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Deep discounts: Google Drive offers cheap and free cloud storage

Cloud storage prices are dropping fast, and there are more free options available than ever before. Big-name companies like Google, Microsoft and Dropbox offer ample free storage (or the right to earn space via referrals), and experts say Google changed the cloud storage market forever by slashing prices for its Google Drive (15 GB free; $2 per month for 100 GB; $10 per month for 1 TB). Thanks to its rock bottom prices and multitude of features (it's fantastic for collaboration, editing and security, and you can even back up locally on your computer or device), Google Drive is our pick for Best Cheap Cloud Storage. Google has a few limitations, however, like not having an integrated audio or video player and its peculiar privacy policies.

Dropbox (2 GB free; $10 per month for 100 GB) is one of the more expensive cloud storage services, but it offers excellent file-syncing, cross-platform support (PC, Mac, Linux, mobile, including BlackBerry) and collaboration options. If you reach your 2 GB limit, you can earn more free Dropbox storage (up to 18 GB total) by recommending friends or helping Dropbox beta-test new features.

Referrals are a popular way to earn extra storage. Relative newcomer Copy (15 GB free; $10 per month for 250 GB) has embraced the scheme more than most by offering 5 GB for each referral. Not surprisingly, the referral bonus has inundated blogs and social media with pro-Copy posts. Copy is run by the networking storage giant Barracuda Networks and promises tight encryption along with file sharing, but no editing.

Microsoft OneDrive (7 GB free; $25 per year for 50 GB) used to be considered one of the best deals for free or cheap online storage, an indication of how quickly prices are dropping. Lesser-known cloud storage providers are trying to generate business (and buzz) by offering massive amounts of storage on the cheap or even unlimited storage.

MediaFire has lowered its prices to $2.50 a month for 1 TB; Crashplan Unlimited (the successor to Crashplan+), which lets you back up files on computers, devices or even friends' computers running Windows, Mac and Linux, offers unlimited storage for $6 a month or $60 a year. Mega, the brainchild of controversial Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, offers 50 MB of free storage.

Many of the cheapest or unlimited plans are limited to online backup only, however; syncing, collaboration and other features may not be available. And some of the services, like Mega, may not run very quickly because of demands on their systems.

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