Between Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and iCloud Drive, consumer cloud storage is a crowded space. And yet, a small Swiss company called pCloud has managed to attract over 9 million users over the past five years. The company recently reached profitability with a team of 32 people.
If you’re familiar with Dropbox, pCloud won’t surprise you. The service lets you backup and sync files across your devices. You get 10GB for free and you can pay for more storage and features.
Unlike Dropbox or OneDrive, pCloud acts more like an external hard drive. When you install the app on your computer, everything stays in the cloud by default. On macOS, the company uses Fuse to create a new virtual hard drive in the Finder.
If you right click on a folder, you can choose to download it on your computer for offline access. It creates a new folder on your local hard drive that remains in sync with your pCloud account. Similarly, you can add existing folders to pCloud from the settings panel. These folders will remain permanently in sync as long as you keep the app running on your computer.
pCloud also supports LAN syncing, which means that if you have multiple devices on the same Wi-Fi network, they’ll transfer files using your local network instead of the internet. Dropbox also has this feature.
On mobile, you can access your files using the mobile app. Like many competitors, pCloud also lets you automatically back up your camera roll to your pCloud account.
Now le’s talk about security. Just like other cloud storage services, pCloud doesn’t encrypt your files by default — pCloud uses encryption on files while they’re in transit though. When you sync a file using pCloud, the company can theoretically retrieve that file. If you’re serious about privacy, you shouldn’t use cloud storage services at all.
But pCloud also offers an optional add-on called pCloud Crypto. This feature lets you create a secret folder that you can unlock with a password. When you add a file to this folder, it is encrypted on your device and then sent to pCloud’s server. If you don’t have that password, you can’t unlock the file. It means that pCloud and authorities can’t retrieve those files without you.
When it comes to pricing, pCloud costs $3.99 per month for 500GB of storage and $7.99 per month for 2TB of storage. pCloud Crypto costs an additional $4.99 per month. You can also buy lifetime subscriptions for $175 for 500GB, $350 for 2TB and $125 for Crypto. This is expensive, but it could convince some users who are not into subscriptions.
Even though it seems incredibly complicated to compete with Microsoft, Google, Apple and Dropbox, I’m glad to see that it’s still possible to build an alternative product with some differentiating features. pCloud will probably never be as big as Dropbox, but it is an interesting company to follow.