A key benefit of cloud storage is that sharing files is much simpler than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Our pitiable former selves had to deal with massive email attachments that led to overstuffed and unresponsive inboxes. We had to pass others USB devices or similar gadgets containing the content we wanted to share. Times were tough.
Now we have the advantage of the cloud, a remote storage medium perfect for delivering content without a hiccup. There are a few cloud services that can be used to share files, including standalone delivery services, such as WeTransfer, and beefier cloud storage services, such as those reviewed in our cloud storage reviews library.
Among the latter is Dropbox, which, while not topping our best cloud storage list, is a popular choice for managing files, especially for collaboration.
In this article, we’re going to consider Dropbox and WeTransfer side by side to determine which provider is best for file sharing. Since WeTransfer is more of a business solution than a consumer one, we’ll focus our discussion on which makes file sharing easiest in office settings.
Dropbox versus WeTransfer
Among cloud storage providers, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive are the three biggest names. While each has merits, Dropbox is the most convenient for sharing files, thanks to features that include shared-link passwords and the ability to send file requests. For Dropbox alternatives, give our best cloud storage for file sharing guide a read.
WeTransfer is a cloud service that specializes in transferring large files. Its architecture is dedicated to that purpose, though it has nice customization features for business branding and a few other perks.
In addition to file sharing, Dropbox has many features that you won’t get with a niche provider like WeTransfer, including file synchronization and integrated apps such as Dropbox Paper and Microsoft Office Online (check out our best note-taking apps for other examples).
We won’t be taking into account Dropbox’s storage and productivity features in this head-to-head review. Our focus is on file sharing and which of the two services does it best. To perform this evaluation, we’ve split our article into three rounds: sharing, security and cost.
Round One: Cloud Sharing Features
Dropbox is a cloud storage service that’s known for fast, reliable file sync, not sharing. You can read our best cloud storage for sync review to find out what makes Dropbox stand out in that area and which services come close.
For file sharing, Dropbox isn’t as well-developed as Sync.com or pCloud, but it is more advanced than your average cloud storage provider.
Dropbox lets you share individual files and invite others to access folders. You won’t get folder sharing with WeTransfer. As such, Dropbox makes more sense for productivity and collaboration, even without taking file synchronization and Office Online into account.
To share a folder or file, log in to Dropbox online and click the “share” button associated with either object. You can fill in email addresses for people you want to give access or generate a link that anybody can use.
When sharing folders, you can provide view-only or edit permissions. View-only lets others view, download and comment on content, while edit adds file change and deletion capabilities.
Those with edit permissions can be given the ability to invite others to access folders, too.
Sharing Dropbox files is mechanically identical to sharing folders, except that there’s no “edit” option. The only permissions setting is view only. That means those you share content with can comment on your files, but not change them.
WeTransfer doesn’t recognize folders, so, to share the contents of one, you’ll have to send multiple files or zip the folder before sending it. Zipped folders are treated like files, so you can send it all in one go.
The inability to share folders is a knock against WeTransfer but, when it comes to file sharing, the service is more than a match for Dropbox.
WeTransfer File Sharing
Anyone can share files from the WeTransfer website without an account. Click the blue plus sign to add files from your file system, add up to 20 email recipient addresses and input your own email.
You can send up to 2GB of files at once with WeTransfer. Bigger files require a subscription. With WeTransfer Plus, you can send up to 20GB at a time. Subscribers also get 100GB of storage to keep files that are frequently used. The service doesn’t delete files after a set period of time and it allows you to audit past mailings and resend or forward them.
Click the three-dot menu near the bottom of the WeTransfer send tool to tweak other settings. Those include switching from “email” to “link.” Links can be posted to Slack channels, social media or similar platforms to share content with a broader audience.
None of those features distance WeTransfer from Dropbox. What makes the difference, at least for business users, is the ability to personalize file transfers. Options include a personalized URL, background images for emails and other ways to customize the look of emails.
WeTransfer lets you create a look that suits your business, including incorporating your company name into your URL and adding your logo. For those looking to put together an email marketing campaign or similar endeavor, such details can make a difference to its success.
Round One Thoughts:
Both Dropbox and WeTransfer have advantages over one another for file sharing. For Dropbox, the main advantage is that you can share folders without having to compress them into .zip files. For WeTransfer, it’s customization.
Which service has the bigger edge is a matter of personal needs. We’re siding with WeTransfer, but only because it’s easy to share folders with many cloud storage services, several of which are free or much cheaper than Dropbox. Email customization for sending files is uncommon by comparison.
- Round One Winner: WeTransfer
Round Two: File Sharing Security
We’ll tackle file safety in round two, looking at both in-transit protection and encryption for content stored in the cloud. We’ll look at link security, too, but first, let’s talk geography.
WeTransfer has an advantage over Dropbox as it’s based in the European Union. The EU has stricter privacy laws than the U.S., as shown by the recent passage of the General Data Protection Regulation. WeTransfer is headquartered in Amsterdam and adheres to the Dutch Personal Data Protection Act, which includes mandates for securing data against loss or theft.
Dropbox is based in San Francisco, with data centers across the U.S. The country has been mired in data privacy controversies in recent years, most notoriously the National Security Agency’s PRISM project. While Dropbox wasn’t implicated as being involved in PRISM, it was on the docket to be added before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the program.
Dropbox has one major data breach on record, which involved the theft of 68 million user passwords in 2012. The company has taken steps since then to ensure the incident isn’t repeated, but the fact that the details of the theft weren’t revealed for several years should give one pause.
Plus, Condoleezza Rice is also on the Dropbox Board of Directors. While there’s nothing to suggest she’s caused problems for user privacy, she was an advocate for warrantless wiretapping during the Bush administration and has been tied to UN Security Council eavesdropping scandal. That’s troubling in an industry where privacy is top of mind.
It doesn’t take a tinfoil hat to decide that WeTransfer is the better bet to protect consumer privacy, at least, on the surface. That said, both services take steps to prevent outside parties from accessing user data.
Dropbox and WeTransfer Encryption
Dropbox and WeTransfer protect files in transit using transport layer security. TLS is a protocol that ensures data integrity between two communicating applications. It allows the connection between the applications to be encrypted, so no third party is able to intercept and tamper with the data.
These days, any web service of note uses TLS to protect in-transit communications.
Both providers encrypt files stored on their servers. Dropbox uses AES 128-bit encryption to scramble files, while WeTransfer uses AES 256-bit encryption. Either protocol is bulletproof, practically speaking. It would take billions of years to brute force crack an AES encryption key.
Encryption keys may be impossible to crack, but weak passwords are not. Dropbox counters that with two-factor authentication. With 2FA enabled, you’ll need to enter an additional credential when logging in from an unfamiliar machine. The credential is a security code that you can receive on your smartphone.
WeTransfer does not offer two-factor authentication. That means if your password is hacked or stolen, files stored in your WeTransfer Plus account could be in jeopardy. If you decide to go with the service, be sure to create a strong password or, better yet, use a cloud password manager such as Dashlane.
Both services maintain secure data centers, as well. Dropbox has its own server facilities and WeTransfer uses facilities operated by Amazon Web Services.
Dropbox and WeTransfer File Link Security
Links pose a danger to content control. Unlike inviting people to access content using their email address, a link can be used by anybody who manages to get a hold of it. At least, that’s the case without certain link protection features.
The most obvious of such features are passwords and expiry dates. Most cloud storage providers fail to include either. Dropbox doesn’t, but they come at a cost. You’ll have to sign up for Dropbox Professional or Dropbox Business (read our Dropbox Business review).
Dropbox includes two additional content control features for links in the ability to disable downloads and comments. Those are nice inclusions.
WeTransfer lets you restrict links with passwords and automatic expiration dates, but those features aren’t free. We cover the cost of WeTransfer Plus and Dropbox Professional in our final round.
Another content control feature that WeTransfer has, and Dropbox doesn’t, is notifications confirming file uploads, downloads, bounced emails and one in case none of your recipients download the transfer within five days.
WeTransfer Plus customers can check how many times files connected to email and link transfers were downloaded. Email transfers show who downloaded the file, while link transfers do not.
Both services could use one feature to shore up security, though: download limits for links. If that idea floats your boat, two of the most secure cloud storage providers — Sync.com and pCloud — provide that capability.
Round Two Thoughts:
Both services take reasonable steps to ensure file security. We need a winner, though, so we’re picking WeTransfer for the second straight round, despite its failure to offer two-factor authentication. Our decision is based on its location in the EU and options for monitoring file downloads.
Dropbox, with its long history of controversy and near-controversy, seems primed for scandal. If you do use Dropbox, we recommend pairing it with a private encryption service such as Boxcryptor. Read our Boxcryptor review for more information.
- Round Two Winner: WeTransfer
Round Three: Cost
The bottom-line isn’t everything, but it’s a key consideration. As it happens, Dropbox is one of the worst deals in cloud storage.
For starters, you get just 2GB of free storage. That’s far short of providers mentioned in our best free cloud storage roundup. A Dropbox Plus account is $9.99 per month for 1TB of storage. While not terrible, you can get 2TB of storage from pCloud for just $8 per month. The math doesn’t favor Dropbox.
1-year plan $ 1.99/ month
$23.88 billed every year
|Office 365 Personal|
1-year plan $ 5.83/ month
$69.99 billed every year
Save 17 %
|Office 365 Home|
1-year plan $ 8.33/ month
$99.99 billed every year
Save 17 %
The most baffling entry in Dropbox’s subscription lineup is Dropbox Professional. This plan doubles the cost of Dropbox Plus to $20 per month without giving you more file space. Instead, you get a few extra features, such as 120-day versioning and link sharing features that we mentioned earlier (e.g., passwords and expiry dates).
Dropbox Business plans are priced differently, though no less attractively. There’s a $15 2TB plan and a $25 unlimited plan.
|OneDrive for Business Plan One|
1-year plan $ 5.00/ month
$60.00 billed every year
|OneDrive for Business Plan Two|
1-year plan $ 10.00/ month
$120.00 billed every year
|Office 365 Business Premium|
1-year plan $ 12.50/ month
$150.00 billed every year
Save 17 %
|Office 365 ProPlus|
1-year plan $ 12.00/ month
$144.00 billed every year
|Office 365 E1|
1-year plan $ 7.17/ month
$86.00 billed every year
|Office 365 E3|
1-year plan $ 20.00/ month
$240.00 billed every year
|Office 365 E5|
1-year plan $ 35.00/ month
$420.00 billed every year
It’s harder to evaluate WeTransfer relative to similar services because there aren’t many of them. For simple file-sending needs, there’s a limited free WeTransfer plan that’s good for up to 2GB of files at once.
If that doesn’t cut it, you’ll have to upgrade to WeTransfer Plus. It will let you send 10 times the gigabytes at once and has perks such as cloud storage and branding options.
|Monthly Cost:||Free||$12 per month|
At $12 a month, it isn’t as cheap as we’d expect for a niche service that only offers 100GB of storage and doesn’t provide sync or file editing. The branding options and overall ease of use make it worth it for businesses, though.
Round Three Thoughts:
Neither service is a good deal. For value, Dropbox provides more since you’re getting 1TB of cloud storage and file sync, while WeTransfer is only good for sending files.
If all you care about is sending files, however, WeTransfer is the better deal since a $12 per month subscription gets you file link passwords and expiry dates. Dropbox only provides those with a $20 per month subscription. Your $12 gets you nice download auditing features, too.
We’re giving the final round to Dropbox, but with big caveats. If you’re considering Dropbox Professional for $20 a month because of the storage, but like WeTransfer for file sharing, we suggest an alternative path.
By pairing a $12 a month WeTransfer subscription with an $8 a month pCloud subscription, you’ll get all the sharing perks of WeTransfer and 2TB of storage from pCloud. That works out to $20 a month, the same cost as Dropbox Professional, but with quite a few more benefits.
- Round Three Winner: Dropbox
Dropbox and WeTransfer are different animals. In many ways, comparing them is a fool’s errand. Dropbox is a more complicated cloud service, coming packaged with sync, storage and productivity features that you won’t get with WeTransfer.
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That said, WeTransfer has a reputation among non-enterprise business owners. That is especially true of business owners that don’t need anything more complex than it. It’s a service for businesses that want to craft attractive emails for limited campaigns or deliver work product to customers with an air of panache, without worrying about overcoming a steep learning curve.
In that way, it’s a worthwhile service and, within the scope of what it does, we’d take it over Dropbox any day. That’s our take, anyway. Feel free to share your thoughts below. Thanks for reading.