Dropbox is the granddaddy of all cloud storage. Its popularity is second only to Google Drive’s, and just like most popular things, you either love it or you hate it. Either way, everyone enjoys some healthy competition, so let’s throw Dropbox into the ring with the best cloud storage service, Sync.com, for a good old-fashioned storage standoff.
Sync.com is a cloud service that offers much greater data privacy than Dropbox, and it boasts airtight security. However, unlike Dropbox, Sync.com is a zero-knowledge cloud storage platform. This means that Sync.com can’t access your files, so it would make a great Dropbox alternative.
Rules of Engagement: Dropbox vs Sync.com
In this clash of the clouds, we will see the two storage providers going toe to toe in several categories. If you want a closer look at each of our contestants, you can read our full Sync.com review and our Dropbox review.
We will rank them both on the most essential traits of a cloud service: features, pricing, ease of use, file sharing and syncing capabilities, speed, and security and privacy. We will declare a winner for each round, and the one with the most wins will come out as the overall champion.
We also have a cool video recap of this article, if you prefer watching to reading.
The main purpose of all cloud storage is to store your files online so your computer has space for your more important files. Nowadays, though, most storage providers offer more than just storage. Advanced features can expand the functionality of a storage service beyond what you would usually expect.
A storage service can be the perfect platform for productivity and collaboration, depending on its integrations with third-party apps or its own in-house tools. Though Dropbox prides itself on offering many of these external integrations, Sync.com’s feature set focuses on the security and privacy of its users.
Because of its security-first approach to cloud-storage, Sync.com’s options for third-party app integrations are fairly limited. That’s not to say that it doesn’t provide any useful features, but it does limit its potential for collaboration. However, using Google Drive alongside Sync.com can be a very potent collaboration combo, so you don’t have to choose between Sync.com vs Google Drive.
Sync.com offers file previews for multiple file types, including images and PDF files (but not Microsoft Office documents, or sound and video files). This is particularly impressive because all of these files are encrypted, and it takes quite a bit of programming magic to enable previews for them.
One of Sync.com’s biggest benefits is that it has no file size cap. This can be especially helpful if you’re constantly editing large video files and you’re running out of hard drive space for them. In comparison, many other services place limits on how large uploaded files can be, which can be restrictive if you need to store large files.
Sync.com is the absolute best cloud for versioning. As a free user, you can restore previous versions of files within 30 days, but you get 180 days with the Pro Solo Basic plan or up to a whole year with all other paid plans. There’s also file recovery for anything deleted within 30 days if you have a free plan, or up to 365 days if you’re a paying user.
Unlike its opponent, Dropbox offers plenty of third-party integrations. The most impressive of these integrations are with Microsoft Office Online and Google G Suite, which make Dropbox Business our number-one choice for collaboration. If that’s not enough for you, Dropbox has its own app store, called App Center, where you can find all the apps that work with the service.
Dropbox features a very capable note-taking app called Dropbox Paper. It lets you attach media files from sources like YouTube and Pinterest, plus you can attach entire Dropbox and Google Drive files. Dropbox also has an app called Showcase, which lets you create portfolios and presentations.
Dropbox’s versioning can rewind your files 30 days in the past if you have a Plus account, or up to 180 days if you’re on the Professional plan. This isn’t quite as good as Sync.com’s one-year rewind, but it’s still decent. File recovery is also possible for anything deleted within the last 30 days.
Dropbox’s features mostly revolve around productivity. If that’s what you’re after, Google Drive and OneDrive can be solid alternatives. They both provide equally impressive coworking spaces, but they also have equally concerning privacy practices.
Round 1 Thoughts
The only advantage Sync.com has over Dropbox is its file size limit. However, this is a very niche feature, and most people won’t even notice it. Dropbox, on the other hand, has features galore. It has several apps of its own, but if that’s not enough, its G Suite and Microsoft Office Online integrations help push it over the finish line.
Pricing is critical when considering any kind of purchase, and cloud storage is no exception. However, it’s not all about the price, especially for those who just don’t feel like paying extra for storage and only want a service with a great free plan. Whichever camp you’re in, keep reading for our Sync.com vs Dropbox price comparison.
If we were comparing only free plans, Sync.com would be the clear winner. You get a 5GB storage plan for free, which is further expandable via referrals. You get 1GB of storage per referral, for a maximum of 20GB of added storage, plus you get an extra 1GB of storage for completing simple tasks, such as sending file-sharing links.
To top it all off, Sync.com’s zero-knowledge encryption extends to free users, as well. This puts its free plan among the best free cloud storage plans (though pCloud takes the top spot as the true king of free cloud services).
A spectacular free plan is not all that’s on offer, though. Sync.com’s has some of the lowest prices for its paid storage plans, too.
The cheapest plan is the 200GB storage plan, called Personal Mini, which costs $5 per month. Pro Solo Basic, Sync.com’s 2TB plan, costs $8 monthly. The Pro Solo Standard plan gets you 3TB of storage for $10 per month, and the Pro Solo Plus plan costs $15 per month for 4TB of storage space. However, if 2TB is too much for you, there is no smaller 1TB option.
There are three team plans for your cloud-based business, billed on a per-user basis. The first of these plans is called Pro Teams Standard, and it offers 1TB of storage per user, for a monthly price of $5 per user. Pro Teams Plus costs $8 monthly for 4TB, per user. Pro Teams Advanced is the most expensive team plan, offering 10TB of storage per user, and it costs $15 monthly. Read our Sync.com for Teams review.
However, there is one caveat: all of these plans are billed annually, and there is no way to pay a per-month fee. However, you can get your money back if you request a refund within 30 days of buying a plan, if you only want to try the paid version.
Dropbox is a little stingy with its free storage space, offering only a 2GB storage plan to its free users. Besides the free plan’s capacity being barely usable, Dropbox also denies users access to some of its most useful features.
Other than the underwhelming free plan, it offers only two plans for individuals. As with Sync.com, there is no 1TB plan. The Dropbox Plus plan comes with 2TB of storage and costs $11.90 per month, or $9.99 when billed yearly. This plan comes with its own limitations, though: there are no passwords or expiry dates for share links, and you can’t create shared folders.
Dropbox’s Professional plan offers 3TB of storage for $19.99 monthly, or $16.58 per month for a yearly billing. This is the only personal plan with no restrictions on features. There is no money-back guarantee for already purchased plans, but there are trial plans for Plus and Dropbox Business.
There is also a version called Dropbox Business, but that’s a different product and isn’t within the scope of this comparison.
Round 2 Thoughts
Dropbox employs some shady tactics to draw users into purchasing its most expensive plan. Both of its plans are more expensive than Sync.com’s, and you only get a 2GB storage plan as a free user.
Sync.com offers its free users an expandable 5GB storage plan, which provides more features than Dropbox’s free version. For this reason — and the fact that not even Dropbox’s Plus plan gets access to its advanced sharing features — Sync.com is the obvious winner of this round.
No matter how many features a cloud storage platform packs into its service, it could all be for nothing if they’re not easy to use. Usability and accessibility are essential, especially for users who aren’t tech-savvy. Let’s see how our contenders fare in this category.
Sync.com has a well-designed interface with large, legible fonts, minimalistic icons and very little clutter. Everything is clearly labeled, which means that its learning curve is relatively gentle.
However, Sync.com has a few downsides, which it happens to share with Dropbox. The first is that there is no right-click menu in the web browser, which can make navigating tricky. You also can’t drag files to move them, so you have to use a clunky move tool.
On desktop, you’ll spend most of your time in the sync folder, with the app itself taking a back seat. The app is relegated to the system tray, and it has only a few settings, such as changing account details, or network and file syncing settings.
The mobile app is similarly simple yet smartly designed. The main screen shows your files, tabs for navigation and a button for file uploads. Other services complicate things by adding menus that you never use, so it’s refreshing to see this kind of approach to mobile cloud storage. It can also automatically upload the photos and videos you take with your camera.
For a pioneer in the cloud sector, Dropbox really hasn’t done much to make its user experience any better since it first launched. This doesn’t mean it has poor usability, but you would expect so much more from the second-most-popular storage service on the planet.
Dropbox’s web interface is pretty good looking, but there are some confusing aspects. For example, the homepage doesn’t actually display the contents of your Dropbox folder. Rather, it shows your recent and favorited files, plus ones it thinks you would want to open. You have to go to the “all files” tab to actually see your files and folders.
Although Sync.com has the same issue, Dropbox’s lack of a right-click menu is especially surprising. As a mature service, it’s truly unforgivable that it hasn’t implemented this feature yet, when even tiny cloud providers like Koofr are doing it.
A particularly annoying issue is how hard it is to click on files and folders. You have to click the file’s text, not its icon or the space around the text. Otherwise, Dropbox selects the file and puts a checkmark next to it, which you then have to unselect. There are additional issues with the website, but if we were to list them all, this section would turn into a grumble session.
Things are somewhat better on desktop. The desktop app deserves some praise for its design, and it works much better than the website. It’s a little laggy when dragging files around, but at least the option is there. There’s also the Dropbox folder that keeps all of your data, as well as the system tray icon, where you can change your settings.
However, the mobile app suffers from Dropbox’s pricing. Though you can upload photos manually, automatic backups are a paid feature, despite this being a basic feature for any modern cloud app. The app also has the same issue as the website, where the homepage doesn’t display your Dropbox folder.
Round 3 Thoughts
In this round, Sync.com proved that you don’t need extra bells and whistles to provide a good service. Its accessible and user-friendly interface can be used by anyone, and it only has some minor flaws.
On the other hand, Dropbox was a sore disappointment. Despite its size and budget, it hasn’t implemented many features that you’ll find with smaller companies. There are also predatory aspects to its design choices, like how it puts grayed-out placeholders for features you have to pay for. Even more than Sync.com winning this round, Dropbox has lost it.
4. File Syncing & Sharing
File syncing is the core of any storage service. Simply put, if you don’t plan on updating your cloud-based files, you might as well get a good backup service instead. File synchronization makes sure that you’re accessing the same file across devices, with the file being updated simultaneously as you make changes to it.
Even though synchronization may not seem that complicated, there are as many ways to implement it as there are ways to skin a cat, which is why this round could be particularly significant.
One of the best things about storage platforms is that they let you easily share files, using the magic of the cloud. For professionals, file sharing is a make-or-break feature, while others just need an easy way to send a video to grandma. After all, sharing is caring.
With a name like Sync.com, you’d expect a lot from this service when it comes to file-sync capabilities. It certainly does not disappoint, offering flexible syncing options.
It follows the standard sync folder model, with a folder — aptly named “sync” — where all of your files are synced. However, even if you have a lot of cloud-based files and folders, you don’t have to synchronize all of them. A feature called “selective sync” lets you choose which folders to sync to your computer, which can free up valuable space on your hard drive.
If you ever need a reason to sign up for Sync.com, its excellent file sharing might just be it. It has very robust link-sharing features, offering advanced sharing options that no other storage provider does. The only miss here is that the best features are not available for free accounts, but that doesn’t stop it from reaching the top of our best cloud storage for sharing list.
File sharing works by generating sharing links, and you can set various options for these links. You can set passwords and expiry dates for links, plus you can view stats and link activity details. You can even set a download limit or prevent others from downloading the file entirely. Turning on “enhanced privacy” for sharing links will encrypt them for secure file sharing.
Team folders are another useful sharing feature. You can add users to this folder, which will let them upload and edit files.
Remember that sync folder model that we mentioned earlier? Dropbox invented that model, and this is one area where it certainly has upped its game.
Selective synchronization is where Dropbox has a leg up on Sync.com. It improves on that feature with what it calls “smart sync.” Selective syncing has the problem of not displaying folders that aren’t synced, and you can only apply it to whole folders.
Smart sync is like selective sync, except it shows the files and folders you’re not syncing, and it can be applied per file. If you’re interested in the difference between Dropbox smart sync vs selective sync, we have an in-depth article about it.
When it comes to file sharing, Dropbox takes a page from Google Drive’s file sharing playbook. Its sharing menu looks almost identical to Google Drive’s, though it’s a little more complicated, with extra tabs. Dropbox offers link sharing, plus you can share via email, too.
Dropbox has some advanced sharing features of its own. You can create view-only sharing links, but secure file sharing features — such as expiry dates and passwords — are locked for free users. The Professional plan further expands your sharing capabilities with further controls, including the ability to disable downloads.
“Spaces” are special folders made with collaboration in mind. They can be shared by multiple users, and you can add notes to them. There’s even a calendar to help organize your work.
Round 4 Thoughts
This round is a photo finish, with Dropbox besting Sync.com with its namesake synchronization, and Sync.com defeating Dropbox in the file-sharing showdown. However, the selective sync vs Dropbox smart sync comparison shows very few differences, and when push comes to shove, Sync.com’s advanced sharing options are much more useful.
Speed is another critical category that can determine the quality of a user’s experience. The speed of a cloud service can depend on a number of factors, such as your device’s hardware and how close you are to the provider’s servers. Unfortunately for one of our competitors, encryption can also impact download and upload speeds.
We performed our speed test using a 1GB test file, at an uploading speed of 6 Mbps and a downloading speed of 32 Mbps. At these speeds, the expected time for uploads is 23 minutes and 40 seconds, and the time for downloads should be four and a half minutes. Keep reading to see how Sync.com and Dropbox do in our speed test.
|First attempt||Second attempt||Average time||Expected time|
Sync.com managed some middling speeds for uploads and really poor download speeds. This can largely be attributed to its encryption, so you’ll have to decide whether the sacrificed speed is worth the extra protection. Its servers are based in Canada, so Canucks get to enjoy faster speeds with Sync.com.
The average upload time was 36 minutes and 16 seconds, which isn’t too terrible. However, it took just under eight minutes to download our 1GB test file, which is way off the mark. There is always some lag due to server communication and user distance to the server, but this falls very far out of that range.
|First attempt||Second attempt||Average time||Expected time|
Dropbox was pretty fast in our test. It uploaded our 1GB file within the anticipated range for uploads — only 10 minutes past the expected time — and took just five and a half minutes to download it. Its main servers are based in the United States, though Dropbox Business users have access to additional worldwide servers.
As with Sync.com, there is a sacrifice to be made here in terms of security, though with Dropbox, it’s the other way around. Dropbox decrypts your files upon uploading, then reencrypts them, but it removes the metadata from the encrypted package. It leaves this metadata unencrypted for indexing purposes, which helps it manage those speeds.
However, Dropbox doesn’t just have an edge over Sync.com in raw numbers. It also features block-level sync, so when you edit large files, only the changed part of the file gets uploaded, instead of the whole thing. This makes syncing files across devices much faster.
Round 5 Thoughts
Just seeing the raw data, the verdict is obvious. Dropbox is the faster of the two. However, Dropbox has some extra tricks to further speed up its service, even though it sacrifices some privacy to do so. Keep in mind that speed can vary between users, depending on where you are in the world, so your mileage may vary.
6. Security & Privacy
If you think a cloud security breach isn’t a big deal, just remember all the lawsuits that came out of the 2014 iCloud hack (known as the “Fappening”). Lest we lose all our valuable data or, even worse, have it leaked, a secure cloud service will always be valuable to have.
It’s no secret that Sync.com is the best encrypted cloud storage service. It offers zero-knowledge protection with end-to-end encryption. Even if you’re on a free account, all of your files are encrypted client-side. This means that only you have access to your encryption keys, which greatly increases security.
It uses 256-bit AES encryption to make sure your files are safe, both in transit and at rest. The TLS protocol adds an extra layer of security, protecting your data from WiFi safety exploits. Sync.com offers two-factor authentication to further boost your security.
Besides encryption and software security, Sync.com keeps its servers physically safe under 24-hour watch. They are so secure that they’re certified for keeping extremely sensitive medical data under HIPAA, which is why Sync.com is our best HIPAA compliant cloud storage service.
Its servers are based in Canada, which means Sync.com has to comply with Canada’s online privacy law, called PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act). It also has General Data Protection Regulation compliance built in because it operates in the European Union, as well.
For a long time, Dropbox was the largest cloud storage option on the internet. It’s no wonder, then, that it’s been the target of multiple cyberattacks. What is concerning, though, is just how many of these were successful, as well as the huge scale of these security breaches.
The biggest of these breaches was a password leak in 2016, when the login information of 68 million Dropbox users was made public. There are many other scandals like this, such as the 2012 and 2013 incident in which a hacker discovered a document with user email addresses and sent spam mail from a Dropbox employee’s account.
Even though Dropbox uses the same 256-bit AES encryption and two-factor authentication that Sync.com does, its service isn’t zero-knowledge, which means that it has access to your encryption keys and can access your private files at will. Luckily, you can always use Boxcryptor to encrypt your files before uploading them, to keep your mind at ease.
With servers based in the United States, that raises some serious concerns, especially with rumors about Dropbox’s connection to the NSA surveillance program known as PRISM. Even if these reports are false, Dropbox is still subject to the Patriot Act, which gives government bodies permission to access private information owned by U.S. companies.
If you really need third-party integrations but aren’t willing to risk your data’s safety, Box could be a good alternative to Dropbox. As we explain in our Box review, it’s a secure service with plenty of third-party integrations, including G Suite and Microsoft Office.
Round 6 Thoughts
This round is probably the easiest call of this whole comparison. Both of our cloud contestants offer two-factor authentication and they both have 256-bit AES encryption, but that’s where the similarities end.
Sync.com offers zero-knowledge security, and it has a laundry list of privacy certifications and compliances, to boot. It is the definition of safe cloud storage. Advanced physical security measures are the cherry on top — we just can’t fault its airtight security. This round easily goes to Sync.com.
7. The Verdict
So we’ve come to the conclusion of our clash of the clouds. To make our verdict, let’s recap the results of our comparison. Dropbox started out with a knockout in the first round, matching Sync.com’s file recovery and versioning features, and piling on its own mountain of third-party integrations.
Unfortunately, Dropbox’s shady pricing tactics and poor free plan let it down in the pricing round. Sync.com gives its free users an upgradeable 5GB storage plan, and it puts fewer restrictions on them. Plus, its paid plans are some of the best deals for cloud storage.
In the third round, our combatants clashed over usability and user experience. Dropbox dropped the ball here, as well, with an interface riddled with issues. With no competition from Dropbox, Sync.com is the winner in the usability round.
The fourth round was the closest, with both services offering advanced sharing options and secure file sharing links. Though Dropbox offers more syncing solutions, Sync.com takes the sharing and synchronization round for its unmatched sharing features.
Dropbox is the faster of our two competitors, but at the cost of some security. Though it wins the speed round, it loses the security round. Both services offer encryption and two-factor authentication, but only Sync.com is truly zero knowledge. Plus, Dropbox’s past privacy transgressions and security failures are especially worrying.
Our combatants exchanged blows, but with Sync.com taking four out of the six rounds and Dropbox taking only two, the winner of the Sync.com vs Dropbox comparison is Sync.com. Thank you for staying with us for this cloud comparison. Feel free to leave your comments below.