order to be able to share them, whilst this might seem non-intuitive to some I believe this is a good idea as it makes you think before sharing any files directly from your PC and reduces the risk of sharing files you shouldn’t be!
Assuming you are not wanting to share any such files and simply restore them, you can remain I the Backup section of the pCloud drive and choose to download files individually as you need them or, alternatively download a collection of files (including the entire PC backup set) as an archive file (zip file).
As can be seen above, clicking on the options menu for the entire PC and then clicking “Download Archive” will allow me to download the entire backup as a ZIP file and then restore files as I wish. As this is a full backup service (and not simply a file synchronisation service) you must also be sure to select the date from which the files should be restored from, this can be done using the date-picking tool found towards the top right of the page (as below).
Whilst this set-up certainly functions well I would like to see pCloud build some restore functionality into the desktop client at some point soon along with the option to specify multiple backup sets and schedules (e.g. I might want to exclude large files from my main daily backup and only back them up on a Sunday whilst not working…. much).
But overall, this new backup component is a very positive and welcome addition to an already leading cloud storage service!
pCloud Free vs Premium
pCloud have both a free account and a premium account in operation at time of writing. The free account has plenty of functionality and works in line with many of the other cloud storage options. 10GB of storage will be allocated to all free accounts meaning it is in line with free offerings from many other providers such as Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
It is important to know that pCloud have reserved some additional functionality for the premium account in addition to a dramatically increased storage quota. At time of writing the smallest premium account has 500GB which is a very big jump form the 10GB with the free account.
Storage quotas aside, some of these premium additions include the ‘Crypto Vault’ which is only available with a premium account, additionally the file versioning will only work for up to 15 days on the free account with this being increased to 30 days on the Premium.
The monthly subscription options for premium accounts are very reasonable however pCloud have taken the somewhat unusual approach of offering users a lifetime account with a single one-off payment to use the account forever.
Whilst unusual this lifetime subscription offers potentially very good value to those who want a long term cloud solution but not be limited to small storage quotas or liable for ongoing monthly fees.
Is pCloud Lifetime Worth it?
One of the fastest growing providers to currently offer a lifetime subscription to their cloud storage service is pCloud. Naturally, whilst evaluating this offer you might be wondering if this lifetime subscription offers good value and is worth the additional upfront cost versus the more traditional monthly or annual payments for the service.
The truth is we all value our money and its use differently and as such it is hard to answer this question for everyone. I would personally tell people that over time (generally speaking) storage becomes cheaper and more plentiful so such a lifetime deal in say, 20 years time, might become a meaningless amount of storage (even free accounts with 500GB might be freely available by this point in time, who knows?).
In my opinion, it would be much better to asses if this deal is right for you by planning how you intend to use such a service over the next few years and comparing the lifetime cost to what you would otherwise pay in monthly fees during this time. Also bear in mind there will be much less resentment if you need to switch provider for any reason and are only paying monthly than if you have just paid for a lifetime account!
I have written a much more in-depth guide on the merits of lifetime subscriptions which you can read by clicking here.
Firstly, by being based in Switzerland themselves, it is reassuring as a customer to know pCloud are subject to some of the most strict privacy and data security laws any ware in the world. This also includes adhering fully to the GDPR regulations which are specifically designed to protect the privacy of individuals and organisations.
For extra security, pCloud also make use of always on TSL/SSL encryption when transferring files between your device and the pCloud servers and make use of highly secure ISO27001 standard data centres both in the EU and the USA. In addition to this, pCloud themselves claim that all data is replicated across at least 3 physical servers meaning the risk of data loss for customers is substantially minimised.
In addition to all of the above measures, pCloud also give users to choice to make use of the built-in ‘Crypto Vault’ service which can be used to ensure important files are encrypted before ever leaving the device thanks to strong AES 256-bit based encryption.
More information on pCloud security measures can be found on the pCloud Data Regions page.
pCloud operate a very good knowledge base via their website which features both FAQs and articles on how to make best use of the service. If additional support is required pCloud also offer email support.
pCloud offer a free account (with 10GB of free storage) alongside two Premium accounts. These premium accounts provide either 500GB or 2TB of storage plus all of the additional features mentioned in the review so far. The pricing (at time of writing is):
Premium 500GB: $175 lifetime or $47.88 per Year
Premium Plus 2TB: $350 lifetime or $95.88 per year
The crypto vault feature is not included as a part of the basic storage plan and can be optionally added later at a cost of $125 for a lifetime subscription or $47.88 per year.
You can get more infomation and sign-up for the pCloud free 10GB account by clicking here.
As internet users demand more from their cloud storage such as higher quotas and additional features pCloud really have risen to the challenge!
Not only is this a solid, well designed and secure cloud storage service but the additional features such as the Crypto Vault, the PC and smartphone apps and the built in sharing features really help highlight the value on offer here. It is also very nice to see the built-in file versioning history service which offers premium users a 30 day recovery period for any file stored in the cloud and then subsequently deleted, great for small businesses!
As of March 2021, pCloud have continued to raise the bar by integrating a fully featured backup client into their offering (at no additional cost) whilst also now offering customers the ability to choose whether their data is stored in the US or in the new EU based data centre.
Finally, it needs to be pointed out that pCloud also have very generous storage quotas on offer (500GB and 2TB) as well as a very fair pricing structure. The inclusion of lifetime pricing is especially noteworthy and ideal for many users who don’t like the idea of an ongoing monthly subscription to worry about (ideal for small business / freelances etc.).
All in all an impressive cloud storage offering with some great features which is fairly priced, well done pCloud!