Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Taking a Look at Four Alternatives to Dropbox

One tool that I find almost indispensable is Dropbox. It makes it easy to share my files between my laptops and mobile devices without fussing with email or flash drives. Dropbox helps increase my productivity and ensures I know where my files are at all times.

Having said that, I know that Dropbox isn’t right for everyone. And that’s fine — no one tool is right for everyone.

So, what can you do if you want the features and flexibility of Dropbox but without Dropbox? There are a number of alternatives to Dropbox, and one probably fits your needs.

Let’s take a look at four of them.

Box

Aimed mainly at businesses, Box also offers personal accounts. You get 10 GB of storage space free, and Box has both desktop and mobile apps. If you want more features, and more space, you can sign up for a paid account starting at $5 a month.

The free account has a few limitations. One of those is a lack of version history (which lets you restore old version of files). Another is that you’re limited to 250 MB file upload. That should be enough for most people, but if you upgrade to a paid plan you’ll be able to upload larger files. And get access to a number of other features, too.

CloudMe

If you want a little extra security, and a service whose servers aren’t on American shores, then you might want to look at CloudMe. While it doesn’t offer all the features of the other services described in this post, it doesn’t do too bad a job.

With a free account, you get 3 GB of storage, along with photo albums and the ability to stream music from your account. There’s also an array of desktop and mobile apps, and you can turn CloudMe into something resembling a network drive on your computer using a technology called WebDAV.

On the other hand, you can only upload 150 MB of files at a time. And if you want more space, you have to pay 3.90 euros and up per month for more space.

Google Drive

Drive is Google’s foray into online storage. As I discuss in my book Google Drive for Writers, the service is for a lot more than storage.

If you have a Gmail account, you already have a Google Drive account. But you can sign up for free. That gives you 15 MB of storage. You can access your files anywhere — using the mobile apps, the desktop sync client for Windows and Mac (there’s also a third-party Linux client), and you can share files and folders with others.

If 15 MB of storage isn’t enough, you can buy more storage — 100 GB, for example, costs $1.99 per month.

But like Dropbox, Google Drive isn’t for everyone. There are a number of reasons for that, which I won’t go into. But if you don’t mind, or already do, live some or all of your digital life in Google’s ecosystem then Drive is a good alternative to Dropbox.

ownCloud

For many people in the open source world, ownCloud is the only alternative to Dropbox. You control it — ownCloud sits on your server. You control access, and everything else. If you have some basic technical chops, ownCloud is fairly easy to install and administer. Best of all, it’s free and open source.

ownCloud is more than just a tool for syncing and sharing files. It also has a number of apps that turn it into a powerful and flexible web application suite. The apps include a calendar, a to-do list, a tool for viewing and editing word processor files, a music player, and an RSS reader. There’s also a desktop client and a bunch of mobile apps.

If you don’t have any technical skills, or don’t have a server on which to install ownCloud don’t worry. There are a number of providers of hosted services that you can start using immediately. A few even offer free plans.

Do you have a favourite alternative to Dropbox? If so, feel free to share it by leaving a comment.

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