It seems like there’s never enough storage on our devices these days. Thankfully, there’s such a thing as cloud storage.
As you most certainly know by now, cloud storage doesn’t literally involve any sort of meteorological phenomenon. The so-called cloud is merely a logical pool—a collection of digital resources kept readily accessible on a server (or multiple servers). These servers are typically owned by hosting companies. iCloud and Dropbox are two of the most prominent cloud storage service providers today. But, how do iCloud and Dropbox compare to one another?
To determine which is better, we’ll need to review several components of the respective services first. We’ll begin by comparing and contrasting their key differences, then look at their specs side by side. From there, we’ll review some must-know facts and the history of both storage solutions. Ultimately, we’ll assess their pros and cons and decide on an overall winner.
Let’s dive right in!
iCloud vs. Dropbox: Key Differences
While both iCloud and Dropbox offer cloud storage solutions to free and paid users alike, there are a number of key differences that distinguish the two services. Both can be accessed across a wide range of operating systems, date back at least a decade or more, and have subscription-based business models… and yet, the two serve very distinct purposes in the cloud storage industry.
Let’s go over some of these key differences below.
For starters, both iCloud and Dropbox offer free access to their respective clouds. However, Dropbox’s free tier is a lot more sparse than iCloud’s.
Dropbox provides just 2GB for free (with an additional 500MB per referral), while iCloud gives 5 GB for free—no strings attached, no referrals necessary. Once those gigabytes run out, however, users of both cloud services will be prompted to pay a monthly fee in order to access more.
iCloud’s additional storage options start as low as $0.99 a month for 50 additional gigabytes. The next tier comes in at 200GB for $2.99 a month, then jumps up to 2TB for $9.99 a month. Dropbox doesn’t fiddle with these lesser tiers. Users can only jump straight to 2TB for $11.99 a month. The next available tier is 3TB for $19.99 a month.
Uniquely enough, Dropbox offers several professional tiers for three or more users. For these, which range from 3TB to unlimited storage, each user pays a portion of the monthly fee.
iCloud and Dropbox are both cloud storage solutions, to be sure. However, both have drastically different services and features in addition to basic file storage.
iCloud’s long list of features includes location services, Find My Friends and Find My iPhone, password manager keychain, backup and restore options, and synching across Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, and Safari apps. iCloud+ subscribers—i.e. anyone who pays for iCloud access—have additional features such as private browsing through Private Relay and email privacy and filtering through Hide My Email.
Dropbox, on the other hand, offers far more features geared toward the professional. They’re still very much a service for the casual user, but just one glimpse at their various plans and respective features will tell you that there’s more to offer for the pros with multiple users. Personal plans—Plus and Family—merely offer 2TB with access to the Dropbox password manager, Dropbox Paper, Dropbox Vault, and little else. Dropbox Business plans, however, include access to countless additional features like watermarking, file locking, admin roles, and more.
Both iCloud and Dropbox want users to trust their services as safe and secure. By and large, they typically are. However, both have found themselves at the center of different privacy concerns over the years.
iCloud is notorious for not offering end-to-end encryption. Without this type of encryption, iCloud users are susceptible to many potential eavesdroppers. iCloud alleges their service is nevertheless secure, but they’ve also been quite open about their own eavesdropping. They openly admit to scanning users’ files for illegal content.
Dropbox doesn’t do end-to-end encryption, either. Instead, it encrypts data with SSL as it travels between users and servers. For this reason, Dropbox could hypothetically decrypt anyone’s data whenever they please. This has happened unintentionally on more than one occasion. 2011 saw all accounts instantly unlock for several hours. 2012 and 2013 saw similar leaks. What’s more, nearly 70 million passwords were leaked in 2016. Additionally, 2017 saw deleted files suddenly reappearing in users’ accounts.
Without end-to-end encryption, both iCloud and Dropbox users will continue to experience these intermittent security flaws.
iCloud vs. Dropbox: A Side-by-Side Comparison
|Developer||Apple, Inc.||Dropbox, Inc.|
|Type||Cloud storage||Cloud storage|
|Release Date||October 2011||September 2008|
|Operating System||macOS, Windows, iOS, iPad OS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Additional Storage||50GB: $0.99/month|
5 Must-Know Facts about iCloud and Dropbox
- While iCloud storage plans top out at 2TB, Dropbox has plans that offer unlimited cloud storage.
- Close to half of all U.S. government agencies store files in the cloud. This is a troubling statistic when you consider the number of security flaws inherent to the cloud.
- Cloud storage as an industry is expected to reach $222.25 billion in annual revenue by 2027.
- More than 1.5 billion people use cloud storage for their files and documents.
- Cloud storage dates all the way back to the 1960s with the invention of ARPANET.
The History of iCloud
While iCloud debuted in the fall of 2011, many of the services that make up the cloud computing service could be found first in iTools. First released in 2000, rebranded in 2002 as .Mac, and rebranded again in 2008 as MobileMe, much of what you can find on iCloud was present across these services, as well. Backup, Find My iPhone, iDisk, email, and calendar, and, of course, cloud storage are all pillars of iCloud, but not exactly new features at launch in 2011. Nevertheless, iCloud was significant for the way it streamlined all these features into one cohesive service.
Today, more than a decade after its official drop, iCloud allows users to store, manage, and access files, photos, videos, audio, and documents via remote cloud servers. Most use iCloud as a backup for their phones and computers, but that’s not all one can do. iCloud users are also able to download their data to any compatible Apple or Windows devices. Users can also share and send data to other iCloud users. Another handy feature? The ability to manage data from any of your lost or stolen Apple devices.
Recently, in June of 2021, Apple introduced iCloud+—an updated, paid tier of the cloud computing service that gave users access to even more features. These features include Private Relay (which allows for private, tracker-free Safari browsing) and Hide My Email (which lets users use a private email separate from their own when signing up for websites and apps). iCloud+ also provides unlimited video storage for security cameras connected to HomeKit Secure Video. Users can access iCloud+ for as little as $0.99 a month.
Now, on the other side of the iCloud vs. Dropbox debate, Dropbox predates the iCloud name by several years. Founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, two students at MIT, the idea for the cloud storage startup came after Houston forgot his flash drive one too many times. Ferdowsi came on soon after seeing a demo video that Houston had put together to garner interest in the startup. Officially launched in 2008, Dropbox hit a million registered users by April of 2009 and three million by November of that same year. Needless to say, the service was a bona fide success.
By 2021, Dropbox had surpassed a whopping 700 million users. This is thanks in large part to the sheer number of platforms Dropbox can be accessed from. In addition to the Windows, macOS, and Linux computer apps, Dropbox also has iOS, Android, and Windows mobile apps. (This is in addition to good old-fashioned web access via Dropbox.com). Across this full range of platforms, Dropbox gives users up to two gigabytes of free storage. This little amount fills up pretty fast, at which point users are prompted to enter into one of Dropbox’s several paid plans.
These paid plans can run the gamut from 2TB of cloud storage for a single user to unlimited cloud storage for three or more users. With only two personal plans and four distinct plans for professional work, Dropbox makes a point of leaning away from iCloud’s personal use branding and leaning into the professional angle. For this reason, Dropbox is quite popular among photographers, videographers, graphic designers, and filmmakers alike.
Pros and Cons of iCloud and Dropbox
|Pros of iCloud||Cons of iCloud||Pros of Dropbox||Cons of Dropbox|
|iCloud offers five free gigabytes to users before requiring them to pay for more.||iCloud storage plans top out at 2TB, whereas Dropbox has plans with unlimited storage.||Dropbox is easy to use, with availability across almost all modern computers and smartphones.||Dropbox has very little free storage available, capping it off at 2GB.|
|With a 50GB, 200GB, and 2TB tier, iCloud has more affordable tiers than Dropbox.||Android users cannot access iCloud.||Users can download files for offline access.||Dropbox is far more expensive than iCloud.|
|iCloud integrates seamlessly with Apple devices.||You need an internet connection to access stored files.||With some plans, Dropbox users can collaborate with one another in the cloud.||Dropbox tends to cater less toward casual users and more toward businesses and professionals.|
|At as little as $0.99 a month, iCloud is cheaper than even physical storage.||iCloud doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption, which makes them open to security flaws.||Dropbox has much better plans for professionals than iCloud does.||Dropbox and its users have been victims of many security breaches in past years.|
iCloud vs. Dropbox: Which is Best?
With the ability to store files in the cloud, both iCloud and Dropbox offer users much-needed storage solutions at affordable prices and sizable plans. While they each have their respective security flaws, the two cloud storage providers also have their own unique advantages.
iCloud works seamlessly with Apple devices, thus enhancing the iPhone, Mac, and iPad user experience. Dropbox, on the other hand, offers unlimited cloud storage to certain users and even allows for collaboration between users of the same plan. But the question still lingers: which is ultimately best?
All in all, you have to hand it to Dropbox. With better accessibility across Apple, Android, Mac, and Windows, more sizable storage options, and greater collaborative and professional features, Dropbox offers more than iCloud by a significant margin. While iCloud is an excellent supplement for Apple users, they should embrace the 5GB of free iCloud storage while choosing to opt for Dropbox for long-term cloud storage. In the end, Dropbox is the clear winner.