Box vs iCloud Drive: Which is best?

A person working on a laptop.
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Companies have long turned to in-house servers to store large amounts of data, while individual consumers have generally specced up computers and laptops with large enough hard drives for their needs before turning to external hard drives or the humble USB stick.

Investing in storage can be expensive, and technology can fast go out of date leaving you with slow and poor-performing equipment, not to mention that on-site servers can be expensive and difficult to maintain for businesses.

The digital era has brought with it a plethora of online solutions, from cloud storage to cloud computer backup and pretty much everything in between. We compare two storage products in this Box vs iCloud Drive showdown.

Box vs iCloud Drive: Features

Box is favoured among users for its vast amounts of integrations with productivity apps: the company claims there are more than 1,500, some of which including Office 365 (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Google Workspace (which includes Docs, Sheets, and Slides), Adobe, Slack, Airtable and Docusign. In fact, this is probably Box’s key selling point - it doesn’t require you to use its own apps but instead encourages you to continue working on apps you are already familiar with.

Of course, there is browser access to your files, but for drag-and-drop simplicity and plenty of background operations, it makes sense to download the desktop client. It doesn’t integrate system-wide, but instead goes with a Dropbox-style single folder, inside which you can place anything you like. 

It’s great for businesses, with plenty of team management controls including file access, live collaboration and history. Users can choose to share files both inside and outside of the organization, so collaboration should be top-tier.

Box is somewhat let down by its file size limit, which is capped to 5GB for Personal Pro accounts, or a miniscule 250MB for free subscriptions. Business Starter, Business, Business Plus and Enterprise are capped at 2GB, 5GB, 15GB, and 50GB respectively, while customizable Enterprise Plus plans can upload 150GB files. For many, this may be acceptable, but on lower plans it can be restricting and for media companies dealing with large files - like videos - it could be the nail in Box’s coffin.

iCloud Drive may be more of an all-encompassing solution, giving users access to its word processing apps Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, as well as a couple of other applets like Calendar, Reminders, and Notes.

The software works perfectly with macOS and iOS devices, as you’d expect, with files seamlessly integrating into the system experience and folders housed accordingly. There is a Windows desktop client, which works in a similar way, however it’s predominantly for file management, not Notes, Reminders, and so on. As ever, there is browser access to all of this, including Pages and the other apps.

Box vs iCloud Drive: Performance

We tested Box, iCloud Drive, and more than 50 other cloud storage and backup solutions to see which performed best when it came to regular daily tasks. We used the same 1GB test file to benchmark upload and download times, and in this instance, Box came out on top.

The upload took a little over four minutes, and to download the same file to a minute and a half. iCloud was fairly average with six- and three-minute times: you could do a lot worse. Still, with our connection we would have liked a sub-one-minute download score.

Box vs iCloud Drive: Support

Box’s website is filled with plenty of self-help articles, but these are nestled among community threads too which makes it challenging to identify reliable, easy-to-follow instructions. iCloud Drive also provides hundreds of self-help articles, and there are forums for people to discuss the un-discussed, too.

If you need real-time support, both providers give users access to email, phone, and chat support, which is exactly what we would expect, and want, to see.

Box vs iCloud Drive: Pricing

In terms of free storage, Box trumps iCloud Drive with its 10GB, compared with iCloud’s 5GB. However, there are several limitations: primarily, files must not exceed 250MB. Also of note is that only one version of files is saved, meaning no extended history if you need to retrieve previous iterations of your work. 

Paying private customers will either want Box’s 100GB plan, for $14 (£11) per month, or the Business Starter plan which is partly advertised as being suitable for families as well as small teams, and also includes 100GB of storage for $4 (£5.50) per month (this requires a minimum of three users). There are no further personal plans, which makes Box a little restricting if you need storage for just yourself.

Business plans cost $20 (£16), $33 (£26.50), and $47 (£37.50) per user per month, each bringing unlimited storage and a different set of perks, like third-party app integrations, e-signatures and security enhancements. There’s also a customizable ‘Enterprise Plus’ tier for larger organizations.

iCloud Drive paying subscriptions will move over to the iCloud+ tiers, of which there are three: 50GB, 200B and 2TB, costing $0.99 (£0.79), $2.99 (£2.49), and $9.99 (£6.99) per month respectively. Each comes with iCloud Private Relay (it works in a similar way to a VPN, but it is not a VPN technically speaking), a unique and random email address generator called Hide My Email, and support for custom email domains using iCloud’s Mail service. They also get secure storage for one, five, or unlimited HomeKit Secure Video cameras, if you use those. Each plan can also be shared with five other family members.

If you’re an existing Apple customer and already have other Apple equipment, Apple One subscriptions may prove more cost effective. At $14.95 (£14.95) per month, Individual plans pair 50GB of storage with Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade. Family plans, at $19.95 (£19.95) per month, up the storage to 200GB, while Premier subscriptions increase this to 2TB and add Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+, for $29.95 (£29.95) per month. You could save up to $25 (£22) per month, but be careful not to fall for clever marketing if you don’t need these additional services.

While Box offers substantial 25% discounts for annual subscriptions, iCloud has no such promotion. On top of this, iCloud plans are targeted at personal users, while Box offers a range of business-oriented services, albeit at rather a large cost.

Box vs iCloud Drive: Verdict

Picking between a pair of cloud drives is never easy, and with each user’s needs and wants varying it’s hard to give a clear-cut answer. Things are a little easier in this Box vs iCloud Drive showdown, though.

If you are a personal user, it’s iCloud Drive every day. You can get twice the storage as Box for more than $11 (£8.50) cheaper per month. If you’re already living in Apple’s ecosystem, its bundles also serve to save you some cash, although at $29.95 (£29.95), Apple One Premier (the only bundle to include Fitness+) isn’t cheap.

If you’re a business user, unless you’re willing to set up completely separate individual accounts on iCloud, or create small ‘families,’ you’ll need to turn to Box. Yes, it’s expensive, but if it’s between Box and iCloud Drive, then its the only choice.

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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!