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Hi, my name is Alex and I'm the creator of Hosting Data. Having used countless cloud storage solutions over the years, I've become a bit of an expert on them. Currently, bar Google Drive, DropBox is the most popular solution on the market.
It's one of the biggest cloud file storage services around, letting you sync and share your documents, with a stunning number of cross-platforms integrations. Most recently, it collaborated with Microsoft Office, letting you edit Dropbox files while online.
However, there are some Dropbox alternatives that don't get enough praise. Today, I'll review a couple of my favorites that I'm sure you'll enjoy if you're in need of a quality cloud storage provider.
But did you know that there are cheaper alternatives that give you more features?
Dropbox Alternatives 2021
Have a look at this Hosting Data list of the 5 best Dropbox alternatives - though not all of them have close to the 500 million users worldwide Dropbox has, all are very capable and secure, letting you manipulate data in the cloud for personal or team/business use.
A Truly Reliable and Private Cloud Storage 🥇
Based in Toronto, Sync provides end-to-end encryption, keeping your cloud data safe, secure and fully private (see the best VPN list). Companies that do end-to-end encryption can be less easily hacked: no single endpoint has all of the keys needed to decode information transmitted.
It has a policy of never sharing, collecting or selling your personal data or activities to third parties or advertisers. They don't claim ownership of your data - no matter where in the world you use Sync, they have passed the GDPR compliance checklist.
Get automatic backups, and automatic synchronizations and restorations in real-time. Easily recover deleted files and locate previous versions of documents - a good measure to prevent yourself from losing documents ever again.
Critically, they use 2-factor authentication (the hallmark standard for account security), custom passwords, expiry dates, and enterprise-level security - which features multiple with SSAE 16 type certified data center locations.
The Remote Device Lockout option lets you lock your device from any other device - as long as you’re logged into your Sync account. This gives you extra control for privacy and security for your cohort of devices. This is regardless of how far away you are from your device.
Pricing and Plans
The free plan starts with 5GB of free storage, 2GB more than you’d get with Dropbox. This may be the best zero-knowledge cloud service. Invite friends to use the platform and you’re handed an extra 20 gigabytes.
Choose the Personal Plan and get 500GB for only $8 per month (pay yearly), which is cheaper than Dropbox.
Extra Secure Option for Cloud Storage 🛡️
A very secure Dropbox alternative: the cheapest cloud storage you’ll find at its level of performance.
The data is encrypted with 256-bit AES protection for every file transmitted. For every file you transmit, 5 copies are stored on different servers. There's an option for extra layers of encryption, with TLS/SLA channel protections on all files too.
Integrate your backups with Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, OneDrive, and Google Drive. Access invaluable file management tools that can organize file versions, recover lost data, remote upload, preview online documents, and more.
View common media inside the platform, letting you stream music and video including playlists. And use pCloud as a HDD extension using the drive. If you have valuable data that you want to continuously backup, pCloud is your go-to choice.
And of course, you can share upload/download links with a team, use shareable folders, with detailed link statistics, and brandable download links.
If that wasn't enough, the Swiss company offers zero knowledge privacy, with encryption on the client’s end. Apps are compatible for Mac, Windows, lineups, iOS, Android, and Adobe Lightroom.
The storage is double the amount you get with Sync and 5 times more than Dropbox, at a cheaper price than you can get with either.
Pricing and Plans
As mentioned above, the free plan offers an immense amount of data, so that might suit you for a long period of time (unless you want more advanced features). If you do opt for a premium package, pCloud stands out as it gives you a lifetime plan for only $175. This could be quite cost-effective especially for SMBs.
Possibly the best cheap cloud storage choice!
#3 Google Drive
Most Generous Cloud Storage and Syncing Services 🏅
Serving 1.5 billion Gmail users, this is the big brother of Dropbox and the likely best free cloud storage, UK option.
Google Drive stands out for its collaboration tools, planning and organizing events options, the ability to upload/download many different types of documents & formats, with strong privacy and security (although there’s some debate on the privacy issue, partly due to Google sharing data amongst different products internally).
It also offers the largest amount of storage, outstripping even pCloud (by 5GB - which in-and of-itself is more than Dropbox offers!).
If you want to use cloud storage for personal and personal work, this may be an unbeatable free Dropbox alternative. You could literally use the free plan for years without needing to upgrade from more space.
The business option allows you to have more accounts that are tied together, accessing Google Docs, sheets and slides - also seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Office. You’ll only pay for the storage that employees actually use.
If you want to backup images, do so at a lower quality without using the free storage space (in other words, you get an unlimited number of images). They’re also open sourced. If you already have a Gmail or Google account, this is a very obvious Dropbox alternative that you can start using with only a few clicks.
Connect over 100 Drive Apps, which includes Freshdesk, Airtable, and Zipbooks. If you want to save any files emailed to you, do that directly inside of the email client by clicking the “save to Google Drive” icon (you have to be inside Gmail to use this).
Make your searches faster by using the image/full text search options. And you can now work offline, which is enormously helpful and any data you produce will be synced up as soon as you get a connection.
Pricing and Plans
If using this for personal or personal work, the free plan may suffice. You get a whooping 15GB, but you have to limit the platforms you share this data with between Gmail, Drive, and Google Photos - so make sure you’ll collaborate with other Gmail users, if teamwork is a key objective.
The premium personal plan is very cheap, at $1.99/mo, which pumps you up to 100GB storage. And you have the choice between a personal or business account, which offer different capabilities
Online Syncing and Storage Tool 🏆
For some people, Box will be the number one choice of cloud-based file storage and sharing (you may need to get over an initial learning curve). It's very similar to how Dropbox operates, letting you drag and drop files from your device into the cloud so you can store, edit and collaborate.
Currently, there's the option to preview 120+ file types, which includes Excel, word, PDF, PSD, EPS, AI - as well as photos.
This is extremely handy - allowing teams from a wide range of industries, including graphic designers - to handle information and preview it without having to download first. Overall, Box is a tool focused on businesses and collaborative teams - with very affordable premium plan options.
Closing in on the ankles of Google Drive, Box allows you to quickly document and share new ideas, create to-do lists, and make discussion groups. Use BoxNotes to do this, which operates in a similar way to Dropbox Paper and Google Notes.
The administrative privileges option lets you decide if you can edit or view documents.
And Box has a humongous number of integrations, working with over 1,400 third-party applications, which includes DocuSign, Salesforce, Slack, Google Suite, Office 365 - and it works on a large number of specific devices from different brands and operating systems.
Pricing and Plans
But the free plan is generous, with 10GB storage, which is the same as the second-most generous platform on this list (pCloud). Paid plans start from $10 per month. This is a good business alternative to Dropbox: if you want to go for the starter business plan, you first need a minimum of 3 users.
Streamlined and Secure Online Backup Service 💪
Backblaze is the Californian cloud storage and computer backup company who has handled millions of gigabytes of backup data, making them one of the best Dropbox alternatives you can find on the market. They have some unusual and very handy features.
Getting set up is very fast, with the backup process automatically backing up anything you upload onto the cloud.
Let this work in the background, with the option to have all of your data physically mailed to you using FedEx, in a USB hard drive or flash drive (up to 8TB). If you return the drive inside of a month, you’re given a full refund.
In other words, this is one of the most valuable tools for quickly backing up critical data on an ongoing basis. One of the most unique features is the ability to locate a missing or stolen device - including your computer.
Has an immense number of features. They give a 99.99% uptime on average. The security is enterprise-grade. Find hundreds of integrations so that you can fit this slip this into your current workflow. Old versions of documents can be set to remain on your account for a month, year, or forever.
Find Android and iOS apps so you can access files using your mobile phone. Overall, it's more affordable than Dropbox. Access any uploaded files from anywhere.
The B2 cloud storage is S3 compatible via APIs, CLI, and loads of third-party integrations. For business backups, you’re given unlimited backups for NES, VM, servers, laptops, and desktops.
Pricing and Plans
Note that there's no free storage plan. But you save money using this (compared to Dropbox), if you go for one of their premium plans.
The personal backup plan gives you unlimited storage for only $6 per month, which also has a 15-day free trial. The business back-up plan, which is more suitable for businesses, costs $60/year per account, also with a 15-day free trial.
Finally, the B2 cloud storage plan prices itself per GB per month.
Buying Guide 🛍️
How Does Cloud Storage Work?
The cloud is a buzzword thrown around a lot in computing, but most people only have a, well, cloudy understanding of its definition. Despite that, chances are that you used it in the past or currently do, even if you aren’t aware of it.
For instance, if you’re using YouTube, Instagram or Twitter, they all operate on a cloud (and use servers to store their massive amounts of data!). Even your Webmail client such as Outlook or Gmail use the cloud. If you have a banking app, those also use the cloud.
We’ll explain what the cloud is in simple terms, so that the fog can be dispelled enough to give you basic understanding.
Where Is Data Stored in the Cloud?
The “cloud” is created by data centers. These physical sites contain servers that create networks, allowing those connected to the server to access the internet.
Another way of saying it, is that they’re a bunch of networked computers that talk to each other using their hardware - and, as a result, allow you to access the online services you use, from your computer or mobile devices.
The cloud can’t be touched (albeit, these data centers are physically maintained and managed by technicians).
So where’s my data?
On servers typically owned by large companies…
(If you want to break this down into even more science, the data itself is transmitted via a mixture of cables and radio waves. It’s the same waves that are used for the radio and TV, as well as visible light, gamma rays and x-rays.)
If the cloud seems confusing, that's because it's really, really complicated (from the cloud itself, to cloud computing, to all the associated infrastructures)... In fact, the internet is now complicated beyond anyone's understanding.
This is partly why AI is such a marvel - as it has the ability to understand things its creators cannot. That little tidbit of knowledge should save you from going too far down the rabbit hole. Just figure out what you/your team needs and you're good to go!
How Do I Choose Cloud Storage - Technical Guide 👇
When you're talking about cloud storage, you’re also talking about a backup provider for your documents.
No more lugging around expensive and prone-to-failure physical hard drives. In the case of Backblaze, they even physically email you a flash/USB hard drive on-demand, containing your up-to-date (at the time of ordering) cloud data.
Each of the best cloud storages provider has a different approach to storing data in the cloud, so you’ll want to consider what dimensions most apply to you when making your decision on which to choose. Maybe you want something that is great at collaboration in a team, or a disaster recovery solution.
Perhaps your company creates so much data that it’s unrealistic for you to store the data physically. Migrating to the cloud can be a solution in all of these events, and we've boiled them down to 4 factors you should look at when making that choice:
#1 Storage vs. Backup
The two may seem interchangeable but they actually work differently. Cloud storage is about expanding your network and improving productivity, while also having backup in case of the need for data recovery (looking for the best in unlimited cloud storage?).
If your team members are very mobile, working from many devices at once, you’ll want to make sure your chosen provider has advanced collaboration and sharing capabilities, with the proper integrations.
And if you have an enormous amount of transactional data and archives, you’ll want to calculate the costs of storing the amount of information over ‘x’ amount of time.
Given these though ahead of time minimizes unpleasant surprises and the chance that you will need to migrate to a different provider.
What security options are available for stored data when it is sitting “at rest”, and when it is being distributed?
Commonly, you’ll find that storage and backups are AES encrypted at rest, while being TLS-encrypted during transmissions.
Having this above system blocks the cloud service themself from being able to read your information, which furthermore reduces the odds of anybody being able to intercept your data and decrypt it.
If you need tight security, look for a provider that lets you handle the administration of encryption keys and tweak the encryption method to fit the above.
#3 Regulatory Compliance
If you are running a business that requires very thorough regulatory compliances - such as in healthcare - it may seem cloud storage is too loose or potentially troublesome to fit your needs.
In fact, the major providers have implemented the right compliances to meet those requirements.
For instance, those who are HIPAA compliant have signed a BAA, meaning they’re contractually obligated to meet the prerequisite physical and data center security and location requirements.
#4 Ease and Integration
There are a few questions to ask here. How simple is it for users on your account to access the cloud service (how many users per account?) on their specific devices and operating systems.
Is it a web client or can it work for mobiles? Is it both iOS and Android - how about Mac, Linux and Windows?
How simple should the setup be? And how seamlessly can the provider integrate with your current workflow?
You should also look at the support features. From there, you want to consider the cost versus the storage volume. These questions are a lot easier to answer if you’re using cloud storage for personal, not team, use.
What Are the Benefits of Cloud Storage?
You can roughly boil down the benefits of cloud data solutions into two categories: for cloud storage and cloud backup. This is another useful way of analyzing the utility of these services. These may not apply to every provider, so check if it seems important:
#1 Cloud Storage
- Share data with anonymous uses
- Creating different file versions very quickly
- Advanced access control configurations for individual users and groups of users
- The SLA used by the service
- Storing files in different geographical regions
- Larger cloud service integrations such as VM images and databases
- Integrations with common productivity tools like Google Docs and Office 365
#2 Cloud Backup
- How long backups of deleted files on the server are kept before it is deleted forever
- An SLA that does not interfere with your backup availability when it is needed
- Backups that are automatic and continuous, performing on a frequent basis
- The ability to restore deleted files and folders when needed
- Disaster recovery risk management through multi-region backups.
Common benefits include saving a lot of money on buying physical hard drives - you’ll have a secure infrastructure for cheap, using tiered options, that gives you strong protection of data.
Others: the security sites will usually also manage the identification and defense against malware and ransomware. Plus, they can handle the compliance aspects of things for you, leading to a lot less need for investment on data retention infrastructure - great if you’re in an industry that requires rigorous compliance!
What Is the Best Free Cloud Storage?
Our recommendation would be pCloud, because it offers such an intense amount of free data - it’s especially a no-brainer alternative to Dropbox if you already have Gmail.
If you are looking for business features and other advanced storage capabilities, then you may want to look at something like Sync.com - once you are entering into the realm of serious business, an expense is often needed for critical capabilities.
However, there are always other free cloud storage options that you should explore.
Is Google Drive a Cloud Storage?
Yes, Google Drive runs on the cloud. More explicitly, it's a personal cloud storage service that lets you store and synchronize digital content (article suggestion: 10 proven online business ideas) across multiple devices - including mobile phones, tablets and computers. If you want to use it on Apple devices, you can access Drive via the GDrive app.
Is Cloud Storage Secure?
In the event of some immense natural disaster such as a solar flare, data may be permanently lost or this may lead to a long period of time where your data is unavailable.
Having your information on a physical medium, stored in multiple geographic locations is one of the oldest but trustworthy ways of securing very valuable data (like lifeworks).
If your house goes up in flames, having a secondary physical version stored at your grandma's will save you.
In terms of “viral” security, you want you to look for a service that allows client-side encryption keys. But this also means you’ll need to ensure your personal devices are secure, using things like best password managers, VPNs, firewalls, and by generally being sensible about keeping your devices physically out of reach of strangers.
In Conclusion 🏁
Cloud computing is a keystone technology in the ‘IOT’ age. Without it, the internet wouldn’t be able to evolve nearly as rapidly as it has.
That said, some providers offer specific solutions for cloud document storage (keep in mind that some offer specific solutions for backups).
Before making a decision, you should analyze what your needs are - including the budget, storage, compliance-level for your industry, and collaboration features - and make your decision from there:
- Best free Dropbox alternative - Google Drive is the best free cloud storage option - 15GB
- Cheapest Dropbox alternative - pCloud, which also offers powerful security and backups
- Best overall alternative to Dropbox - Sync.com - workflow enhancement tool with advanced capabilities
- Dark horse ? - Box can preview a large number of file types WITHOUT downloading first, which can be time-saving in and of itself if working in a team using specific software.