Ultimate Dropbox Guide: Overview, Cost, Installation, and Alternatives

Ultimate Dropbox Guide: Overview, Cost, Installation, and Alternatives
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What is Dropbox?

Among cloud storage services, there’s definitely a reason why Dropbox is basically a household name.

Founded in 2007 by MIT students, Dropbox is a cloud storage and file syncing service that’s available across a wide variety of platforms — including Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, BlackBerry, and even Linux. It’s been praised across a wide variety of publications for its simplicity, intuitive design and ease of use. Perhaps best of all, the basic service is free to start out with — while paid subscriptions are available for users who require more cloud storage space or advanced features.

As described on the company’s website, Dropbox acts as a “home” for all of your files — whether photos, videos, documents, or other file types. Once you upload a file to your Dropbox, it’s automatically available to access across all of your devices. If you don’t have access to the application, the Dropbox service is available via web browser, as well.

All of this makes Dropbox a convenient tool to keep your files with you, wherever you go. You can create a document from your work computer, edit the document from your mobile device at the coffee shop or on the train, and then access and email the document to your boss from your home computer. Are you dying to show off the latest video you made in iMovie to your family? Dropbox is also a great way to easily share files with your friends, family, work colleagues, or anyone else.

Dropbox is also an excellent option for backing up your important files. Because the files you store on Dropbox exist in their secure cloud-based servers, they’re not prone to everyday disasters that might destroy your MacBook Pro or iPhone. In the words of the company, “even if you accidentally spill a latte on your laptop, have no fear! Relax knowing that your stuff is safe in Dropbox and will never be lost.”

How much does Dropbox cost?

One of the best things about Dropbox’s cloud storage service is that its core features — which include 2 gigabytes of cloud storage — are free. That being said, if you need more storage space, or if you’re running a business or group using Dropbox, you might want to consider their other premium subscription options.

Dropbox Pro

Dropbox Pro is the next tier up for individuals, and it includes 1 terabyte of cloud storage space. Dropbox Pro costs $8.25 a month and you can choose between an annual or monthly subscription.

Additionally, the upgraded subscription features some greater control options and enhanced file sharing features, including unlimited file recovery and version history for 30 days, view-only sharing permissions, the ability to create password-protected and temporary links, and remote device wipe — which allows you to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands. Interested in upgrading? Follow this link.

Dropbox Business

Dropbox Business is the next tier up, and it’s an excellent choice for groups of individuals. It costs $12.50 a month per user, and offers unlimited cloud storage space — Dropbox calls it “as much storage as you need.” While it includes the enhanced add-ons of Dropbox Pro, but also has a suite of collaboration, security, and control features.

Those additional feats include granular permissions, system alerts, device approval settings, company-managed groups, team folders and sync management, among many other features.

Maybe best of all, Dropbox is currently offering a free trial of the service — letting you try it out to make sure it’s a good fit for your team’s needs.

Dropbox Enterprise

Dropbox Enterprise is the ultimate subscription for business needs. The company doesn’t elaborate on how much it costs, and asks those interested to “contact them for pricing.” Like Dropbox Pro and Business, it offers unlimited storage space and advanced features — but also includes scaled management tools, administrative controls, and dedicated customer support.

Some of those features include advanced training for users and admins, enterprise mobility support, and a dedicated account success manager. To contact Dropbox about its Enterprise subscription, click here.

How to Install and Use Dropbox on a Mac or PC

If you’ve signed up for a Dropbox account, and you’re now ready to get started using it on your Mac or PC, just follow the steps below. Luckily, it’s a pretty easy process.

How to install and use Dropbox on a Mac

  1. Download the Dropbox installer from the company’s website.
  2. Double-click the installer, and the icon that pops up. Dropbox will then install the necessary folders automatically.
  3. The program will then install in your Applications folder and Menu Bar, and a new window will pop up.
  4. Login with your Dropbox account username and password, or create a new account if you haven’t.
  5. Follow the rest of the installation prompts.
  6. Dropbox will finalize installing.
  7. Enter your Mac account password if you’re prompted. This will allow it to sync with Finder.

Dropbox will then automatically integrate with Finder — which allows it to act as a typical “folder” on your Mac. This allows you to easily place and remove files from the Dropbox folder. But, beneath the scenes, every file you place into Dropbox automatically syncs to the cloud storage service — which makes it accessible to all of your devices, and the Dropbox website. You’ll see a blue checkmark next to the file when it’s currently syncing, and a green checkmark when it successfully syncs.

Dropbox will also add an icon to your Sidebar, which gives you recent updates and the status of your files.

How to install and use Dropbox on a PC

If you’re on a PC, rather than a Mac, it’s still a similar setup process.

  1. Download the Dropbox installer from the company’s website.
  2. Double-click on the Dropbox installer. Click on Yes when prompted with “Do you want to allow changes to this computer”, and then click the Install button on the next window.
  3. Login with your Dropbox account username and password, or create a new account if you haven’t.
  4. Follow the installation set-up prompts.
  5. Click “Typical” setup, just for simplicity’s sake — unless you have a reason to tweak certain settings.
  6. Dropbox will finish installing.

From here, Dropbox will automatically add a folder to Explorer. Just like on the Mac, any file you place into this folder will automatically sync to Dropbox’s storage cloud. On Windows, Dropbox also adds a little icon in the bottom-right corner of your Taskbar, which has offers a pop-up menu with different preferences and options, as well as some quick links to open the Dropbox folder and Dropbox’s website.

From here, you’ll be able to easy sync and access files across all of your devices. If you have any other questions, or want to learn about some of the more advanced features, Dropbox will automatically place a “Getting started” PDF file with instructions in your Dropbox Folder.

Best Dropbox Alternatives & Competitors

While Dropbox is a powerful and easy-to-use cloud storage service, it’s certainly not the only option out there. There are a slew of different options to choose from — and, depending on certain factors, there might be a better alternative for you.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a robust cloud storage and office suite that’s included with any Google account. If you’re a diehard Google fan or power user, then Google Drive might be worth considering. Beyond cloud storage, Google Drive provides a free, browser-based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite with its Docs, Slides and Sheets option.

If you’re already a Google or Gmail user, you’ll already have access to Drive. And because of its integration, it’s extremely easy to use with other Google products. Of course, that integration is also its downfall: your Gmail and Drive accounts will share storage space — of which Google gives you 15 gigabytes for free.

iCloud Drive

If you’re an Apple user with a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad, then iCloud might be the best pick for you. By default, it’s usually already set up via your Apple ID, and you get Apple’s proprietary office apps — Pages, Keynote and Numbers — included. iCloud is a secure and easy to use option, but lacks some of the finer control features of the other apps on this list.

Apple’s iCloud Drive offers 5 gigabytes of free storage, which is slightly more than Dropbox gives you. But take in account that, if you use iCloud to backup your phone, much of that space may already be taken up. Additionally, there’s currently no Windows Phone, Android, or BlackBerry iCloud Drive app — so if you’re not on the Apple ecosystem, it’s probably not the choice for you.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s alternative to Dropbox. Its biggest strength is its seamless integration with Windows devices. But while it works amazingly well with a PC, Windows phone or tablet, there are also Android and iOS apps available.

If you use any type of Windows device extensively, the app allows you to open and edit files in Microsoft’s proprietary office apps very smoothly. Sadly, the app’s previous best feature — a whopping 30 gigabytes of free storage space — was recently cut. Now, you’ll only get 5 GB of free space if start with the basic Microsoft Account.

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