Box vs Dropbox: Which is best?

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Box vs Dropbox. The two platforms may sound similar but there are plenty of differences for businesses to mull over when choosing a cloud storage platform - and that's a decision that has taken on greater importance in recent times. In the past, businesses seeking to store lots of data with an emphasis on being able to access it remotely have had to use in-house servers, which are expensive to buy and challenging to maintain, often requiring specially trained staff.

On the other hand, individuals who exceeded their computer’s built-in hard drive will have had to use external drives like USB sticks or network-attached storage (NAS) drives, which provide limited remote access and typically at a high cost.

Both are quickly being replaced by a whole range of cloud storage and cloud backup products, which not only offer tailored storage that can be expanded but can be accessed from virtually anywhere. Among this range of options are the similarly named Box and Dropbox. If you want to take a more detailed look at each solution, be sure to check out our Box cloud storage review and our Dropbox cloud storage review for extra information.

Both cloud storage solutions represent strong choices for individuals or businesses that are hoping to bolster their storage capacity. But what type of cloud storage do you actually need? Is cloud document storage what you require? Photo cloud storage? Or are both of those things immaterial next to the cost? If that's the case, perhaps you are looking for the best free cloud storage service.

The problem is that there are so many to choose from, it can be hard to know if you’re making the right decision. If you’ve narrowed it down to this pair of ‘boxes,’ let us help you pick the winner.

Box vs Dropbox: Features

While some cloud storage services are bundled together with word processing apps from the same company - Microsoft OneDrive and Office, for example - others don’t. This keeps things simple because it all comes down to how well the service deals with storing files. That said, unless you own desktop versions of any apps you need, you may find yourself needing to subscribe to additional services to get access.

Box says it has more than 1,500 integrations possible, ranging from Microsoft Office and Google Workspace to communication tools like Slack and Zoom. The company doesn’t have any of its own apps per se, so you’re free to use the tools you’re already familiar with.

It goes without saying that there is browser access to your files, but for the most seamless experience, you’ll probably want to download one of the apps. The desktop client does a great job of managing files in the background, but it’s best left to its own devices with no granular control for things like bandwidth throttling. If you’re using a mobile device, you can show a warning when uploading using mobile data, but that’s about as deep as it gets.

It’s a great solution for businesses with plenty of team management controls like file access, collaboration, and history. However, it is a little let down by the limits imposed on uploading files, which range from a tiny 250MB for personal plans to 150GB for pricey Enterprise Plus subscriptions. This may not be too problematic for some types of businesses, but companies specializing in media will want to consider this if they typically work with larger files.

Dropbox - one of the first companies that set out to revolutionize file storage, whose aim it was to kill off the USB - offers a very similar proposition to the similarly named Box, in that files are stored online and can integrate with a number of third-party services like Google Suite, Microsoft Office, and Slack. Sound familiar?

It also has a number of its own services, like e-signature tool HelloSign and email attachment replacement service DocSend. As standard, all paid personal and business plans get three e-signatures to use each month, but certain plans can expand this.

Unlike Box, Dropbox also has its own word processing app, but it’s limited to the Word/Pages/Docs-like ‘Paper.’ Still, to have this as part of the plan is an important selling point for the company. We like Dropbox Passwords too: the company’s attempt at a password manager is free up to 50 passwords, but any above this limit are bundled into paid subscriptions, helping to make Dropbox a more well-rounded offering.

Box vs Dropbox: Performance

We tested more than 50 cloud storage solutions to compare which is the best; one such test was uploading and then downloading again the same 1GB sample file for each service.

Both Box and Dropbox were pretty comparable, and indeed among the best performing cloud drives in our testing. The upload took just over four minutes each, beaten only by TeraBox. Downloading the file took a minute and a half for Box, while Dropbox managed it in under a minute. This is peak performance, and we couldn’t really ask for much more from either of them.

Remember, though, these times are just examples from our tests, and actual times may vary depending on your broadband connection and many more factors. However, it’s a great indication for comparison purposes.

Box vs Dropbox: Support

If your problem is fairly simple, you may find help in Box’s wealth of self-help articles, which are nestled among other community forum pages. Failing that, email, phone, and live chat support are all easily accessible, making it a breeze to get support. Some other providers make it hard to find real-time human support, for example.

Like most online tools these days, Dropbox also offers a library of self-help articles to get you started, but getting real-time support is only widely accessible to paying and business customers. Free customers can still use the robot chat service that the company calls ‘Dropbot.’

Box vs Dropbox: Pricing

If you’re looking for a free plan with maximum storage, Box’s 5GB is better than Dropbox’s 2GB. But delve a little deeper and you’ll realize that Box imposes a file size limit of 250MB, which can be restricting if you work with media files like videos. While Dropbox’s space is less impressive, it does come with access to Dropbox Passwords, which for free accounts, can save up to 50 passwords. This limit is lifted for all paying members, though.

If you’re a personal user, you’ll need to pay $14 (£11) per month for a measly 100GB; there are far cheaper options out there. It also caps uploads to 5GB. 

For business users, there are four plans each requiring a minimum of three users. They are the 100GB Business Starter and unlimited Business, Business Plus and Enterprise, costing $7 (£5.50), $20 (£16), $33 (£26.50), and $47 (£37.50) per user per month. There’s also a customizable Enterprise Plus plan.

Every Box plan can be paid for with an annual subscription, which saves users 25%, and while this represents better value for money, Box is still somewhat expensive when compared with rivals.

Dropbox has a 2TB personal plan for $11.99 (£9.99) per month, which can be upgraded to 3TB for a total of $19.99 (£19.99) per month. There’s also a family plan for up to six users, but the 2TB of storage is a total - not each. That costs $19.99 (£16.99) per month.

Business users needing 3TB will pay $19.99 (£19.99) per month each with access to three e-signatures per month, or $31.99 (£30.99) per month for unlimited e-signatures.

Larger organizations will benefit from 5TB of space, costing $18 (£14.50) per user per month or $83 (£65) a month for access to DocSend, too. Like Box, Dropbox can also tailor the right amount of storage to you, at a cost. It also offers discounts for annual subscriptions.

Box vs Dropbox: Our Verdict

If you’re a personal user, the answer is as clear as day: 2TB of storage with Dropbox is cheaper than just 100GB with Box, and you get access to other features too like Dropbox’s password manager.

Similarly, unless you can benefit from Box’s specific features, like its extensive list of third-party app integrations, Dropbox will almost always come out more cost-effective. We’re not downplaying Box’s wealth of expertise and business regulation compliance, but with a greater focus on costs than ever before, we recommend Dropbox

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With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!

With contributions from