Dropbox Review – Is It The Best Online Backup?
Dropbox is one of the major file storage services with file syncing and sharing as its main features. It is a cross-platform service with apps for almost every platform and its recent collaboration with Microsoft Office means you can now edit your Dropbox files online.
Founded in 2007, Dropbox does not need an introduction. Often called the godfather of cloud storage, Dropbox was the company that started the cloud storage service revolution. There are so many cloud services that launched because of the massive success of Dropbox, and that includes both Google Drive and OneDrive.
Dropbox has been funded by Accel Partners, Amidzad, and Sequoia Capital. It has its headquarters in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. Over the years, Dropbox has reached a great success, and its number of users only keep on increasing.
Who Should Use Dropbox?
Dropbox is such an easy and powerful service that it is suitable for anyone and everyone. With 2 GB of free storage space to get you started, personal users can quickly sign up to try out the service. This free storage can be increased to over 16 GB by referring it to friends. Every friend that signs up through your reference gets you 500 MB.
It was difficult for business users to use Dropbox for official work since it did not follow any of the necessary compliances but, all that changed when the company launched Dropbox for Business. Not only does the service follow all the compliances but there are also other amazing features like real-time collaboration and Dropbox for Teams.
- Easy interface
- 2 - 16 GB free storage
- File syncing
- File sharing
- File versioning
- Selective sync
- Edits documents online
- Deleted file recovery
Uploads and Downloads
Dropbox has desktop apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux, but its web app is equally sufficient as well. If you just want to upload a few files, Dropbox’s website can be quickly used for that. The desktop app is more useful when you want to upload large files and enable file syncing.
Signing up to Dropbox is easy, you do not have to answer too many security questions for that. Once you are done, you can download its desktop app.
As soon as the desktop app is installed on the system, a new folder called ‘Dropbox’ will be created on your main hard drive. This will be the main syncing folder. All the files and folders uploaded to your Dropbox account from any of the devices will be synced and copied to your local drive as well. Of course, this means occupying a large part of your hard drive. There can also be files that were already present on your main drive, but since you uploaded them to Dropbox, a copy of them has also been made available in the sync folder.
To get rid of this redundancy problem, Dropbox has a feature called selective sync. Only the folders that you want to sync with your local machine can be selected, and they are the only ones that will be synced.
Dropbox does start syncing automatically when its desktop app is installed but, there is an option to pause it too. Unfortunately, there is no way to schedule syncing. Since Dropbox is all about being simple and intuitive, you hardly get many customization features on its desktop app. But, the app does have bandwidth throttling, proxy settings, selective sync and a feature to send screenshots with Dropbox.
Coming to Dropbox’s sharing features, links to files or folders can either be copied or directly emailed. The recipients can get access to the only view the files or edit them as well.
Coming to its upload and download speed, we have just one word for it – terrific. Dropbox has some of the fastest speed, and that is the reason it’s one of the pioneers in cloud storage.
Privacy & Security
This is where Dropbox lags a bit. Since the company is registered and headquartered in the United States, it has a complete open door policy to the NSA. Also, there is no private encryption at user’s end which means Dropbox has the key to every encryption.
But, this is the price that you have to pay for free storage and an exceptionally powerful cloud service. Google Drive and OneDrive have almost the same privacy policies.
Web & Mobile App
Dropbox’s web app is very functional and useful. You can upload and download files, share them with other users and view files as well. Previously, users could only view documents, but they couldn’t edit them online. All that changed in a shocking collaboration news last year. It was announced that Dropbox would be teaming up with Microsoft Office Online.
Now every time you want to edit a document, Dropbox will redirect you to Microsoft Office Online. Since Dropbox allows multiple users to share files, it’s important to understand how it handles file versioning. If two users are editing a file at the same time, then whoever saves it the last, his version will be the main version saved by Dropbox. The other user’s version will be lost. Of course, this is a major issue for teams working with Dropbox, and that is why Dropbox has rectified this problem in Dropbox for Business, but the company refuses to change this for the freemium version.
Coming to mobile apps, they are available for iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Automatic photo upload option is available on all of the mobile apps. In fact, when you activate automatic photo upload on Dropbox’s mobile app, you get 3 GB storage space free of cost.
Files can be shared through the mobile apps as well, and pictures can be directly shared to other social media platforms. During our testing, we did not face any issues or glitches on the mobile app.
Pricing and Plans
Previously, Dropbox had incremental pricing plans with 100 GB, 200 GB and 500 GB of storage plans. And that was obviously a little confusing for the users. But, the company has now simplified the entire process. There is one plan in Dropbox Pro, and that is for 1 TB of storage space. It costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year.
If you are looking for more storage space, we recommend turning to Dropbox for Business.
What is Dropbox Missing?
Dropbox might be one of the most favorite cloud storage apps in the world, but it still has some issues. Firstly, there is no real-time collaboration in the free version. Most of the users that want to collaborate in real-time while working on documents prefer Google Docs now.
Also, security is one of the biggest flaws of Dropbox. There is no secure encryption when data is at rest, and there is also an open door policy to the NSA. We recommend using Dropbox for only non-sensitive files.
Another problem with Dropbox is that you cannot upload folders directly to its web app. You can upload files, but there is no way to upload folders directly. In fact, the only way to upload big folders is by copying them to its sync folder on the hard drive.
OneDrive by Microsoft is a newbie in the cloud storage market but its collaboration with Microsoft Office, and SharePoint makes it extremely powerful. It does not have selective syncing like Dropbox and Google Drive, but the service is so deeply embedded with Microsoft Windows that there is no desktop app for it at al. It provides 5 GB of free storage.
Google Drive is a strong and a useful alternative to Dropbox. It has almost the same features as Dropbox but it does allow real-time collaboration through Google Docs, and users can save unlimited pictures under 16 MP on Google photos as well. It provides 15 GB of free storage. But, the paid plans are more expensive than Dropbox.
Dropbox is one of the most reliable and sturdy cloud storage services. Its simplicity is what makes it stand out. But, also, remember that this is mainly a file syncing service and not a file backup service.
Dropbox has been mainly built for users who have limited folders that need to be synced among different devices for daily use but, the users are not yet ready to pay for it. We highly recommend Dropbox for both personal and business users.
- Free Storage: 2 GB (can be extended to 16 GB)
- Free Trial: No
- System: Windows, and Mac
- Price: Starting at $9.99/month
- Mobile Apps: iOS, Android, and Blackberry
- Synchronization: Yes
- Free External HD Backup: No
- Continuous Backup: No
- Incremental Backup: No
- Backup Scheduling: No
- Bare Metal Backup: No
- Exclude File Extensions for Backup: No
- Network Drives: No
- Bandwidth Throttling: Yes
- Web Access: Yes
- HIPAA Compliant: No
- File Size Limit: No limit
- Included Machines: 1
- Local Encryption: No
- Server Side Encryption: 256-bit encryption
- Keeps deleted files: 30 days
- File Versioning: 30 versions of the file
- File Sharing: Yes
- Multiple Accounts: No
- Share Photo Albums: Yes
- Music Streaming: Yes
- Folder Collaboration: Yes
- Outlook Backup: Yes