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Dropbox review

Michael Passingham
21 Oct 2014
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
The signup page for Dropbox
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
6
per month for 1TB

A well-oiled Cloud sync product with a new, lower price for 1TB of storage

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Specifications

Operating system support: Windows Vista/7/8, Mac OS X 10.4+, Linux, Storage space: 1TB, Mobile device support: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Sync support?: Yes

Dropbox is a synchronisation rather than backup service, meaning that while you can use it for backing up important files, its real selling point is the ability to access any of your important files from wherever you are, on any device.

PRICING

A basic free account with no bonus storage (which you can get for fulfilling various tasks such as referring friends or uploading photos to the service) comes with 2GB of space. Spending £7.99 per month (£79 per year) on Dropbox Pro gets you a huge 1TB of storage, which is a very generous allowance which puts it just behind Google Drive in terms of cost per gigabyte.

File upload and download limits are generous; if you're uploading from the desktop app there's no limit to the size of the files you can upload, as long as they don't exceed your storage limit. If you're uploading from the web interface, the maximum file size is 10GB, which is still very generous.

DESKTOP APPLICATION

The desktop application for Dropbox works on Windows, Mac and Linux. It will only synchronise files stored in the Dropbox directory, meaning that you'll need to make sure all the documents, images and other files you want to access are placed there. If you like files to be stored in a specific place in your Documents folder, you could always create a shortcut to your Dropbox from that folder.

The Dropbox desktop application is simple to use, but has some powerful tools to help you conserve bandwidth. Download and upload throttling is the most important, as it prevents Dropbox from hogging all your bandwidth when syncing a large number of files. Selective Sync is also a very handy tool; this allows you to only download the contents of specific folders onto any given PC. For instance, if you never use your work laptop for your personal photography files, you can stop those files from taking up space on your laptop hard disk and stop Dropbox from wasting bandwidth by downloading files you don't need.

Another way to save bandwidth is to enable LAN Sync. This tells Dropbox to look for other PCs on your local network which have the same synced Dropbox folders, and instead of downloading these files from the internet it will send them via your network, shaving off more megabytes from your usage allowance and allowing everything to sync up much more quickly.

Sharing files with friends and colleagues is extremely simple. When you right-click a file or folder stored in Dropbox you are given the option to copy a URL to your clipboard, which you can then paste into a message. This gives the recipient access to both a preview of the file on the web and also allows them to download a copy to keep. You can rescind access to links at any time by visiting the web-based interface and removing each shared file individually.

You can also invite other Dropbox users to have access to a folder, meaning that it will appear in their account as well as yours. This means multiple members of a project team can all make changes and add files to a folder. If a user has access to a folder, its contents count towards their account's storage space.

WEB INTERFACE

If you're trying to get hold of a file from a public computer or a device you don't normally use, you can use Dropbox's excellent web interface. This allows you to do almost everything that can be done through the desktop application. The website has a built-in slideshow feature for photos, as well as a video player. Common document formats such as XLS, DOC and PDF are also viewable from within the web interface, meaning you don't have to download them first. Dropbox has no built-in editing capabilities such as those offered by OneDrive and Google Drive, however.

The web interface also allows you to see previous versions of a file, and shows you details of who modified it and when. You only get access to 30 days' worth of previous versions, but subscribing to the Dropbox Packrat feature enables the recovery of an unlimited amount of file snapshots going back as far as you want, meaning you can retrieve files from the distant past.

MOBILE APPS

Dropbox's mobile and tablet apps are excellent and available on a range of devices including Android smartphones and tablets, iPhones, iPads and BlackBerry devices. The notable exception here is Windows Phone, and if you want to use Dropbox on any device powered by this operating system you'll need to trust your data to a third-party app.

There are a few quirks to the mobile apps which some people may find frustrating. For example, if you turn on the function that automatically uploads every picture you take, you end up with two copies of every photo: one in your Dropbox folder and one in your phone's default camera folder. This means that if you want to remove all traces of a photo, you'll have to delete it twice.

By default, files aren't downloaded to your mobile device, and instead the app only serves as a shortcut to download them. If you want a file to be accessible when you have no internet connection, you'll need to add it to your favourites list.

Dropbox looked as if it was falling behind its rivals in 2014, but with its new, lower price, it's right back up there with the best of them. Google Drive is still slightly better value and Microsoft OneDrive's £7.99 subscription includes Office365, but Dropbox is still a choice worthy of consideration thanks to its mostly excellent mobile and desktop applications.

Account specifications
Operating system supportWindows Vista/7/8, Mac OS X 10.4+, Linux
Storage space1TB
Number of computersUnlimited
Folder and file restrictionsDropbox folder only
Backup
Redundancy/data centresAmazon S3
Encryption256-bit AES
Logging/email reportsLogging
Schedule optionsNone
Pause/throttlePause, throttle
Back up open filesYes
Back up entire disk partitionsNo
Back up external disks/NAS devicesNo
Save backups to local mediaNo
Send backups by postNo
Restore
Recover previous versions of files30 days or unlimited with Packrat add-on (£9.99/month)
Recover deleted filesYes, 30 days
Restore from DVD/USB drive sent in the postNo
Web access to backupsYes
Share selected backup contentsYes
Media browserPhotos, videos, audio, documents
Mobile device supportAndroid, iOS, BlackBerry
Sync
Sync support?Yes
Sync priceIncluded
Sync foldersDedicated
System filesNo
Max devicesUnlimited
Buying information
Free version2GB free storage (+ unlimited bonuses)
Price per month£7.99
Price per year£79
Detailswww.dropbox.com

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