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pCloud vs Dropbox: Security vs Convenience in 2020

Ben Stockton
By Ben Stockton
— Last Updated: 2020-07-04T17:34:53+00:00

pCloud is one of our favorite cloud storage providers, regularly appearing toward the top of many of our cloud storage comparisons. Dropbox was the product that really popularized cloud storage, with a five-year head start on pCloud in building up features and customers. Looking at pCloud vs Dropbox, both have pros and cons that make them strong options for cloud storage.

If you want easy access to your files in the cloud, you’ll be happy with either of these cloud storage solutions. pCloud is a secure alternative to Dropbox because it offers zero-knowledge encryption as an add-on, while Dropbox is better for collaboration, thanks to its excellent integration with Microsoft Office and Google documents.

Deciding between them isn’t easy, so let’s walk you through the pros and cons of both in this comparison review. If you want more information upfront, check out our pCloud review and Dropbox review to find out more.

Setting Up a Battle: Dropbox vs pCloud

Comparing cloud storage providers isn’t easy, with providers offering unique features that can sometimes make a like-for-like comparison challenging. To try to make a fair comparison possible, we use a system spread across seven rounds. In each round, we’ll compare a key aspect of pCloud vs Dropbox, from pricing to features.

At the end of each round, we will award the winner a point. If we can’t decide between them, then we’ll call it a tie and both providers will get a point each. At the end of our battle, we’ll total up the points and declare an overall winner.

  1. 1
    • Sync Folder
    • File Link Sharing
    • Folder Sharing
    • Versioning
  2. 2
    • Sync Folder
    • File Link Sharing
    • Folder Sharing
    • Versioning
    2000 GB - 3 TB
    $ 999
    Save 16 %

1. Pricing

Both providers offer some free storage, although the way they go about this is very different. For instance, Dropbox gives you 2GB of free storage with no strings attached. If you want more, you’ll need to sign up for a paid account. If you’re only interested in free storage, then check out our guide to the best free cloud storage.

Free
  • Free plan
  • 10 GB Storage
Premium
  • 500 GB Storage
1-year plan $ 3.99/ month
$47.88 billed every year
Save 20 %
Lifetime plan $ 4.86/ month
$175.00 one time payment,
Monthly price for 3 years of use
Premium Plus
  • 2000 GB Storage
1-year plan $ 7.99/ month
$95.88 billed every year
Save 20 %
Lifetime plan $ 9.72/ month
$350.00 one time payment,
Monthly price for 3 years of use
Business
  • Price per user
  • 1000 GB Storage
1-year plan $ 23.97/ month
$287.64 billed every year

pCloud offers more storage, with up to 10GB included for free, but if you want to access the full 10GB, you’ll need to unlock it. You get the same 2GB that Dropbox offers upfront, with an extra 5GB if you verify your email, upload a file, download the desktop and smartphone apps, and turn on automatic photo upload.

You get the final 3GB of free storage only when you start inviting people to join and successfully get them to sign up with pCloud. It’s a bit of a hassle (and a gimmick, for that matter), but it isn’t as bad as some providers, such as MEGA, which offers generous free storage that will disappear after 30 days. Check out our MEGA review and our pCloud vs MEGA piece to learn more.

pCloud offers two paid plans for personal use, with monthly and annual plans, as well as an unusual, one-off lifetime payment option. pCloud Premium comes with 500GB of storage and costs $4.99 per month, or $3.99 per month if you pay annually. For a pCloud lifetime subscription, you’ll pay a one-off $175 fee.

If you need more storage, Premium Plus gives you 2TB of storage and costs $9.99 per month, the equivalent of $7.99 per month for an annual subscription, or $350 for life.

Dropbox also offers two paid personal plans (see our Dropbox pricing guide). Dropbox Plus comes with 2TB of storage for $11.99 per month, or $9.99 per month if paid annually. Dropbox Professional gives you 3TB of storage for $19.99 per month, or $16.38 per month if paid annually (we have guides on how to cancel Dropbox and how to delete your Dropbox account, in case you need to).

Dropbox vs pCloud Business Pricing

Dropbox and pCloud both offer business storage plans. pCloud costs $9.99 per month for 1TB of storage per user, with a three-user minimum. If you pay annually, the fee is reduced to around  $7.99 per month per user. These subscriptions come with pCloud Crypto encryption for free, which we’ll cover in more detail later (or you can read our full guide to pCloud Crypto).

There is no unlimited storage option available for pCloud business users (read our pCloud Business review). If you want unlimited space, you’ll need to look at Dropbox. You can also check out our rundown of the best unlimited cloud storage for alternatives like Box.

Dropbox Plus
  • 2000 GB Storage
1-year plan $ 9.99/ month
$119.88 billed every year
Save 16 %
Dropbox Professional
  • 3000 GB Storage
1-year plan $ 16.58/ month
$198.96 billed every year
Save 17 %

Dropbox Business Standard gives you 5TB of shared space for $15 per month per user, and like pCloud, there’s a three-user minimum. At first glance, it may seem like you get more space with Dropbox. However, the 5TB is shared, so if you have more than five users, you’ll actually end up with less space per user than pCloud. Read our Dropbox Business review for more information.

Dropbox Business Advanced costs $25 per month per user, with unlimited storage included. In practice, you’ll start with 3TB, and if you need more, you’ll need to manually request it from Dropbox.

There’s also Dropbox Enterprise for large businesses. Dropbox prices this plan on a per-account basis, so you’ll need to ask Dropbox for a quote. It’s certainly worth looking into, though — Dropbox Business isn’t on our best cloud storage for enterprise shortlist for nothing.

pCloud offers much more free storage than Dropbox, even if you have to jump through hoops to unlock it. The 2TB of storage is also cheaper with pCloud, although there’s no unlimited option available. All things considered, this round is a win for pCloud vs Dropbox — just. You can compare online storage prices with our handy chart.

Round: Pricing
Point for pCloud
Visit pCloud1
Visit Dropbox0

2. Security

One of the most important features to look for if you want the most secure cloud storage is zero-knowledge encryption. This type of encryption means that your provider doesn’t store a copy of your encryption key, so it can’t decrypt your files. If the service is breached, or if law enforcement demands access to your files, your files remain safe.

pcloud-crypto

Neither of our providers offers zero-knowledge encryption out of the box. If you want zero-knowledge encryption as a Dropbox user, the only option is to use a third-party service, such as Boxcryptor, before uploading your files. Check out our Boxcryptor review to learn more.

pCloud does offer zero-knowledge encryption, but you need to pay extra for it on personal plans. pCloud Crypto costs $4.99 per month on top of your cloud storage subscription, or $3.99 per month for annual subscribers. You can also make a one-off payment of $125 for lifetime access.

You may balk at the idea of paying extra for zero-knowledge encryption when other providers like Sync.com offer it for no extra cost, as our Sync.com review shows. If you’re willing to pay the price, though, pCloud Crypto will keep your files secure.

Despite the cost, pCloud still comes out second on our list of the best zero-knowledge cloud services. pCloud even offered a reward of $100,000 to anyone who was able to crack its encryption; no one could, so the encryption is pretty solid.

The only “downside” (if you can call it that) to zero-knowledge encryption is contingent on you: if you lose your decryption key and forget your password, there’s no way to reset it, meaning your files are lost forever.

We would strongly recommend using a password manager like Dashlane to minimize the risk of losing access to your account. Check out our guide to the best password manager if you need some additional suggestions.

Cloud Storage Security Measures

Both Dropbox and pCloud use AES 256-bit encryption for data at rest, which is the industry standard (read our Dropbox security issues piece, too). For data in transit, both providers use the TLS protocol to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

Authy

Both providers also offer the option to turn on two-factor authentication. When you sign in, both services will ask you to confirm you’re a genuine user by asking for a time-limited authentication code. This is usually delivered to you by SMS or using an authentication app like Google Authenticator.

Even if your account is breached, two-factor authentication blocks anyone who doesn’t have physical access to your device, and therefore access to your time-limited codes.

Both Dropbox and pCloud make this an easy process, although it’s a little trickier for pCloud. If you’re using a Facebook or Google account, you’ll need to create a new password with pCloud before it allows you to turn two-factor authentication on.

Neither provider offers zero-knowledge encryption out of the box, but pCloud does give you the option to use it if you’re willing to pay extra for pCloud Crypto. As the only zero-knowledge provider of the two, pCloud takes this round.

Round: Security
Point for pCloud
Visit pCloud2
Visit Dropbox0

3. Privacy

pCloud is based in Switzerland, which has some of the best cloud privacy laws in the world. However, the servers are based in the U.S., so you may be subject to U.S. laws that offer far less privacy. If you use pCloud Crypto, neither pCloud nor any government will be able to access your files because your data is encrypted, which reduces this risk.

Alternatively, you could opt for using a European server when creating your account.

Dropbox is based in the U.S., which means that legislation such as the PATRIOT Act could be used to gain access to your data. With Dropbox not providing built-in zero-knowledge encryption, government agents and law enforcement have the power to access and seize your files. That is, of course, if you’re not encrypting them with Boxcryptor first.

Dropbox also states that it can access your data to ensure that you are not in breach of its terms and conditions, and it may share your data with third parties, such as Google, Amazon and Zendesk.

Although it was back in 2012, Dropbox was also the subject of a major hack that exposed the passwords of around 68 million users. There have been no reports of Dropbox data breaches since then, but it is still not an ideal history for a cloud storage provider to have.

Since pCloud offers the ability to use zero-knowledge encryption and is based in one of the most privacy-friendly nations on the planet, pCloud is the winner.

Round: Privacy
Point for pCloud
Visit pCloud3
Visit Dropbox0

4. Speed

If you’ve got a lot of data to store, then upload and download speeds will be important to you. There’s not much to choose between the two providers when it comes to upload speed. Both uploaded a 1GB file in around 20 minutes, give or take a few minutes, although pCloud was a little quicker.

Downloads show a clear difference, though. The same 1GB file took 1 minute 48 seconds to download using pCloud. Dropbox took more than twice as long, needing around 3 minutes 44 seconds to download the same file.

The data below is pretty clear: upload and download speeds were better for pCloud vs Dropbox overall.

 pCloudDropbox
Upload19:1122:45
Download1:483:44

If you’re making changes to large files, you may notice a big improvement in the scores shown here. Dropbox uses block-level sync to speed up large file uploads. Files are split into small sections and, if a change is made to a file, only the changed file parts will be uploaded, saving a huge amount of time and bandwidth.

pCloud also makes use of block-level sync, so it’s equally adept at keeping everything in sync at lightning-fast speeds. That’s why both providers make it onto our list of the best cloud storage for large files.

Since pCloud was quicker during download and upload, and both providers offer block-level sync, this round is another win for pCloud.

Round: Speed
Point for pCloud
Visit pCloud4
Visit Dropbox0

5. Ease of Use

Like many of the big providers, pCloud and Dropbox use the very familiar combination of desktop folder syncing. Dropbox was the earlier innovator here, and you’ll find a similar system tray options menu included with most cloud storage providers on desktop PCs.

Unlike many cloud storage providers, you’ll find desktop apps for Windows, macOS and Linux available from both Dropbox and pCloud. In fact, both services make it onto our list of the best cloud storage for Linux, along with Tresorit and MEGA.

pcloud-web-app

We’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but the Dropbox interface on Mac is a bit harder to use. Rather than showing your folders first, the web interface for Dropbox mixes up subfolders and files, and trying to order by “type” doesn’t work, either.

This can make finding the file or folder you want in a large collection of other files and folders pretty difficult on Dropbox. The Dropbox folder in Finder is a little better, with folders separated from files if you switch to the order by “kind” mode, but this isn’t usually the default Finder view mode on macOS.

With this in mind, we don’t usually recommend Dropbox for macOS users. pCloud, on the other hand, makes our best cloud storage for Mac shortlist, alongside Sync.com.

However, we should point out that this is a Mac-only issue, and you won’t find it with Windows and Linux. Dropbox even makes it onto our best cloud storage for Windows shortlist.

pCloud’s web interface isn’t without its own problems, though. If you want to drag and drop a file into the Dropbox web application, you can drag and drop a file onto a subfolder and have it placed there. In contrast, pCloud only allows you to drag and drop into folders that are open.

Dropbox vs pCloud Mobile Apps

As you’d expect, both providers offer mobile apps for iOS and Android. These allow you to access your storage from your phone, with settings to automatically backup your photos and videos. Both Dropbox and pCloud offer some of the best cloud storage for Android devices.

dropbox-mobile-app

However, the pCloud app has a few problems: moving files in the pCloud app is more difficult than it could be. In the Dropbox app, you can click on a file to drag and drop it into another folder. The same simple system doesn’t work in the pCloud app, as clicking a file simply opens a menu, which provides the options to move the file.

It’s a little bit more time consuming, but not the end of the world. A bigger problem lies with Dropbox because, like the macOS app and web interface, the Dropbox iOS app doesn’t allow you to easily separate your files and folders, but instead mixes them together alphabetically. It’s still one of the best cloud storage for iPhone options, though.

Overall, this is a tough round to call. Dropbox is probably the easier of the two providers to use across multiple platforms, even if organizing files by type is a bit harder for Apple users. This is still only a minor issue, though, so Dropbox takes this round.

Round: Ease of Use
Point for Dropbox
Visit pCloud4
Visit Dropbox1

6. File Syncing and Sharing

File syncing and sharing is one of the most important rounds we’ll cover in our cloud storage reviews. If a provider fails here, it isn’t worth considering. The good news is that both pCloud and Dropbox make it to our list of the best cloud storage with sync, and for good reason, as we’ll explain.

dropbox-sync-online-files

Dropbox offers three different ways to sync your files. The standard method syncs everything in your Dropbox folder, storing the files locally on your PC, as well as backing them up to Dropbox’s servers (read our help guide if you have trouble with Dropbox not syncing).

If this is taking up too much space, then you can switch to selective sync, which will allow you to pick which folders are synced to your desktop and which remain cloud-only.

The final option, smart sync, allows you to see every file and folder on your desktop, but then set certain files and folders as online-only. You can still see them in your file structure, but they don’t take up any room on your hard drive (read our what is Dropbox Smart Sync? piece for more).

If you want to open a file, just double-click and Dropbox will download it, so it’s ready for you to access. This feature helps to make Dropbox Business one of the best enterprise file sync and share providers.

The only problem with smart sync is that it’s difficult to return files to “online-only” status after downloading them. pCloud doesn’t have this issue because it treats your sync folder as a virtual drive instead. Files accessed using pCloud Drive are stored in the cloud, so the virtual drive doesn’t take up your hard disk space.

When you open a file, it doesn’t download to your hard drive but remains in the cloud. If you prefer, you can sync local folders to pCloud Drive, giving yourself a local copy that continually backs up to pCloud’s servers (find out how to set up pCloud Drive).

pCloud offers this for free, but you’ll have to pay to use Dropbox smart sync. It’s also not available for Linux users.

pCloud vs Dropbox File Sharing

Like Google Drive and other providers, Dropbox and pCloud both allow you to create links to share files and give you the option to invite people directly to files and folders using email. pCloud also allows you to set a password and expiration date, or change the link to a slightly shorter one.

You can’t share encrypted pCloud Crypto files with a personal pCloud plan, although it is offered to business users.

pcloud-web-share-link

pCloud offers detailed usage statistics for shared files, offering information about download traffic through the share menu. pCloud limits the amount of download bandwidth per month for shared links, with free accounts getting 50GB, Premium accounts having 500GB and Premium Plus accounts receiving 2TB.

In contrast, Dropbox allows 200GB of downloads per day for all paid accounts, or 20GB per day for free accounts. It means that a free Dropbox user gets more download bandwidth per month than someone on the pCloud Premium tier and three times the bandwidth per month for a 2TB account.

Even so, both providers make it to our list of the best cloud storage for sharing, thanks to the ease in which you can do it. Like pCloud, Dropbox also allows you to set a password or an expiration date for your links, but this is available only as an option for Dropbox Professional and business accounts.

Smart sync sets Dropbox apart from many of its rivals, but pCloud’s virtual drive system is simpler to use and will save your local storage space. Although pCloud has lower limits for sharing files, it still takes this round because this is likely to be a problem for only the smallest number of users. Check out our guide on how to use pCloud Transfer, if you want to send large files.

Round: File Syncing and Sharing
Point for pCloud
Visit pCloud5
Visit Dropbox1

7. Features

Both Dropbox and pCloud go big on features, but Dropbox offers more, as we’ll explain now.

pCloud includes a dedicated music player that allows you to play music files within the web app or mobile app, turning it into your own private cloud music player. You can create playlists and search by songs, albums or artists, all of which help pCloud make it onto our list of the best cloud storage for music.

This is a really useful feature if you want to store your music collection in the cloud, but less so if you’re already using Spotify or Apple Music.

pcloud-audio-player

One of the most useful additional features that pCloud offers is the ability to backup files from other cloud services, including Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, as well as Facebook and Instagram. All you need to do is link your account and pCloud will transfer everything for you. However, this isn’t possible for Dropbox or OneDrive business accounts.

Dropbox has a few killer features of its own, though. For instance, Dropbox Paper is a note-taking collaboration tool that allows you to drop text, images, videos and more into a single document. It’s a good idea, if a bit limited in scope, as our Dropbox Paper review shows.

More interesting — especially from a business point of view — is Dropbox Showcase. It allows you to share your best work using a customizable portfolio page. Showcase is fairly useful if you want to share business files, but we admit that it’s a niche feature that isn’t going to appeal to everyone.

pCloud also offers a less impressive version of the same idea, allowing you to customize the header for your shared files page, but it isn’t a major focus.

The biggest Dropbox feature of all is its collaboration. You can collaborate on both Microsoft Office and Google documents in real-time directly from within the Dropbox interface. Open a file and it will launch the appropriate app, and any changes you make are saved straight to Dropbox.

You can even edit Office files in Google apps and save them in their original formats, all without leaving the Dropbox web app. That’s why Dropbox Business comes out at the very top of our list of the best cloud storage for collaboration. Sadly, pCloud does not integrate with either Office or Google documents, so it can’t compete here.

File Versioning

File versioning is something that both pCloud and Dropbox offer with Rewind — yes, both providers have named this feature with the exact same name. Both versions of Rewind allow you to travel back in time and restore an earlier version of your file.

pCloud allows you to do this for 15 days for free accounts or 30 days for paid accounts. You can extend this up a year for an additional $39 fee.

dropbox-web-app

Rewind isn’t available with free Dropbox accounts, unfortunately. Dropbox Plus accounts can go back 30 days, while Professional and Business accounts can rewind as far as 180 days. Dropbox used to offer extended version history, but this is no longer an option.

Rewind features are incredibly useful, which is why both are among the best cloud storage for versioning, alongside Sync.com and Tresorit. It’s good to see it from both providers, although Dropbox offers a little longer period of file versioning than pCloud.

There isn’t enough meat on the bones from pCloud, even with pCloud Crypto to consider. With longer file versioning and great collaboration features, Dropbox takes this final round.

Round: Features
Point for Dropbox
Visit pCloud5
Visit Dropbox2

8. The Verdict

If you’ve been watching carefully, you’ll have noticed that pCloud took the first four rounds in a row. Dropbox rallied to take two of the final three rounds, but it’s still a clear victory for pCloud vs Dropbox, by five rounds to two.

Winner: pCloud

Security and privacy were easy wins for pCloud, thanks to it offering zero-knowledge encryption with pCloud Crypto. Even though this is a paid add-on, there’s no way to achieve this level of encryption with Dropbox without using a third-party app. pCloud was also faster than Dropbox, offered better syncing and sharing, and it works out cheaper, too.

However, Dropbox took the win for ease of use, even with the minor Apple issues. The biggest win for Dropbox was down to its truly excellent collaboration integrations with both Microsoft Office and Google documents, storming to victory in the features round.

If you need to collaborate on documents, then Dropbox is still a strong option, but be sure to check out our best cloud storage picks for alternatives.

We’re always eager to hear about your experiences, so be sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts, opinions and disagreements. As always, thanks for reading.