METTINGEN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 9, 2018: Close up to dropbox app on the screen of an iPhone X with personalized background
Image: Nicole Lienemann/Adobe Stock

Dropbox can be a useful tool for file-sharing needs, but as businesses scale, it can easily out-price smaller budgets. Growing businesses that use Dropbox may quickly become frustrated with the tool’s pricing and fees compared to the features it offers. When that happens, they may find themselves on the hunt for more robust or cost-effective alternatives.

SEE: Checklist: Cloud storage management (TechRepublic Premium)

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What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a cloud-based file-sharing service that allows users to have a single location for files and storage that can be accessed via any compatible device. By adding a Dropbox folder to their devices, users can seamlessly transfer or store files for sharing, backup or other collaborative needs.

Hidden costs associated with Dropbox

Although Dropbox does have a free version, the storage limit is only 2GB, which can fill up rather quickly, even for occasional users. The first premium tier of Dropbox, known as Dropbox Plus, comes in at $11.99 per month or $119.99 billed annually. This ups the storage considerably to 2TB.

However, this Dropbox premium plan is limited to one user; business and enterprise users can quickly see the prices go up as per-user rates start to apply. For example, a 10-person team on the Dropbox Standard Business plan would cost $1,800 annually.

Best Dropbox alternatives

Google Drive

Google Drive is probably the most obvious free alternative to Dropbox. Anyone with a free Google account of any kind already has access to Google Drive. Although, there are Google Workspace premium plans for businesses and enterprises.

Starting with 15GB of free storage, Google Drive exceeds Dropbox’s free offering of 2GB; though, paid plans are in line with Dropbox and offer no cost savings in that regard.

For those tied to the Google suite of productivity tools, Google Drive is a great choice. Drive integrates nicely with other Google tools like Mail or Calendar.

On the other hand, privacy is one concern with Google Drive, as the company openly states in the terms of service that it scans Drive contents to help serve more targeted ads. So, for security-conscious users, this may be a serious negative.

Key features of Google Drive

  • Generous 15GB storage for users of Drive’s free option
  • Tight integration with other Google productivity services
  • Easy to use for team members of any skill level
  • Great for documents

Sync

Sync boasts increased security over Dropbox and many other competitors. Unlike Google Drive, there is no scanning of your data. On top of that, Sync uses an encryption method called zero-knowledge encryption. This means only the user can view and decrypt messages, as the host does not have access to your decryption keys. So overall, Sync offers a much higher level of security for those looking for increased protection.

Pricing is slightly cheaper than Dropbox, with its Solo Basic tier coming in at $8 per month with 2TB of storage.

Key features of Sync

  • High-level security and privacy protocols
  • Lower cost than Dropbox on most tiers
  • Version histories and roll-back functions

Mega

Mega takes the prize for the most free storage among the Dropbox alternatives. At a whopping 20GB for free accounts, Mega is a generous starting level that should satisfy many users without the need to move to paid tiers, which are slightly more expensive than Dropbox.

Security and privacy are also top-notch, with zero-knowledge and AES 256-bit encryption. In addition, Mega uses TLS to protect files as they are uploaded or downloaded.

While Mega is not quite as refined as other options when it comes to the interface, it’s by no means difficult to use. Syncing features are strong and allow for syncing of any folder.

Key features of Mega

  • Strong encryption and privacy
  • Very generous free tier with 20GB of storage
  • Flexible syncing options

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is similar to Google Drive in that it is part of Microsoft’s larger ecosystem of tools. If your teams and users are operating in the Office 365 ecosystem, OneDrive is an obvious choice.

Free versions are limited to 5GB, which is on the low side. But, paid tiers of Microsoft OneDrive start at $9.99 for 6TB, making it one of the cheapest Dropbox alternatives.

Privacy and security are not as good as some other options; for instance, OneDrive does not offer zero-knowledge encryption, similar to Google’s issues.

Key features of OneDrive

  • Tight integration with Office 365
  • Best value for storage when it comes to paid tiers
  • Block-level sync for fast transfers

pCloud

pCloud is a strong alternative to Dropbox with added security features like zero-knowledge encryption; though, this feature does come at an additional cost of $3.99. Other than that, pricing is reasonable with free plans limited to 10GB and paid plans starting at $7.99 for 2TB.

pCloud has strong syncing and sharing features that rival free Dropbox offerings. These include features such as password sharing and expiration dates.

Key features of pCloud

  • Low cost
  • Strong syncing and sharing features, even in the free plan
  • Encryption options

IDrive

While mostly a backup service, IDrive does also work for cloud storage and syncing, making it a hybrid alternative to Dropbox. IDrive forgoes some collaborative and file-sharing tools, but the basic features are all there via the web interface to share files. However, there is no password or expiration date support for file shares.

IDrive has a generous 10GB free tier, and the 10TB paid plan at $6.22 a month is a great value if your business needs mostly backup services.

Key features of IDrive

    • Low cost and great value
  • Services tailored for backup
  • Automatic sync with a specified folder

Icedrive

Icedrive takes the prize when it comes to the interface, which is clean, elegant and uncluttered—this goes for both the web interface and app interface. Security is strong with zero-knowledge and AES 256-bit encryption, but these are limited to paid plans.

Icedrive is missing collaborative features and document-sharing features. But, you do get file previews on many formats and fast transfer speeds.

Icedrive’s free tier comes with a 10GB limit, and paid tiers start as low as $1.67 a month for 250GB.

Key features of Icedrive

  • Best-in-class interface for both web and app interfaces
  • Great security options for paid tiers
  • Paid tiers start extremely low
  • File previews for most formats

Box

Box is clearly aimed at business users and enterprises, and it offers all of the features of Dropbox but with added support that business users would need. These include basic but useful project management features to go along with traditional syncing features.

Pricing is clearly aimed at business users as well. Free storage options are limited to 10GB, and plans with 100GB of storage start at $7 per month, making Box one of the more expensive options.

Security is a top priority, but once again it will cost you. Adding zero-knowledge encryption on top of AED 256-bit will cost extra.

App integration is where Box really shines and where users may find value to offset the higher cost. Box integrates with both Google and Microsoft productivity tools as well as 1,500 other apps.

Key features of Box

  • Extensive app integrations
  • Included project management features
  • Higher paid tiers offer unlimited storage

NordLocker

Rounding out the list of Dropbox alternatives is NordLocker, which comes from the makers of the well-known Nord VPN services. NordLocker is focused on security and privacy with features that include zero-knowledge and AES 256-bit encryption, along with advanced ciphers and TLS transfers.

All of this security with NordLocker is relatively affordable. While the free tier is a little paltry with only 3GB of storage, 2TB of storage in a premium tier is only $7.99 a month; this premium tier also comes with 24/7 email and phone support.

Key features of NordLocker

  • Focus on security and privacy
  • Work on documents right from the cloud
  • Good value compared to the features
  • Automatic cross-platform syncing

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