There are a ton of “backup” services out there. From Mozy (which we just reviewed) to services like Box and Google Drive; all of them try to do something different, while offering essentially the same service. Dropbox is one of the largest file-saving services on the Internet.
As the Internet becomes more widespread, people are moving away from local storage, and towards “cloud” services like Dropbox. One of the biggest reasons this is happening is because people no longer use desktop computers as their primary computing devices. People have laptops, tablets and smartphones. They need their data to go where they go.
Basically what Dropbox does is store your files in the cloud. That probably sounds pretty pedestrian to you, knowing as you do that there are a ton of services out there that do the same thing. What Dropbox excels at, however, is synchronizing files across devices.
Instead of a simple cloud storage/backup service (like Mozy), Dropbox stores files in at least two places. The first is in the cloud, and the second is on the computer where the files originated. When you start out after installing Dropbox, you are presented with a Dropbox folder. Anything you place in that folder will remain on your computer, but it will also be uploaded to your online “cloud” Dropbox folder. That folder can be accessed anywhere via a web browser.
Dropbox stopped there, it’d still be a pretty great service, but where it really shines is syncing across more than two devices. Once you’re synced up to the cloud, all you have to do is install the Dropbox app on another device, and you can have easy access to any file in your Dropbox folder at the touch of a button. If it’s another computer, the files are synchronized locally (so they are stored in yet another location). If it’s a mobile device, you can download individual files via the mobile Dropbox application.
Email is great, but it has a few pretty large problems that nobody has solved. One of those problems is the ability to share very large (1GB+) files with friends, family and coworkers.
Dropbox has solved this problem by allowing you to make any folder or file in your Dropbox folder public or accessible via a link. This allows you to share large files and folders with anyone via a simple link. They don’t even need to download the app or sign up for an account. It’s amazingly simple.
But it doesn’t stop there. Instead, Dropbox takes it a step further and allows you to share a folder between Dropbox users, and then collaborate on the contents of that folder. For example, let’s say Frank and Ed are coworkers on a project at Company Y. They both work at the same company but work in different buildings. Instead of Ed putting the project files on a flash drive and walking them to Frank’s office, he simply transfers the files into their shared Dropbox folder, called “The Project”. Then when Frank wants to work on those same files, all he needs to do is open up “The Project” which is inside his Dropbox folder, and go to town.
This may not seem like a big thing for people who work at the same company, in nearby buildings, but consider the opportunities it creates for people who want to collaborate when an ocean separates them.
Dropbox has a lot of really cool features, including those we’ve already discussed. But we can’t forget that one of its primary functions is to backup essential files so that they can’t be lost when zombies attack.
Simply copy your essential files into your Dropbox folder, and they will automatically be uploaded to the cloud. Then when the attack happens, you can safely throw your computer at the zombies without worrying about your essential files.
Throughout this review, we’ve made Dropbox seem pretty awesome, and it is indeed quite awesome. But it does have one major flaw that holds it back, and that’s price.
Dropbox offers a free tier. The problem is it only comes with 2GB of storage. That’s all well and good if you don’t plan on sharing or storing anything larger than that, and it’s a great place to start to get acquainted with the service.
Once you need more storage, however, Dropbox gets really pricey. For 100GB, you pay $10 a month or $100 a year. For 200GB you pay $20 a month or $200 a year. Then for 500GB, you will pay a whopping $50 a month or $500 a year.
While Dropbox is definitely worth it in terms of functionality, those prices leave a lot to be desired when compared to competitors like Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. Both services offer more space for less money. And both services do essentially the same thing as Dropbox, but without the ease of use.
If you operate a business, you can sign up for Dropbox for Teams, but be prepared for even steeper prices. For 1TB and 5 users, you will pay $75 a month or $750 a year. Each additional user will cost you $125 more.
Dropbox is an amazing service. While there are several competitors that come close to its functionality, and beat it on pricing, none are quite there yet. If you can get past the pricing (if, for example you only need the 100GB plan), then Dropbox offers amazing backup and collaboration features which can’t be found elsewhere.
If you can’t get by the price, or you’re looking for a complete backup solution and don’t need the sharing functionality of Dropbox, other services like Mozy, Carbonite and BackBlaze may serve you better.
Dropbox and the Dropbox logo are trademarks of Dropbox, Inc.