Dropbox Alternatives


Image from Wikipedia.

Image from Wikipedia.

Dropbox gives cloud computing a good name and is an excellent way to store media and make it available across devices quickly and easily. However, beyond storage it does little else except perhaps allowing picturing syncing. Also if you start collaborating with others on a document and use the free account then you quickly get to the point where documents become conflicted. Also more recently I have noticed syncing issues which although this happens rarely it is quite infuriating. Also the amount of free space you get either immediately (2GB) or after introducing people is by today’s standards quite limited. Also the next category of paid service is $100 per year for 100gb; which is quite expensive. There is no file size limit except when uploading via the Web and of course the total size cannot exceed your account limit. So what are the alternatives?

First-up Google Drive is an excellent choice and if you stick to using the Google apps that support spreadsheets, word processor files etc then the problem with collaboration is solved. Indeed you can share and edit documents in realtime which is a nice feature. Also added to that the tight integration with other Google apps such as Gmail, Picasa (for photos) or third party apps such as Hellofax and you quickly come to realise that Drive is much more than just storage space it is more of a complete cloud platform. I have now more or less replaced using other office suites for personal documents etc. This has a number of advantages firstly the files created using Drive tools do not count towards my free storage, I can access end edit my files anywhere I can login via a web browser so I have the same fools available on Linux, Mac, iOS, Windows and Android; this is important as I use all of them on a daily basis. Although it is worth noting that there is no official file sync candidate for Linux so everything has to be done via the browser. The only downside again is that Google scans you documents and files in order to provide you with relevant advertising and that the initial free space is quite limited. There is no storage bonus for inviting new users to the service as is the case with Dropbox and Mediafire. However, Google does offer affordable upgrade packages starting at $2.49 per month for 25GB of storage space. The maximum filesize for all non-Google docs type files is 10GB, there are also a few other restrictions that you can find here, also depending on whether you are a Google+ user or not image and movie size limits vary. In general I have found Google Drive to be reliable, an excellent service and user friendly. Due to how Google uses your data it is probably not a good choice for storing highly sensitive information. However, Google do offer corporate packages in which they claim not to scan your data.

Another option is MediaFire which I have only just downloaded and will review more thoroughly over the coming months. MediaFire offers 10GB free space when you sign up plus bonus space for each person you sign up and for installing their client on your desktop and mobile devices. Also the maximum free space you can get is 50GB, substantially more than the 18GB max free under Dropbox. It also offers double the space of Google Drive for free too. MediaFire seems to sit somewhere between Dropbox and Google Drive in terms of features. For example there are collaborative tools such as a word processor and spreadsheet but these seem a little more basic than those provided by Google. File upload is generally fast, however unlike dropbox it does not sync your folders in a subfolder, rather you drag and drop files to the client or upload them via the web. However, it seems that all files are automatically set to being visible to the public. In order to avoid this you need to make the private. This is rather annoying as usually I prefer it to be the other way round. Also the Linux client application is currently only in beta. Upgrading is affordable too with a 100GB plan costing just $4.99 per month. If you use the free service then be warned this is an advertising supported service and I am not sure if they scan your files in order to decide what adverts to sell you. The company had a bit of an interesting reputation in the past as it was essentially a file sharing service but it now seems to be trying to put on a cleaner more reputable image.

Last but by no means least is Mega the new secure service from the charming and much loved in the USA Kim Dotcom. I have not tried out this service yet but it offers 50GB of free space. In general the press seem to be neutral to mildly positive about it. The features I am told are basic and currently it only offers upload and download via web browsers. In addition to the excellent amount of free space available it offers one key feature that is that they claim that you and only you can see the content of your files as all data between you and their servers is encrypted using a key. This of course is tempting but comes at a price. If you lose your key then you will never again be able to access your date. Also if your key becomes compromised anyone with it will be able to access your files and you will be unable to stop them from doing so. In general their paid plans are also good value for money and include massive amounts of data for a comparatively low cost. This service sounds tempting but I am not sure if I trust the people in charge with my data given their past history. Also it is worth noting that this is still a beta service.

In short each has it’s advantages, for simplicity and reliability then Dropbox is a good choice although the free space is limited and extra packages are expensive. MediaFire in this respect is a good compromise but it’s online tools and integration with Apps is not anywhere near as good as those provided by Google. Google though does not offer much free space. In contrast Mega offers a lot of free space but there are concerns over who is behind it and the problems if your encryption key is suddenly lost or stolen. Finally check out Box which I have not had time to explore or if you are after a platform to archive information or notes in a more structured way Evernote is a good choice.

If you have found this review useful and want to signup to MediaFire feel free to give me the 1GB referrer bonus. To sign up click here.

Also if you decide to go with Dropbox which I still also like feel free to be referred here. Again you will be giving me a signup bonus.


About Rod McCall

Rod McCall is a researcher in the field of human-computer interaction in areas such as augmented reality, mobile gaming in-car systems and virtual environments. He has a passing interest in economics after not being entirely convinced by the rubbish presented as fact during lectures on that particular subject while at uni.
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