For those who need access to a cloud storage solution, two popular platforms today are iCloud and Dropbox.
iCloud is dedicated to owners of Apple equipment. This storage solution is tied directly to their Apple ID. It can safely store videos, documents, photographs, and apps. Access to this storage is permitted from any linked device, including mobile devices with a data connection. That makes it possible to always have access to the information you need, whenever you need it.
Dropbox is not limited to one specific equipment option or operating system. It offers a secure file sharing and storage solution that can quickly sync with virtually any device. Users gain access to file recovery options and premium features with paid plans.
Here are some of the key points of comparison to think about in the iCloud vs Dropbox debate.
1. Storage Space
iCloud provides users with 5 GB of storage space for free, associated to their Apple ID. That provides enough storage space for regular daily use, but may not be enough for families that wish to store video or photo collections on this platform. Apple provides upgrades that allow for up to 2 TB of additional storage space, priced at $9.99 per month.
If that is too much space, Apple allows a 50 GB upgrade option for $0.99 per month or a 200 GB upgrade option for $2.99 per month.
Dropbox provides users up to 2 GB of free storage when signing up for a personal account. They also offer an upgrade option of 1 TB for $9.99 per month. The one thing Dropbox provides that iCloud storage does not is a free option to increase storage space. By referring other users to Dropbox, it is possible to achieve up to 1 TB of space for free without the need to pay the upgrade fee.
Dropbox also offers business tiers for storage that can be priced as high as $240 per year, with options for unlimited storage on the top plans.
Note: Pricing is for U.S. customers only. Global pricing is highly variable.
2. Data Syncing
Although it is primarily designed to be used with Apple equipment, iCloud storage can be synced to Windows products. It can be used with any system that is using Windows 7 or higher. For mobile access, however, iCloud storage only works with iPads or iPhones. Users are not permitted to throttle syncing speeds and the sync function is never performed incrementally. That requires users to carefully plan their time when attempting to sync large files.
Dropbox offers real-time syncing that is performed incrementally. This prevents equipment slowdowns from occurring. Speeds are automatically throttled to 75% of a user’s maximum speed, while downloads take up full resources, but as a default. These rates can be manually changed within your Dropbox account settings.
Like iCloud storage, Dropbox works with Windows or Apple operating systems. It incorporates itself into the file folder distribution chains, making it possible to drag-and-drop files directly from the desktop or main screen into the Dropbox folder.
iCloud has limited sharing capabilities. Users are able to share files with others, but these files are generally limited to those that have been created in the iWork series. User photographs, folders, and files outside of the native productivity apps are only accessible to a logged-in user with a matching Apple ID and password to the iCloud storage.
Dropbox has created a web interface that makes sharing a simple process. Users just select the file or folder they wish to share and then click the “share” button next to the file. Only folders allow for editing permissions to be created, but users can view and edit their permissions when sharing the folder.
Dropbox provides users with an option to protect links with passwords or to give shared links and expiration date, but only on premium plans. There is also a web tool which allows users to track their shared files, folders, and links to always know what levels of access have been granted to stored files.
iCloud storage works with the iWork productivity apps to integrate Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. These apps are included for free on new Apple devices. Third-party productivity apps share the same levels of integration, including Microsoft Office, PDF readers, and iA Writer. Safari, Photostream, and iTunes are also included. New files can be opened directly from the storage folders and then saved directly to them once the work is finished.
Collaboration is possible for those using iWork, with links or invitations shared through Mail or Messaging.
Dropbox does not currently support the ability to create new files or documents directly from its platform. Users must open the platform they wish to use and save the file from it. Then the file must be shared to Dropbox. From there, it can be shared to anyone, no matter what operating system they prefer to use, even if they do not have their own Dropbox account.
Dropbox does have its own native productivity app that integrates with Office Online, allowing for files to be opened and edited from the interface. The files must be first stored into Dropbox for this integration feature to become available, however, which could be problematic for some users.
There are different rules which apply to business users of Dropbox which must also be considered when comparing these two platforms. An enterprise-level Microsoft account is mandatory to take advantage of the integration features Dropbox offers at this level.
iCloud storage is protected by AES 128 encryption as information travels from a local source to the data center where it will be stored. A TLS/SSL tunnel is employed for this process. Apple has not publicly declared how files are protected once they are stored on their platform, though a minimum of AES 128 is assumed.
Apple is not a zero-knowledge storage solution. Encryption occurs during transport and while on their servers. It does not occur at the local level before a transfer is initiated. Apple only provides zero-knowledge encryption for their Keychain, which can store passwords, financial information, and other forms of data securely.
Two-factor authentication is provided as an option for iCloud storage users as well. There is also an option to restore deleted files for up to 30 days after the command to delete something is initiated.
Dropbox provides users with AES 128 encryption as well, along with the same tunnel technology. Once the information is received for storage, Dropbox utilizes an AES 256 encryption to protect the data, though the metadata remains readable. That includes file names and dates, so secure file naming practices should be employed.
All file versions are maintained by Dropbox for 30 days. All deleted files are retained for 30 days as well to prevent accidental deletion. An extended version history option is available as a subscription add-on through Dropbox as well, priced at $3.99 per month, which eliminates the 30-day deadline for deletion recovery.
6. Available Space
iCloud storage may provide up to 5 GB of space for free to those with a qualifying Apple ID, but that doesn’t mean users actually receive the full amount of that space for their files. The iCloud storage is also used for any compatible apps with the storage system, including email, photo libraries, and any device backups that are saved. For those who own an iMac, an iPad, and an iPhone, the backups alone may take up half of their allotted free space.
Dropbox has no such limitations. You are in control of what files are saved to this storage solution and when they are saved.
Both platforms allow users to access files from a browser when on a public computer. The user ID and password grant web access to the files, making it possible to take items almost anywhere there happens to be a data connection. Although there is 3 GB less in space on the base plan, some users may actually find the actual amount of space reserved for their personal or collaboration files to be similar to what iCloud storage makes available.
iCloud vs Dropbox: Which Is Better?
There are numerous similarities that can be found when comparing iCloud and Dropbox. There are two key differences, however, that must be noted. Sharing is much easier to do with Dropbox, especially when attempting to collaborate with multiple people who may be using a variety of operating systems. Syncing is also easier with Dropbox, since users can dictate the number of resources which are dedicated to this process.
On the other hand, teams which use iWork as their primary method of productivity may find the ease of sharing and collaboration to be better for them with iCloud storage. People who use iPhones for personal photos and documents will also like the ease of storing or accessing their files, wherever they happen to be.
Both have free and premium options from which to choose. That means the option that is better will be the one that has the capability of meeting a majority of your needs.