Dropbox Alternatives – Why?

Recently, a few Church IT people in the Atlanta area had a local roundtable. One of the discussion topics was Dropbox alternatives. What we quickly discovered was that people had lots of different reasons for considering alternatives!

DropboxWhy do people like Dropbox? Quite simply, it works and it’s easy to use. If you haven’t read this article from a few years back, written by a competitor, it’s worth your time.  Some 20/20 Hindsight: Excellent lessons from Syncplicity vs. DropBox!

So, given that it’s easy and it works, what are the issues that make people want to change? This is not the exact list from the CITRT conversation, it’s just a list for discussion.

  • Higher security than Dropbox. This one comes up a lot. People have a concern about Dropbox security
  • Integration with file server files and directories
  • Primary on-site storage, with replication to cloud [vs. the other way around]
  • True collaboration: multiple people working on same data item simultaneously
  • Remote disconnect of sharing (i.e., lost BYOD device)
  • Confusion when private accounts and corporate accounts are brought together
  • Better management of backups and archiving; protection from accidental deletion

There are probably just as many things that people want to keep from Dropbox, including:

  • “hands off” connect, disconnect, reconnect, whenever connectivity is available
  • Ease of sharing folders and files. Easy to add sharing, easy to remove
  • Low resources on the client
  • Access from any device, any type of device [subject to security credentials]
  • A cheap backup solution — replicate your files across multiple devices easily, plus the cloud storage
  • Low cost (or free) for the needs of many users

What are YOUR reasons for wanting to change? What have you found that meets your needs?

Alternate question: how much of this need is a problem of users, or data usage, rather than of technology? If good security practices were followed, would most of the problems go away?

3 thoughts on “Dropbox Alternatives – Why?

  1. Frank Rietta

    While my company does use Dropbox from time to time, we are increasingly using BitTorrent Sync for more transfers. There are a few reasons, namely (1) local syncing for large media files without going to the internet – think new photos being copied from a smartphone to a computer, (2) disk cost since most Dropbox users only have a few GB of storage that fills up quickly, and (3) security of business records.

    If you set up Dropbox correctly with enough space and turn on two factor authentication then it is perfectly secure for most purposes. Though there is something to be said for GnuPG encrypted files being dropped into a BitTorrent Sync shared folder that is peer-to-peer with the 3 people in your organization who have the need-to-know for that content. That is much more secure at the expense of a little easy of use.

  2. Frank Rietta

    I just saw this and though it was appropriate, Tony:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/15/dropbox-government-requests-information-transparency-report

    “Those requests translated into the company handing over content 103 times, and “non-content” – which drop-box [sic] defines as “subscriber information such as the name and email address associated with the account; the date of account creation and other transactional information like IP addresses” – was handed over a further 80 times.”

    So if an individual or an organization wants to protect his or her or its rights and ensure that any and all legal process comes through his own front door with the ability to have his own lawyer go to bat to keep the government out, then sticking with alternatives that do not leave content stored unencrypted on a service such as Dropbox is a key consideration.

    The full transparency report is at:
    https://www.dropbox.com/transparency

  3. Tony Dye Post author

    Thanks Frank. I’m wondering how hard it would be for normal, small (for me churches) organizations to use something like CloudFogger, WindTalker, or BoxCryptor to secure the data. Of course, this wouldn’t help at all with Dropbox giving away contact info, but it would be a start

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