Dropbox and Amazon are very different competitors in the cloud storage market. Dropbox started as a consumer cloud service in 2008, gained popularity, and eventually branched out to become one of the most ubiquitous business-class cloud and collaboration drives in the industry.
They were one of the first, and continue prove themselves with a solid feature set despite the entry of dozens of major competitors.
Amazon’s cloud efforts started in the enterprise with its scalable cloud servers and virtualization technologies, and only in 2011 did they branch out into the consumer market. Amazon dominates the enterprise market, even with such stiff competition as Microsoft’s Azure platform, but their consumer cloud efforts are largely unproven. Earlier this year, Amazon rebuilt its consumer platform with a new emphasis on photos, instituted a dramatically low pricing model, and now hopes to take on the consumer market.
Which should you choose to entrust your files with? Can Amazon’s revitalized Cloud Drive compete with the venerable Dropbox? Find out in the below head to head comparison.
Dropbox’s feature set is much more impressive that Amazon’s. For instance, here are the things that Amazon Cloud Drive can do:
- Desktop upload (only) tool
- Download entire Amazon Cloud Drive via desktop upload tool
- Download files from the website
- Get a sharing link or share via a redirect to the site of your e-mail provider
- View photos and videos in the browser
- Restore deleted files
That’s pretty much the extent of it. Dropbox can generally do all those things, but let’s update that list with Dropbox’s capabilities:
Desktop upload (only) toolDesktop folder that automatically downloads and syncs files and changes
- Get sharing links from desktop software or right click context menus
- Download files from the website
- Get a sharing link or share
via redirect to the site of your e-mail providerby an e-mail within the Dropbox webpage
- Change file sharing access permissions (Dropbox Pro only)
- Send collaborative invites to let others upload or edit files in a specific folder
- Restore Deleted files and previous versions of files
- View photos and videos and open and edit Microsoft Office documents in the browser
- Access to an API and third party “add-ins” that extend features
Obviously, Dropbox’s feature set dwarfs Amazon’s, making this an easy win for Dropbox.
|Amazon Cloud Drive||Dropbox|
|Operating Systems||Windows, Mac||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Price||$5 / month||$9.99 / month|
|Average Upload Speed||12 Mbps (10 Mbps connection)||7.6 Mbps (8 Mbps connection)|
|Average Download Speed||62 Mbps (50 Mbps connection)||30 Mbps (30 Mbps connection)|
|Full Review||Amazon Cloud Drive Review||Dropbox Review|
|Free Online Storage||No||2 GB|
|Mobile Apps||Android, iOS, Kindle||Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone|
|Keep Deleted Files||Forever||30 Days|
|Back Up to Local Drive|
|Sync and Share Features|
|Public File Sharing|
|Data Center Location(s)||Global (uses Amazon S3)||United States|
Ease of Use
Dropbox is super easy to use. Their desktop software essentially puts your Dropbox on your computer, within a folder, with all your Dropbox files in it. If you drag and drop a file into that folder or edit a file within, those changes will be automatically synced with the server.
Sharing files is also a snap due to the sharing options built into the desktop software and the right click menus. Dropbox lets you interact with your cloud files in the same way that you would with any other files on the computer. As long as you know how to use the file explorer on your computer, you can use Dropbox.
Amazon is easy to use for the features it supports. Uploading is a snap, as you can just drag and drop files into the uploader tool or on the website.
But Amazon’s limited feature set forces the user to use the website to do anything but uploading. It’s a simple interface, but not as convenient as having all your files synced in a folder on your computer. Also, since there’s no file syncing with Amazon, you also have the inconvenient task of uploading a file every time you want to update the cloud version.
In general, Amazon’s lack of features actually make it more inconvenient to use. Amazon’s simplicity may make it easier for someone who’s never used a cloud storage service before, but I still think the consistency of interaction that comes with a synced file folder is still easier to get used to. For that reason, Dropbox wins here.
Winner: Dropbox (barely)
Both services are secure enough, offering 256-bit encryption at rest, and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) / Transport Layer Security (TLS) with 128-bit encryption for transfers. Unfortunately, both services keep encryption keys on their end, meaning your data is not secured from their employees prying eyes or from government searches.
Dropbox does offer one important security benefit that Amazon does not with Cloud Drive. Two-step authentication. This is an odd omission, as Amazon does offer the security feature with their S3 business solutions, yet it is unfortunately lacking with their consumer Cloud Drive. Two-step authentication is one of the most important security features an online service can have today, and so even though Dropbox doesn’t really push its users to activate the feature, the fact that they support it gives them the win here.
Winner: Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon Cloud Drive offers unlimited storage for $60 per year. For a stupidly cheap $12 per year, you can choose to have unlimited photo storage and 5 GB of storage for everything else. Nobody has been able to best Amazon Cloud Drive on their pricing yet, although many have come close. The caveat is that there is no free option whatsoever, although there is a free trial. That said, should you be subscribed to Amazon Prime, you get the $12 per year storage plan for free.
In August of 2014, Dropbox finally replaced their paid pricing models with a single $99 a year Pro tier ($9.99 a month) which gives you 1 TB of storage in addition to a few additional features. They do also offer an “as much storage as you need” option for businesses that costs $15 per user per month, but it’s clearly not meant for average consumers. Dropbox is not, but it’s also not the most expensive option on the market.
Amazon wins on pricing here for obvious reasons. Dropbox does not offer an unlimited tier, at least for consumers, and costs a full $40 per year more for limited storage. Dropbox does offer a free option that Amazon lacks, but its storage is capped to an almost pointless 2 GB.
Both services actually do very well here. Of course it comes as no surprise that Amazon’s service is quite quick. Amazon’s already impressive S3 server technology is being leveraged here, but it’s impressive that Dropbox’s infrastructure keeps up as well.
For these performance tests, the connection I used is rated at 10 Mb/s download and 3 Mb/s upload, but I frequently see 15 and even 20 Mb/s download speeds. For each service, I uploaded and then download a 1 GB file. Both services managed to meet or exceed those speeds, both within their web interfaces, and within their desktop software packages.
|Dropbox||Amazon Cloud Drive|
|Average Download||12.8 Mb/s||14.1 Mb/s|
|Max Download||23.2 Mb/s||21.8 Mb/s|
|Average Upload||2.82 Mb/s||2.63 Mb/s|
|Max Upload||4.93 Mb/s||4.51 Mb/s|
Throughout my tests, I did notice that Amazon Cloud Drive was a bit more consistent with its average download speeds, though Dropbox countered that by consistently hitting a faster max speed. Dropbox was consistently just a tad bit faster on uploads, but not enough to make much of a noticeable difference. Both services averaged out to be about the same on performance, so they both win here.
Operating Systems Support and Mobile Apps
The majority of Amazon Cloud Drive’s features are built into the website, as stated above, but they do have a few feature limited applications outside of the website. For instance, the above mentioned desktop uploader tool is available on both Windows and Mac OSX, but not Linux.
Amazon does offer Amazon Photos apps for just iOS and Android as well as an SDK for developers. However, the apps will not show any files on your Amazon Cloud Drive other than photos and videos. The apps will let you view, share, and upload photos and videos, and can auto-upload photos and videos that you take on your smartphone or tablet.
Furthermore, Dropbox offers fully featured mobile apps on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and 10, and even Blackberry. These apps offer an option to auto-upload photos and videos like Amazon, but also gives you full access to all your files and all sharing and collaboration options.
Because of Dropbox’s comprehensive OS and mobile support, they gain a win here too.
Ultimately, Dropbox comes out the winner in this comparison. Dropbox’s comprehensive feature set and platform support is hard to beat, even if they are pricier than others.
If you happen to need an unlimited cloud box to upload files to and you don’t tend to interact with those files very much, Amazon is the most price conscious option available, especially if you only care about photos. But most people looking for cloud storage will probably be happier paying a bit more for Dropbox’s more robust feature set.