Personal cloud storage—popular options and alternatives

Personal cloud storage is a decent way to create a private online drive, but is it worth the investment? Read our guide to find out.
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While third-party cloud storage offers convenience and ease of use, some users prefer setting up their own online drives. The main argument in favor of this option is speed, as the data doesn’t travel long distances between the server and the endpoint. Since private cloud storage is most commonly used for streaming and entertainment, short response and buffering times are a significant advantage.If you’re looking to invest in a private cloud drive, this guide will teach you everything you should know about this technology. You’ll learn:
  • What personal cloud storage is, and how it works
  • How to find the right device (with reviews of popular options)
  • Why private drives might not be the best option for everyone
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What are personal cloud storage drives?

A personal cloud drive is a type of NAS (Network-Attached Storage) that allows for remote data access via desktop and mobile devices. It resembles an oversized hard drive, except you don’t plug it into your computer—you connect it to your Wi-Fi router with an ethernet cord, creating a private cloud server.Most personal cloud storage drives are specifically optimized for media streaming. They typically start at 1–2 TB of storage, but higher-end options offer upwards of 40 TB. Such options carry significant costs, though, so they’re mainly used by small businesses.Once you set up a personal cloud drive, you can access it via a specialized operating system, web portal, or mobile app. The best solutions combine some of these methods to maximize accessibility.

Features of personal cloud storage

Private cloud storage can either come with built-in drives or be diskless. The former is a more advanced option, as it allows the user to customize their storage by installing drives into the dedicated bays. These devices are typically pricier and involve some degree of technical knowledge, so users new to personal drives can choose a pre-built option for more convenience.Multidrive storage is also compatible with RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), the equivalent of redundancy offered by third-party services. It writes the same data across multiple disks to maximize uptime and prevent accessibility issues. Depending on performance, RAID levels range from 1–10.Personal cloud drives contain a CPU, RAM, and the aforementioned proprietary software, letting you:
  • Access the storage
  • Stream media
  • Install various apps
A comprehensive solution can be a robust entertainment system and a reliable backup solution. Even though streaming is among the main uses of private drives, they’re a decent option for storing sensitive files if you want to go beyond physical drives and access data remotely.

Best personal cloud drive—three options reviewed

The private cloud market isn’t particularly large, but users still have various options to choose from. If you’re unsure where to start, the following devices are worth considering:
  1. Western Digital My Cloud Home Duo
  2. Synology DiskStation DS418play
  3. Asustor Drivestor 2

Western Digital My Cloud Home Duo

Source: Western DigitalThe WD My Cloud Home Duo is a dual-drive private cloud device focused on simplicity and convenience. The storage options range between 4 TB and 20 TB, priced at $305.99–$736.99. It’s easy to set up, but performance is not its strongest suit.

Pros and cons

One of the best features of the My Cloud Home Duo is its sleek design. The glossy top is separated from the more rugged base by a thin LED light, with the back housing the device’s ports:
  • Two USB 3.0 Type-A ports
  • Gigabit ethernet port
  • AC port
The My Cloud Home Duo offers a web portal and WD Discovery, an app available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. Setting up the cloud is quick and straightforward, so users new to personal cloud storage shouldn’t have trouble getting started.With two hard drives, the device supports RAID 1, duplicating your data between disks. It’s not the most advanced redundancy, but it should be enough for an average user.Where the My Cloud Home Duo doesn’t impress is data transfer performance. It averages at around 45 MBps for reading and 44 MBbs for writing, which isn’t much when you consider speed to be the main general benefit of private drives.Of course, the actual performance can vary depending on your network speed, but this option still doesn’t compare well to some devices you’ll see further in this guide.Another drawback is a lack of self-backup, which is offered by many devices in this price range.
Sleek designPerformance isn’t the best
Easy setupNo self-backup
Straightforward web portal and apps.

Synology DiskStation DS418play

Source: SynologyThe Synology DiskStation DS418play is a powerful device aimed at more advanced users. It’s packed with useful features and offers excellent performance with only a few shortcomings. Its capability comes at a significant price, though, so it’s far from a budget-friendly solution.

Pros and cons

The Synology DiskStation DS418play is a solid choice for users looking for a more robust private cloud setup. It’s a diskless, four-bay device providing up to 48 TB of cloud storage. It also comes with 2 GB of RAM, and there’s another slot you can use to add up to 4 GB more.Pair this with a dual gigabit LAN connector and a 2 GHz dual-core CPU, and you can see why this option is aimed at power users. If you need to play 4K video on multiple devices, the DS418play’s transcoding engine can handle the streams without issues.Besides streaming, the device pairs with comprehensive software to enable robust file management. It’s a good option for small teams, as you can collaborate and share files without friction. The impressive reading and writing performance contributes to this, averaging at 108.5 MBps and 109.2 MBps, respectively.Synology also offers a web interface alongside dedicated desktop and mobile apps. The problem is that there are separate apps for streaming different types of content, file management, and other functionalities. This solution is far more inconvenient than having a single app to access and manage everything, which might be frustrating to some users.The many capabilities of DS418play mean you’d have to splurge quite a bit. The website doesn’t offer pricing information as the device is sold through independent retailers, but according to PriceRunner, it starts at around $450. You’d also have to buy disks separately, which would add up to a substantial investment.
High performanceExpensive
Multi-device streamingInconvenient app system
File management and collaboration .

Asustor Drivestor 2

Source: AsustorThe Asustor Drivestor 2 is an entry-level option suitable for users on a budget. It’s a two-bay diskless device with basic hardware sufficient for everyday use. While the lack of disks undermines its value for money, the device has several features typically found in higher-end solutions to somewhat make up for this flaw.

Pros and cons

If you need a budget cloud drive with solid features and performance, the Drivestor 2 might be a good choice. Starting at $179, it’s affordable compared to most solutions while still being able to meet an average user’s needs.The device features a 2.5 GBps ethernet port, which is quite impressive considering many solutions like the ones discussed above support 1 GBps. While this doesn’t mean the Drivestor 2 performs better than them, it’s still fast enough to ensure decent streaming and overall user experience.According to independent tests, the device had a reading and writing speed of 89 MBps. This is around twice as fast as Western Digital’s option coming at a significantly higher price.You can manage the storage through the ADM 4.0 operating system, which features a familiar interface and offers various tools like access control and activity monitoring. You can also download over 100 apps from the platform’s App Central to get the most out of your storage.As for hardware, the Drivestor 2 has a quad-core 1.4 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. The memory isn’t upgradable, which might be limiting to some users as their needs evolve.Asustor claims that this device can transcode 4K videos, but users’ experiences have shown otherwise. One user reported the device’s inability to transcode files over 480p, so you might encounter similar issues.
AffordableLimited RAM
2.5 GBps portPotential 4K transcoding problems
Support for over 100 apps.

Disadvantages of private cloud drives

Despite its many uses and benefits, personal cloud storage has a few significant shortcomings, most notably:
  1. Price
  2. Amortization
  3. Security
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Private cloud storage can be expensive

Personal cloud drives involve a significant upfront cost, regardless of your chosen solution. This is especially the case with diskless devices, which require additional expenses. If you choose a customizable device and wish to upgrade its components, you’d need hundreds of dollars in total to set up a fast, reliable private cloud network.Even entry-level options typically don’t sell below $150. Such systems might not have the necessary features to meet all your needs, especially if multiple users will share the storage.

Personal cloud devices require maintenance

Like all hardware, private cloud systems are prone to wear and tear. Your solution should last long to justify the high cost, which might not always be the case unless you store and maintain it properly.From minor accidents like liquid spillage to dust accumulation, numerous issues can shorten your device’s lifespan. Even without any mishaps, the physical components will deteriorate with time, so you’ll need to replace the device at some point. Besides exposing you to additional costs, this means you’ll need to go through the time-consuming process of transferring your files and setting up a new system.

Physical security—a major concern

A personal cloud drive gives you complete control of your data—but it also means you have full responsibility for it. If your device is damaged or stolen, you risk losing all your data and valuable equipment.

Why a public cloud storage solution might be a better option

Third-party cloud providers safeguard their servers with numerous security measures, such as:
  • Biometric access authentication
  • Surveillance
  • Security guards
They also keep the data centers in climate-controlled facilities to maximize their longevity. It’s virtually impossible to replicate these conditions and security measures in a home setting, which might result in vulnerabilities if you use the drive to store sensitive files.Besides physical security, reliable cloud providers implement various measures to prevent cyberattacks. The investment in such measures exceeds the budget of most individual users, so the files on your personal cloud storage device could be exposed to threats.

End-to-end encrypted public storage—a secure, cost-effective alternative

Privacy-conscious users typically choose personal over public storage because they’re not willing to entrust their data to someone. This skepticism is not unfounded, as Big Tech providers have tarnished the reputation of third-party storage through invasive privacy practices.Luckily, several cloud providers offer reliable services fortified by numerous security measures. End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is among the most important ones, as it gives you full data ownership without the need to manage your own system.With E2EE, files are encrypted using a key created and stored on your device. All data is enciphered before leaving your device, so the provider only stores encrypted copies. The decryption key remains on your device and isn’t accessible to anyone, which means not even your provider can see the contents of your files.If you need a privacy-first cloud provider that will store your files confidentially, sign up for Skiff Drive.

Skiff Drive—convenient, affordable, and completely private

Skiff Drive is an end-to-end encrypted cloud solution featuring advanced security measures to safeguard user data. Unlike many providers, Skiff doesn’t create or store decryption keys, which means even their team can’t see unencrypted data.When you share a file with someone, only the recipient with the decryption key can see it. Like the file itself, the sharing link is protected by end-to-end encryption, ensuring complete security.For added confidentiality, Skiff supports zero-knowledge authentication powered by the Secure Remote Password algorithm. You don’t need to leave any personal information to get started, and your login credentials won’t be stored on the servers.

Standout features for a pleasant user experience

Besides advanced security, Skiff Drive offers numerous features that make it a comprehensive cloud service:
  • Scalable storage—You get 10 GB of free end-to-end encrypted storage, so there are no upfront investments or commitments. If you decide to upgrade, you can unlock up to 1 TB with Skiff’s affordable paid plans
  • User-friendly interface—You don’t need to install any proprietary software or go through a complex setup process to get started with Skiff. Create your account, and you can start enjoying the platform’s many features immediately
  • Cross-platform support—To maximize accessibility and let you manage your storage from various devices, Skiff Drive is compatible with iOS, macOS, Android, and browsers
  • Full transparency—Skiff is open source and regularly reviewed by cryptography experts. The codebase is available on the platform’s GitHub, and you can read the whitepaper to learn more about its features and security measures
  • Optional InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) integration—You can opt-in to store your files on IPFS, the largest decentralized file storage and sharing network
  • Crypto wallet integrations—Skiff Drive seamlessly integrates with MetaMask, Coinbase, BitKeep, and various other wallets to let users enjoy complete anonymity when sharing files

Create a secure workflow with Skiff’s privacy-first suite

Skiff Drive is part of a secure ecosystem encompassing three additional end-to-end encrypted platforms. If you want to safeguard your email correspondence and ensure nobody but the recipient can read your messages, you can use Skiff Mail. It’s packed with useful features, including:
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Skiff Pages lets you create and share unlimited docs in an end-to-end encrypted environment. You can use the rich text editor to add dynamic elements and leverage invite-based collaboration to keep sensitive information protected from unauthorized access.If you want to stay organized, hold video conferences, and maximize your productivity, Skiff Calendar is an excellent tool. You can add or remove features to adapt the calendar to your needs and workflow.

Get started with Skiff for free

Skiff Drive’s robust free plan lets you secure files of all types without unnecessary costs. You can get started in three quick steps:
  1. Go to the signup page
  2. Choose your account name and password
  3. Upload files to Skiff Drive
If you’re transferring files from another drive—local, personal, or third-party cloud—you can use Skiff’s one-click migration to secure them immediately. Skiff won’t save unencrypted copies, so you can enjoy complete privacy as soon as you transition.

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