Cloudwards.net takes a look at the most famous cloud storage provider out there; it may be the most popular, but is it the best?
Last Updated: 14 Jul'17
Dropbox is one of the longest standing players among cloud storage services. It has received such wide recognition, that the name is now synonymous for many with cloud storage.
Since its inception in 2007, the company has been a resounding success, but the way it grew may also have had some negative consequences. It took almost three years for Dropbox to get to the point of having one million users, but within just one more year they reached 50 million.
There is a possibility that Dropbox wasn’t ready for such rapid growth and the best evidence for this is the very well-publicized 2011 security breach. There have been further internal security blunders and security problems discovered since then. We have an overview of Dropbox security issues if you’d like to read more.
The unimpressive corporate response to these breaches has led to many users seeking out secure Dropbox alternatives (check out our SpiderOak review, Sync.com review or Google Drive review in particular). Yet despite this, the user base of Dropbox is still growing, and there’s a sense that the company has to invest so much into expanding storage capacity that there just isn’t time or inclination for further innovation.
Numerous consumer complaints about the company’s business ethics and customer service responses resulted in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) awarding the company a rating of F, the worst possible score, until June 27, 2017. The rating reverted to NR (not rated) because “the business is in the process of responding to previously closed complaints.”
You couldn’t ask for a clearer sign that this multi-award winning service has significantly fallen from grace.
The excellence of file syncing and elegant simplicity that earned Dropbox those awards in the first place are still as good as ever. So provided you go in with full situational awareness and keep a close eye on your credit card statement, Dropbox could still be a viable cloud storage solution for you.
Before you make up your mind though, it would be a good idea to look at our complete list of the best cloud storage and backup services. By seeing how Dropbox stacks up against the competition, you’ll have everything you need to make an informed decision. Below you will also find a quick video review we have done of this service.
Dropbox Video Review
Setting aside the three most complained about factors (business ethics, customer service and security), we have to admit Dropbox is a slick performer and is very easy to use.
- Free 2GB storage (expandable)
- Great 3rd-party integrations
- Good file syncing
- Easy to use
- Good device support
- Works on all major operating systems
Paid storage is relatively expensive
Can’t share files with non-members
Many consumer complaints
Terrible rating with BBB
Customer service needs improvement
Concerns about security
Based in the U.S.
While Dropbox was impressive in terms of performance and usability, there are plenty of issues Dropbox needs to fix. From the evidence seen so far, the company doesn’t appear to be interested in doing so, however.
Dropbox is quite basic in desktop mode. The download takes about six minutes, but you’ll need a Dropbox account before you can activate it. You’ll need to go to the Dropbox website to apply for an account.
When you do, you’ll be offered free trials of the paid storage features, but we wouldn’t recommend you take these deals until you’ve given the free account a decent test drive. You can always apply for the free trials at any time later.
When you sign in for the first time, you’ll see a brief tutorial window. This tutorial is misleading, as it suggests files are backed up. This is untrue because files are merely synced, not backed up.
No permanent copy of your files is made. If you delete a file from the Dropbox folder on any of your synced devices, it will be removed from your online Dropbox folder as well. You can fix this if you act quickly, but if you have a lot of files in your Dropbox, you may not notice until it’s too late.
One annoying thing Dropbox does is that it sets every dialog it creates to be “always on top” with no button to minimize (in the Windows version). Linux users still have the option to minimize or roll up the window if their DTE supports these activities.
Also in Windows, when you take a screenshot, Dropbox will ask if you want to save them to your Dropbox folder automatically. Because such files would be synced immediately, this could lead to privacy or security problems if you accidentally hit the PrtSc key.
Otherwise the interface is very minimal, which is going to be the biggest source of confusion for a new user expecting to see a normal windowed interface. Instead, the application will appear as an icon in the system tray.
Once you’ve figured out that Dropbox has no window, you’ll find it easy to use. You simply copy or save files into your Dropbox folder when you want those files synced, and Dropbox does all the work instantly behind the scenes. If you want to stop syncing a file, you simply delete it from your local Dropbox folder and it will be removed from the online folder right away.
In an apparent attempt to compete against Google, Dropbox created an office document editing suite called Dropbox Paper. This was a surprisingly clever move, but at present the product is not as mature as Google Docs. We’ve compared Google Docs vs Dropbox Paper in an earlier article.
Dropbox notices if you plug in a device such as a camera, and offers to import your photos and videos. Something you’re not told when you sign up is that if you use this feature, you can get up to 3GB of extra space on your account at no additional cost, though note the extra space must be used for photo and video storage.
It’s nice that Dropbox offers some free storage, but paid accounts are a bit expensive compared to some other services.
|Plan||Dropbox Basic Free Personal||Dropbox Premium Personal / Plus||Dropbox Standard Business||Dropbox Advanced Business||Enterprise Business|
$ 13 25monthly
$ 99 00yearly
$ 17 50monthly
$ 150 00yearly
$ 25 00monthly
$ 240 00yearly
2GB, with referrals adding up to 15GB.
1TB plus additional file sharing and collaboration tools.
Prices quoted are per user, with a minimum of three. 2TB for entire team, regardless of team size, plus additional file sharing and collaboration tools.
Prices quoted are per user, with a minimum of three. Unlimited space, plus advanced collaboration tools.
Same as "advanced business" but with unlimited 24/7 phone support; pricing is agreed per customer.
Fees for the enterprise level are set on a case-by-case basis, which could prove annoying for people that feel they need round-the-clock phone support.
Other than not having an application window, Dropbox is wonderfully simple, requiring no advanced skills to operate it. Control over the application is achieved by right-clicking on the Dropbox icon in the system tray and selecting preferences:
It’s more limited than some other services such as SpiderOak and Livedrive, but still allows you to do the most important tasks.
These include proxy configuration, setting bandwidth limits, modifying where files are stored and how they’re synced, and setting default behaviors for the application. All these features are accessed through a simple interface that’s easy to understand.
There’s not much more that needs to be said about file syncing with Dropbox other than it just works and does it very well. The only thing you’ll need to watch is that Dropbox seems to use the time-stamp of a file to decide which version of it is the correct one.
This could be an issue if you travel to a different time zone (especially if you cross the international date line) and your system is set to automatically adjust the date and time based on your present location.
File sharing is easy, even with a free account, but some of the people you share with may be annoyed that they have to sign up to Dropbox to see the content you’re sharing with them.
You can share individual files or entire folders. When you invite a user to share a file with you, you can nominate whether they should just be able to view the file, or whether they should also be able to edit it.
Speed results varied on different devices and operating systems, but were generally good in comparison to many other services. Here are the results for downloading and uploading our 1GB test folder with speed throttled to 1000 Mbps.
| First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
The two things that really stood out here were that downloading time was much better than uploading time, and there were massive swings between the different tests. Speed was more stable on Windows and fluctuated more wildly on Linux.
The real connection speed rarely went over 360 KB/s, and sometimes went down to less than half that rate. It was more noticeable when uploading. What is missing from Dropbox is a report that shows the time taken for your uploads and downloads. If you want to know, you have to manually time them.
Hovering the mouse pointer over the Dropbox icon in the system tray shows an estimate of how much time remains on a sync action, but since it’s rounded to the nearest hour it’s not especially helpful.
As a large and popular cloud storage service, Dropbox is seen as a target-rich environment by cybercriminals. Dropbox has suffered multiple security incidents over the years, and media reports state the company has not always handled the aftermath appropriately. The most recent incident occurred in August 2016, with millions of account passwords being leaked.
Another incident in January 2017 that isn’t necessarily a security breach, but does raise privacy concerns, was a situation where many users found old files in their Dropbox accounts which they had deleted months or even years previously. Dropbox says files are deleted permanently after the recovery time expires, but this does not seem to be the case based on what happened in January.
Best practice principles suggest you shouldn’t consider any cloud storage service to be perfectly secure, but Dropbox has such a poor track record on security that it would be advisable to be especially cautious about what you upload to the service.
However, there could be some concerns over sincerity with this company. In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission received a complaint making serious allegations about the company’s honesty regarding the privacy of stored content. Dropbox responded by changing some wording in their policies, but there are still some things that could be considered misleading.
The biggest cause of concern for consumers should be the high number of complaints made against Dropbox, particularly with regard to poor customer service, allegations of deceptive business practices and allegations of fraud. It is worth taking into account these are only allegations, and consumers aren’t always virtuous when they’re angry. On the other hand, the number of complaints about Dropbox are high compared to most other services.
To put this in perspective, when people complain about Google Drive, they usually complain about technical difficulties with using the service, often acknowledging their own contribution to the problems they encounter.
When people complain about Dropbox, it is generally about the poor service they receive and especially matters related to allegedly being over-charged or not being able to unsubscribe from services they have purchased. The U.S. Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives Dropbox Inc a rating of F, partly due to the statistic that of 268 consumer complaints raised with the BBB against Dropbox, the company allegedly didn’t even bother to respond to 171 of them.
Some users complaining about Dropbox in online forums and complaint websites say that tech support operators sometimes pretended that users had called a wrong number if they did not want to deal with the customer’s complaint.
Because these allegations are in the form of anecdotal reports, they can’t be verified without concrete evidence. However it is worth noting that people have taken the time to post these reports and many of the reports contain sufficient similarities to indicate they could be true. You can actually find examples in the comments on the page you’re now reading.
In any case, because the BBB said Dropbox didn’t respond to requests from the BBB about the allegedly poor customer service, we have to consider this to be a demonstration of that bad service in action. As of June 27, Dropbox finally has made a response to the BBB, yet some of the issues are over two years old. Also the number of complaints went up from 268 to 269.
Dropbox gets to cling on to 20 points because if you contact the sales team with a question indicating you might want to buy services from them, you will always get a speedy response.
On the software side of things, Dropbox does what it does quite well, and there’s a lot of things to like about it. Unfortunately the packages offered are not as attractive as they ought to be, and don’t represent good value in comparison to competitors.
The multiple security incidents, troubling consumer reports, and dismal BBB rating are further disincentives to use or recommend the service. Many will also find the fact they can’t easily share files with non-members to be unacceptable as well.
If money is no object and you want a simple no-frills file sharing platform, Dropbox will meet that need. Otherwise, you will find better deals elsewhere, for both free and paid cloud storage solutions.
We hope you found this online cloud storage review for Dropbox informative. We’d love to hear about your experiences using Dropbox, so leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to add or that you think was missing or inaccurate in the article. Thank you for reading and please feel free to check out our other cloud storage reviews.
|Free Storage||2 GB|
|Price||Starts from $ 13.25 per month|
|Free External HD Backup|
|Bare Metal Backup|
|Exclude File Extensions for Backup|
|File Size Limit||Unlimited GB|
|Share Photo Albums|
|Server Side Encryption||256-bit|
|Keeps deleted files||30|