All the "stuff" | Productivity
13 October 2021
The future of business is paperless. Remote work, global teams, and security concerns make having a robust paperless filing system a must for every business.
Many businesses rely on Dropbox to be that system.
As one of the earliest cloud storage solutions, Dropbox is a giant in the market. But it’s not the only solution—and it may not be the best solution for your business.
In this article, we’ll explore some of Dropbox’s drawbacks. We’ll then share some of the top alternatives to Dropbox that may better meet your business needs.
So, What’s Up with Dropbox?
If you’re a long term user of Dropbox and love the service, you may wonder why you’d even want to consider alternatives to the platform.
And while Dropbox has many excellent features, it does suffer some limitations that make it less than ideal for many businesses.
Limited free storage
Dropbox’s Basic plan provides many of the features offered across its plans, including:
- The ability to access files from anywhere, on multiple devices
- File back ups and version history
- Sharing and collaboration
However, the free plan offers only 2GB of storage. If you’re only storing very basic word documents, that may be enough. But once you start adding more complicated file types (e.g. powerpoint presentations, graphic design files, photos, videos, and audio) you’ll likely find that those 2gb disappear fast.
For most businesses, a Business Standard or Advanced plan is needed to get a reasonable amount of storage (5000+ GB). These plans require a substantial investment however: $15 per user/month for the Standard Plan and $25 per user/month for the Advanced Plan.
Confusing permissions systems
As any IT professional will tell you, it’s important to have clear and easy to apply permission structures over files. This helps protect your intellectual property, as well as making it easier to have strong version control.
However, users report that managing permissions on dropbox can be challenging, with hidden folders and security hierarchies.
It can be hard to understand how the various permission structures work, especially as permission is usually set at the folder level. Knowing who “owns” and is therefore the admin for certain folders can cause challenges as team members lack the necessary permissions to perform their work.
Less than impressive organizational system
Dropbox relies on a traditional organizational system of files and folders. On the one hand, this is familiar and basically functional—after all, it’s the way files are stored on hard drives.
However, this system doesn’t really reflect the way most knowledge workers do their work now. A file may “belong” in multiple places but users don’t want multiple copies of the same file—that way content chaos lies. Rather, your professionals want flexible systems that can be easily navigated and which put collaboration center-stage.
Non-intuitive user interface
Dropbox’s UI lags behind some of its new competitors, lacking features such as easy customization, drag and drop, and intuitive navigation/search.
Makes sharing files difficult
While Dropbox does allow you to share files, it’s not always easy—and doesn’t support the rich collaboration that most modern businesses demand. Sharing on Dropbox usually happens at the folder level, where permission access is set (e.g. private, public, or for specific users).
However if you only want to share a specific file—not a whole folder—your only choice is to “share a link.” While this does mean that you can share files with anyone, not only other Dropbox users, they only access a preview of the file on Dropbox’s website.
Business today happens with multiple remote teams, contractors, vendors and clients. Dropbox’s sharing system isn’t necessarily the best tool to support collaboration with multiple groups.
Try These Dropbox Alternatives Instead
Ready to try an alternative to Dropbox? Here’s our round up of some of the best dropbox alternatives.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to cloud storage solutions. It is familiar to many PC and Office users, as One Drive comes bundled with Office 365. Like Dropbox, OneDrive allows you to store and share your files. It also supports seamless collaboration, through integration with Microsoft’s Office Suite, and includes a secure vault with extra protection for sensitive files.
- Pricing: OneDrive’s Basic Account is free and offers 5GB of storage. Business plans start at $5-10 per user/month.
- Best for: Teams working with Microsoft Office
- Sample Review: “From anywhere in the world, you can access all of your business documents in one place, as teams are dispersed across the country due to the pandemic, so in this situation it’s just an awesome cloud platform that gives us the flexibility without hampering the work.” (Read more)
Charli is a unified workplace that lets you manage all of your cloud content. Charli integrates with the apps you already use to create a standardized system for your entire organization. Whereas cloud storage systems often rely on outdated folder hierarchy systems (leading to duplicates and version control issues), Charli harnesses tags to organize content. Charli learns how your team works, with smart AI that categorizes, organizes, and finds everything you need to get the job done.
- Pricing: Charli offers a free-forever plan for individuals. Pro plans are $20 per user/month, and custom plans are available for enterprise clients. Contact us for more details.
- Best for: Businesses looking for ways to streamline their workflow and quash their team’s productivity killers.
- Sample Review: “Getting organized has been the bane of my existence. Various methods and approaches never stuck. Until Charli.” Michael, Teema Group.
Sync is a cloud storage and sharing service that puts privacy front and center. Many cloud services, including Dropbox, can access, scan, and read your files. In contrast, Sync offers end-to-end encryption that gives you a fully private space to keep your files. Sync doesn’t collect or sell your data, and complies with Global Data Security standards.
- Pricing: Sync offers a free version with 5GB of storage. Business plans start at $5-10 per user/month, and custom plans are available for enterprise clients.
- Best for: Businesses where privacy and data sovereignty are core concerns.
- Sample Review: “Fast. Affordable. Secure. Intuitive. […] Love that when you share folders with someone, the shared folders only count toward the original users quota. This makes it possible for a PRO user to share large files with free account users. With Dropbox, I couldn’t share large folders with clients unless they had a paid Dropbox account.” (Read more)
Box bills itself as built for the entire content lifecycle, from file creation, through to sign off and retention. The service comes packed with features, including: enhanced security and compliance, advanced collaboration tools (such as annotation and assigning tasks), workflow management, and e-sign capabilities.
- Pricing: Box’s free personal plan offers 10GB of storage. Team plans range from $5-25 per user/month and custom Enterprise plans are available.
- Best for: With optional add-ons that include threat protection, governance tools, custom API integrations and even consulting services, Box is best for a growing business looking to invest in its digital transformation.
- Sample Review: “My team originally only used Box for file storage purposes, but remote working […] gave us a unique opportunity to further explore all the different ways we could apply Box; and boy, have we been blown away. From facilitating team collaboration seamlessly to keeping detailed audit trails of file access, Box has been a divine tool to have in these times.” (Read more).
SpiderOak’s Crossclave is a security-first productivity suite. Its security features include zero-trust and distributed ledger, end-to-end encryption, cryptographic compartments, enforced need to know, and irrefutable logging. In addition to file sharing and storage, it also has direct messaging and chat rooms, as well as flexible deployment options.
- Pricing: SpiderOak’s free plan comes with 5GB of storage. Paid plans range from $8-30 per user/month.
- Best for: Small-Medium Businesses with high security needs
- Sample Review: “SpiderOak has been a great tool to organize business work as well as collaborate with team members. […] It is also an easy and effective way to keep everyone on the same page.” (Read more)
6. Google Drive
Most professionals will be familiar with Google Drive. As with most of Google’s products, it’s a highly user-friendly service with excellent free plans. As well as allowing you to store and share content via the cloud, Google Drive also enables you to create and collaborate through its connected apps (e.g. Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.). Its integration with other Google products (such as Gmail and Calendar) can also streamline workflows for you and your team. Charli also integrates with Google Drive on all our plans, and we have some great tips on getting more from your Google Drive.
- Pricing: Google Drive’s free plan offers 15GB of storage—more than most other competitors. For teams, Google Drive starts at $10 per user/month.
- Best for: Teams already using Google tools for an integrated workflow
- Sample Review: “It’s super reliable, easy enough to use (might need to be shown the first time), uncluttered and effective. Sharing permissions are great, making it clear who has access to what.” (Read more)
There are far more cloud storage options on the market now than were available in 2007 when Dropbox was founded, many of which are less expensive or offer greater functionality. But no matter what storage solution you choose, content chaos can always creep up on your organization. That’s why we built Charli, the AI that organizes, finds and shares your content. Contact us to learn more about how Charli can support your business.