Dropbox cloud storage

One of the original companies to truly understand cloud storage and syncing, releasing the original version of its client way back in 2008 to replace the then ubiquitous USB drive – a goal that it's definitely managed to succeed in reaching.

Working seamlessly with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, DropBox keeps your files backed up to the web and in sync- across multiple machines- without any additional user effort. The question then becomes how does it still hold up against its younger, more nimble competition? We checked it out.

Dropbox features

With Dropbox installed on Windows or macOS, everything is then put into your designated Dropbox folder to get synced with the cloud. While this function is common currently as Windows and macOS can do this natively now after following Dropbox's lead, but realize that Dropbox was one of the initial apps to enable this. Despite new competitors, it remains one of the best in the business.

A limitation of DropBox is that you can't include network drives or external drives in your Dropbox. However, you can certainly select which files and folders are synced to which device, choosing to keep files only in the cloud which saves space on your hard drive. The mobile apps are top notch as well, which can back up photos and videos taken with your phone as needed.

When it comes to sharing and collaboration, Dropbox excels at giving other people access to files and folders. It even has its own Google Docs clone which is called Paper, which lets you collaborate with other people to work on documents in real time. There are also built-in search capabilities that are powerful, enabling you to search text within documents with one of the paid-for Dropbox options.

Previous versions of files stretch as far back as 30 days on the free plan or 180 days on the paid plan into the past, and Dropbox even throws in a file sharing tool called Dropbox Transfer for sharing large files across the web. The feature list is impressive, and even better, all these functions are well thought out, and intuitively presented.


(Image credit: Future)

Dropbox Interface

It’s hardly unexpected from a service and app that's been around through the ages, and Dropbox has grown up to offer a very clean, elegant interface that can manage all your files. For sharing a folder of pictures or returning files back from digital death, Dropbox has a straightforward process no matter the device.

Client apps for Windows and macOS are kept up to date, and have a modern-looking interface. Recent changes to your files are listed, which provides a good overview of what you (and your teams, if applicable) are doing inside Dropbox. To manage syncing settings and bandwidth use is quite straightforward, with speeds as good as we've seen from the competition.

As the the desktop clients are somewhat basic in what they offer, alternately the web interface is rather impressive, so good that some other cloud storage services would do well to emulate it, with files and folders at the ready, media ready to be played directly from the web, tons of options available with a click of the mouse, and smart touches spread throughout, such as your most recent file changes displayed up top.

On the mobile app, the Dropbox apps also have a clean layout with slick functionality. You can get at all of your files and folders easily, along with uploading files from phones and tablets. And as another bonus, documents and photos can be scanned using the mobile apps as well. From whatever direction Dropbox is being used from, the aesthetics stand up well.


(Image credit: Future)

Dropbox security

Dropbox provides 256-bit AES encryption for your data. However, the files aren't fully end-to-end encrypted like on some other services, which means in a pinch, Dropbox staff can get at your files, but it also means that the files are not always secured from anyone looking. We leave it up to you as to how concerned you should be about this limitation, but it's worth noting that not having end-to-end encryption makes it an easier process for Dropbox to offer a polished, fully featured web app.

Two-step authentication is another option Dropbox offers to accounts to keep them better protected, along with numerous measures for keeping your data secured. Of note, a serious data leak did occur back in 2012- although it wasn't publicly disclosed until 2016, but since it has had a very strong security record.


(Image credit: Dropbox)

Dropbox pricing

High marks for Dropbox offering a free tier, although 2GB of cloud storage space isn't much. However, you can certainly try out the service for free forever, which is something a lot of rivals won't allow. This can even be expanded somewhat through referrals of other people to Dropbox, with the understanding that you'll miss out on some of the more advanced features offered by the service, such as offline folder access when mobile.

The pricing plan for an individual is $19.99/£14.09 a month for 3TB of space- you can save a bit if you pay annually. There is also a 5TB of space for three users for $45/£31.72. For even more complex needs there is the Advanced plan with unlimited storage, tiered admin roles, and granular sharing permissions.

Final verdict

Dropbox is at the top at what it does. While it lacks the online office suite capabilities of Google Drive, and the tight iOS and macOS integration of iCloud, it excels when you need to sync files and folders between devices running different operating systems. In short, Dropbox is just about the best in the business – and has been for a while, which is why OneDrive and iCloud have been playing catch up for too long.

It's not quite perfection, but the desktop, mobile and web apps can leave a lot of Dropbox's rivals in the dust, both in what they can do and how well they do it. Dropbox has more than succeeded with its mission to make USB flash drives redundant. It also has gone on to do considerably more besides, ,as it's intelligent, reliable, secure file syncing and cloud storage that anyone can use. Really it is not an overstatement to say that Dropbox can genuinely change the way you work.

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