Dropbox is a simple yet sophisticated cloud service ideal for both consumers and small businesses. It offers seamless ease of use, a full feature set and more free storage space than others, if you refer friends and co-workers who sign up for the service.
Your Dropbox account serves as your personal hard drive online, or in the cloud. You can store virtually any type of file in Dropbox, including Word documents, photos and videos. Like the other cloud services we reviewed, Dropbox allows you to access saved content from any computer or device with an internet connection. Where Dropbox differs from competitors is its inclusion of a desktop app. You can download Dropbox and conveniently drag and drop files you want to save directly in the Dropbox folder on your desktop. Whether you're using the desktop app or web interface, Dropbox provides instant access to your most important files, no matter where you are.
Dropbox's feature set is brimming with functionality and features clearly tailored for convenience and usability. The service provides wide support of various file types. In addition to documents and photos, the cloud service allows you to save videos, slideshows and spreadsheets, making Dropbox a good fit for professionals and small businesses. You can also upload and store music files in your Dropbox account, though you cannot stream them through the application.
Unlike other cloud services, Dropbox does not have an inherent email client, address book or calendar, nor does it provide a native method for saving and syncing such files. Subsequently, you'll have to use a third-party application to manage and sync your email, contacts and calendar across all your devices.
Dropbox, however, provides all the other features you'd want in a cloud service, including the flexibility to view, edit and share your content from any computer or device. In fact, the service allows you to share files with others (including individuals who do not have a Dropbox account) through links. For security purposes, the cloud service allows you to password protect your account and uses advanced encryption methods to transfer and store all your files.
The cloud service's hallmark feature is its automatic syncing. Syncing begins as soon as you finish downloading Dropbox; you simply drag and drop any files you want to store to your Dropbox folder. The folder automatically syncs to the Dropbox website and any other computers linked to your account whenever new files are added or changes are made to existing files. Likewise, you can upload files through the service's web interface, which will automatically sync to your computer's dedicated Dropbox folder. If your computer is offline or powered off when files are added or changed on another computer or device, it is automatically synced as soon as it is reconnected to the internet.
Dropbox offers apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. The service also has clients for all major operating systems: Windows, Mac and Linux. Also, you can access your Dropbox account from any mobile browser so technically the cloud service works on any device.
Part of Dropbox's appeal is its simplicity. The web interface and mobile apps boast a clean, intelligent design that enables seamless and intuitive navigation. Dropbox isn't the easiest cloud service to use right off the bat, but once you get used to it, operation of the service is simple and straightforward. Additionally, you can add files of any size to your Dropbox folder, whereas files uploaded through the web interface are capped at 300MB.
Simple to use and highly convenient, Dropbox is a well-designed and implemented cloud service ideal for syncing files across multiple devices. It is pricier than most of its competitors and its lack of an integrated email client and ability to sync email, contacts or calendars may be a deal breaker for some users. However, you may find that its automatic synchronization, seamless convenience and zero downtime are well worth the cost.