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Dropbox review

Verdict

One of the original synchronisation services, it's still the most effective and easy to use

Review Date: 30 Mar 2012

Reviewed By: Stuart Andrews

Price when reviewed: 2GB free; 50GB $99/year, 100GB $199/year (N/A inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Along with Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Dropbox was one of the first services to show how useful and versatile the cloud could be, providing simple synchronisation of the contents of a single folder – the “Dropbox” – across multiple computers, OSes and users.

Dropbox provides 2GB of free storage and up to 100GB for $20 (£13) per month. A client has to be installed on each device – Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS versions are available – and once installed you can sync files between them and your online Dropbox simply by dragging items into the Dropbox folder.

Other users can also share and sync with a folder. You can set this up by right-clicking a folder or through the Sharing tab on the web-based interface. Either way, it’s very simple. Once your folders are set up for syncing, you can keep track of events and change preferences through an icon in the System Tray.

Dropbox

In a way, Dropbox’s simplicity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the concept of dropping files or folders into the Dropbox and knowing they’ll sync across all your devices is simple, and works brilliantly. On the other hand, there’s no way to sync specific files and folders – your Music folder, say – without moving them into the Dropbox, which doesn’t really suit the way Windows works. This limits Dropbox’s usefulness as a backup and restore program.

On the plus side, Dropbox’s excellent versioning features mean there’s no need to worry about files syncing after you’ve wrecked a key file; you can always drag it back from a previous copy.

Dropbox isn’t particularly media-savvy. It has photo-sharing and photo gallery features, but nothing outstanding. It’s also quite slow with big uploads, taking three and a half hours for our initial 500MB backup. However, it’s speedy at synchronisation. Photos added to one Dropbox appeared on another machine within 1min 44secs, while changes to a picture were synced to other systems within 1min 7secs.

For all its limitations, Dropbox is great because it makes sharing and syncing files so easy across most devices. Other services offer a more rounded package, but Dropbox is as useful now as ever.

Author: Stuart Andrews

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User comments

I love it

I use the free Dropbox (plus top ups from recommendations) and use it for pretty much all my documentation. I store some images, but not photos, videos or music (which would be a strain on the free account).

Whether I'm using my phone, home PC or work PC I can then access anything that I need without a problem - it works wonderfully well.

One thing I would like to see, though, is the ability to run multiple Dropbox installations on one PC. My wife uses Dropbox too but is unable to on the main home PC as it's set up for my own.

David.

By artiss on 30 Mar 2012

You can run multiple Dropbox accounts on the same PC - you just need to set up other users with their own user account. There also some third-party add-ons that fudge it for the same login, but having separate logins brings so many advantages, I don't know why you'd want to use them.

By timfg on 30 Mar 2012

Awesome product for students

Im currently working my way through my PhD and dropbox is invaluable. All of my uni work is stored in a dropbox folder, so it can be accessed at university, in a library or at home, meaning I can work anywhere. Also my research group has a dropbox, allowing us to share documents quickly and easily. In my opinion, Dropbox is one of the greatest things to come out of the net in the past 5 years.

By Ischaria on 31 Mar 2012

I agree that for backing up it would be much better if we could specify the folder/files to be backed up, rather than having to put stuff into a special folder on the computer.
Others such as Syncplicity do it so why can't Dropbox?

By KMJones1 on 1 Apr 2012

SugarSync

Single folder limitation was the reason I moved to SugarSync.
Works great, can sync any folder and free account allows 5GB.

By aa111 on 2 Apr 2012

Photo sync

1 min 44 secs sounds a bit long, my photos usually sync up within 30 seconds, and these are usually over 4MB.

By ICT_Tower on 3 Apr 2012

Old Syncplicity user

I used to use Syncplicity because of the single folder issue. But after trying Dropbox I realised it wasn't such a big issue after all.

Also, they didn't have their own app for accessing files on an iOS device, which I needed for work. There was one written by a 3rd party developer which was poor, expensive and badly supported.

Syncplicity also refused to implement delta changes despite many users asking for it. This wasn't such a big issue for me but I due appreciate the speed at which changes are synced with Dropbox.

I don't miss Syncplicity at all.

By ICT_Tower on 3 Apr 2012

SugarSync tops Dropbox

SugarSync does everything Dopbox does and so much more. It's simple tick-box selection of all the main personal Windows folders is simplicity itself. And you get 5Gb free. It's a no brainer.

By MedMan2005 on 3 Apr 2012

Immediate synch for publicly available files

I have lots of PDFs in my Dropbox folder so I can access them from anywhere.

As most of these are publicly available on the net, Dropbbox doesn't even need to upload them to its servers. By knowing the signature of the file it never uploads it; synching is immediate.

Also, if you are on a LAN it can share via the local network rather than through the internet.

By JohnJohn164 on 4 Apr 2012

Confused by one thing in the review

I use dropbox both for my business and home. It has nailed the issue I used to have of sharing data in a mixed MAC PC environment without jumping through hoops. One thing on the article though this sentence really puzzled me: "On the other hand, there’s no way to sync specific files and folders – your Music folder, say – without moving them into the Dropbox, which doesn’t really suit the way Windows works."

Why doesn't that suit the way windows works? I just moved the my musix folder to my dropbox, remapped the 'my music' library to where I dropped it and everything 'just works'. On multiple machines...

By Captivator on 5 Apr 2012

BrightonJohn

Your reviewer mentions the limitation of having to put things into a drop box folder before they sync. for work that I want to sync I merely use a drop box folder for those files by default BUT I do then include my drop box folder in my daily backup routines.

By BrightonJohn on 5 Apr 2012

SugarSync

I have been using Dropbox and SugarSync for more than a year and find SugarSync extremely versatile, does more than Dropbox, offers more space and has never failed.

By frapro on 5 Apr 2012

I use a Windows utility called transition with Dropbox. Transition copies any file saved in my working directory to the Dropbox directory. I prefer this to leaving my working directory to the mercies of Dropbox.

By mark_norman on 5 Apr 2012

biggest bugbear

I use this personally and at work and not being abel to set read/write permissions for shared files for users is a bit of a pain.

Other than that Dropbox is great and does everything I need of it

By Bunnyman on 11 Apr 2012

Dropbox alternative

Great article. Very insightful. If anyone is seeking digital asset management software with more features that suit their needs cost effectively try https://www.medialightbox.com/signup

By MediaLightBox on 20 Apr 2012

Great online storage to have...

been using Dropbox eversince i learned about online storage...my boss usually sends huge amount of files so he suggested i should have this...right now, i am into OpenDrive which I use personally...there are a few features which DB cannot offer like a custom monthly plan and the one where you can make file hotlinking and sell your uploads to any of your colleagues without any hassle...DB only offers a very limited GB for Free while OpenDrive generously gives 5GB free space be it for windows, Mac, iPhone or Android apps...

By SelenaExtremes on 13 Jun 2012

Sync365

Reading through this I have to say what I like about drop box is it simplicity and easy to use...

I also tried Sugarsync again its okay... but I fell in love with Sync365.co.uk and for me they are UK based so I can speak to someone

By M4rzi on 29 Nov 2012

Not a backup service!

Guys, Dropbox is not an online backup service as such. It is really just a sharing facility. Watch out that your data is accessible and still there after many months. I stay on the safe side and use a local online backup service http://www.soteriabackup.co.za which is a tested service especially created for online backup.

By SoteriaBackup on 4 Dec 2012

Customer Service SUCKS!

There is absolutely NO WAY to speak to anyone at DropBox unless you want to purchase a Pro account—for that you can speak to the sales team. Otherwise there is absolutely NO customer service other than email which takes weeks to resolve any problems.
Imagine a conversation you might have with a technician on the phone about a problem. Now separate each volley in the conversation into emails—with 8-24 hours between each one.

(For instance) email to DB: "I have a problem." Response from DB 2 days later: "Did you try this?" Response to DB: "Yes, I tried that." Response from DB 16 hours later: "Okay, did you try this?" Response to DB: "Yes, I tried that." Response from DB 16 hours later: "Okay, did you try this?"

Do not use Dropbox!!

By robotarmy on 8 Apr 2014

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