Dropbox is an amazing cloud storage service. It lets you access your files anywhere, on any device. In addition to cloud storage, it offers easy file sharing and backup features. Dropbox works on a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile devices, and gives new users 2GB of free storage space.
I’ve been using Dropbox for years, and it’s easy to forget how useful it is. Because it’s so simple, I use it more often than any other service.
- Free 2GB storage space
- Fast and simple
- Works on practially any device
- Seamless; bug-free
- 2GB not as big as competitors
- Only one folder to sync
- No personal encryption
The Bottom Line
Although the paid plans are a bit expensive, Dropbox combines great backup, sharing, and syncing features to form one of the easiest cloud storage services on the market.
Pricing and Plans
- 2GB for free
- Get an additional 500MB for each friend you refer (max 16GB)
- 1TB: $9.99/month
- $15/user/month with a minimum of 5 users
- As much space as needed
To use Dropbox on your computer, you need to sign up for an account on Dropbox.com and download the desktop software. After connecting to your account, you’ll have the option to select either a typical or advanced setup type. The advanced setup lets you change the default installation folder and setup selective sync. Selective sync can exclude specific folders from being synced to the cloud.
When the installation is complete, Dropbox will launch a guided tour explaining how to use it.
To keep it simple, Dropbox doesn’t include a lot of preferences. You can customize settings such as:
- Show desktop notifications
- Enable LAN sync
- Bandwidth limiting (default is automatic limiting)
- Proxy setup
Dropbox lets you recover up to 30 days worth of changes to your files. For instance, you can recover deleted files and rollback changes to photos and text documents. You must do this within 30 days, at which point Dropbox deletes older versions permanently from their servers.
Dropbox has a “Packrat” feature that gives you unlimited file version history. So if you were to delete a file from your Dropbox account early in your service, you could still recover it months, or even years later. It will cost an extra $39 per year for the Pro plans, although it’s included for free with the Business plans.
Never email large files again. Dropbox lets you share your files with friends, family, and co-workers. Using the web interface, or by right-clicking a file on your computer, you can create a link to access the file from a web browser. Dropbox can email this link to whoever you want to share with, or you can copy & paste it.
I like that Dropbox generates slick photo albums for shared files. Thumbnails are automatically created. Photos and videos are resized and compressed. It’s basically like having a professional slideshow in your web browser. You can download original files too, in the original format or in a compressed ZIP file.
Dropbox also has collaboration features, so you can work on files with other Dropbox users. Changes to the contents of a shared folder are instantly reflected to coworkers and colleagues.
Ease of Use
Dropbox is very easy to use. From the installation, to using the web interface, to the mobile apps – everything is designed to be as simple as possible. This simplicity leaves out some features, such as the ability to sync folders on your hard drive, and the ability to use a private encryption key. But for the most part, Dropbox knows its target market very well. It’s designed to be as easy as possible for the greatest number of people, while still remaining fairly powerful.
Dropbox was fast during testing. This isn’t surprising, since the Amazon S3 backbone is capable of ridiculous transfer speeds. My average upload speed was 7.6 megabits per second (Mbps), which maxed out my available bandwidth. My download speed was 30 Mbps, which came close to my max of 34 Mbps. I’m not sure if I didn’t reach my max due to overhead, or if Dropbox employs some type of speed limiting. Either way: Dropbox is blazing fast.
I found Dropbox to be secure enough for average computer users. Data is transferred over SSL and data is stored using AES-256 bit encryption. In other words, you can use it in public places without worrying about your local coffee patron spying on you. Since files are stored encrypted, you have good protection against hackers and other unauthorized people viewing your data.
Dropbox is not suitable for high security requirements. Even though files are stored encrypted, Dropbox controls the encryption key. This means a rogue employee could potentially view customer data, or the government could compel them to turn over data with a court order. This also opens them up to the type of PRISM-type spy programs that have plagued Google and Apple. Without any support for private encryption, Dropbox remains a mass-market service to support easy sharing and syncing features.
Dropbox has great password security. It lets you use two-factor authentication, which will add an extra layer of protection to your account. In addition to your normal password, you’ll need to enter a code sent to your phone.
Dropbox gives different levels of support depending on the plan you choose. Dropbox claims free users will get basic email support, with a 1-3 day response time. Unfortunately, I contacted them and got a canned “sorry, we can’t help you” email in response. So free users can realistically only obtain support via the forums or knowldegebase.
Pro users can expect email support, and Business users get phone support (as well as dedicated deployment specialists).
|Average Upload Speed||7.6 Mbps (8 Mbps connection)|
|Average Download Speed||30 Mbps (30 Mbps connection)|
|Free Online Storage||2 GB|
|Mobile Apps||Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone|
|Keep Deleted Files||30 Days|
|Back Up to Local Drive|
Sync and Share Features
|Public File Sharing|
|Data Center Location(s)||United States|