Dropbox vs iDrive: Which is best?

Images of servers overload with cloud service icons.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The world of cloud drives can be particularly baffling, especially given that until recently, companies have typically stored their own data in in-house servers, which are both costly to purchase and often require specially trained staff to maintain.

For businesses, cloud drives can represent better value money, but personal customers will appreciate the added convenience of access anywhere, which isn’t characteristic of built-in hard drives and external drives, like USB sticks.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to storing data online: jumping in the deep end and keeping all files online (with an option to have offline access, if you have adequate storage), and a space to store backups of your physical machines. Dropbox belongs to the former, and iDrive belongs to the latter, so let us help you disect their key differences and work out which is best for you.

Dropbox vs iDrive: Features

Dropbox was one of the first cloud drives to gain real traction, and despite being surpassed by the likes of Google Drive, iCloud Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive, it remains a popular option that’s full of functions, some of which slightly unique to Dropbox, or offering a competitive edge over rivals, at least.

The bulk of your activity will likely involve saving and accessing files that are saved in Dropbox, which in the first instance can be accessed from a browser portal. This is the main hub for things like account settings and subscription management, and it’s generally easier to share files from here.

For day-to-day use, the easiest method would be to download the desktop client, which is available for macOS and Windows users alike. It runs in the background, and has controls for things like bandwidth throttling for more granular control. It integrated neatly into the operating system’s native file management system, so there’s no need to open a separate Dropbox app as such. 

There’s also a ‘Vault,’ which provides a separate, password-protected space for confidential files, and a tool for sharing large files up to 100GB with others (however this is limited to certain business users, with personal accounts getting a less impressive 2GB cap). 

Dropbox has had to adapt to the introduction of more competition, and in doing so, it has launched its own password manager. The so-called Dropbox Passwords comes free with all paid accounts, and even free Dropbox accounts get a limited version of it (capped to just 50 passwords). 

Dropbox also gives its users access to its e-signature tool HelloSign, with three free e-signatures per month, which certain business users can upgrade for a fee.

On the other hand, iDrive relies on you using your own hard drive, which it will backup for you. All plans get access to macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android clients for automatic background syncing and backing up (though mobile devices are more limited), as well as backup for external drives and NAS devices. The top-tier Business subscription bundles in server backup, too, which can be somewhat of a rarity.

Whether you’re checking or accessing your files online, or using one of the company’s desktop clients or apps to set up what it called ‘continuous’ syncing, the interface seems a little less sophisticated than that of Dropbox. That said, it’s perfectly functional, and in essence, it’s a service you hope never to have to use.

If you do need to call on an iDrive backup but your Internet connection is weak, you can use iDrive Express. This is a really valuable addition to all plans that we love, which involves a physical copy of your data being sent out on a temporary storage device within a week. These are free once per year for personal customers, and three times per year for Team and Business users, but further requests can be made for a $59.95 fee. 

Dropbox vs iDrive: Performance

We compared more than 50 cloud storage and backup solutions in an effort to work out which one is best. A lot of it can be subjective, or dependent on your own situation, but the performance test gives a great indication of whether a company throttles its speeds behind closed doors. Remember, though, that these times are only what we experienced, and are not wholly representative of the companies in all environments. 

Using the same 1GB test file, both Dropbox and iDrive completed the upload in between four and four and a half minutes, which is about as good as it gets. This is really reassuring to know that your data is being backed up as soon as possible, and is arguably the more important of the two tests.

Dropbox downloaded that same file in under a minute, which placed it in third place in our tests for speed. iDrive completed the same download in just over two minutes, which is fine. For reference, the slowest speeds we tested were approaching ten minutes.

Dropbox vs iDrive: Support

With Dropbox being such a large - and long-lived - company, it’s no surprise that there is a wealth of online self-help articles. But these only go so far to getting your questions answered: for more detailed help, paid customers get access to email and live chat support, while top-tier business members can pick up the phone, too.

iDrive users can get access to a real-time support through a similarly impressive number of channels, including 24/7 email and chat support, and a couple of phone numbers.

Dropbox vs iDrive: Pricing

Pricing for Dropbox is pretty straightforward: if the 2GB of free storage isn’t enough for you (and let’s face it, it probably isn’t), you’ll want to join the company’s Personal Plus tier. This comes with either 2TB or 3TB of storage, for $11.99 (£9.99) or $19.99 (£19.99) per month respectively. If you want family access, its Personal Family plan comes with one 2TB pot to be shared between up to six people (note: not 2TB each). This costs $19.99 (£16.99) per month. 

For business users, there are three categories with 3TB, 5TB, or unlimited storage. They start at $18 (£14.50) per user per month and extend beyond $24 (£21.50) per user per month. It’s only the Professional plan, that can unlock access to unlimited e-signatures, for a surcharge.

iDrive pricing is a little more complex, assuming the free 10GB isn’t enough (which it could be if your only intent is to sync photos from a smartphone or tablet up to a computer periodically). There are three channels to go down, starting with Personal accounts. These give one user access to 5TB or 10TB of storage to back up an unlimited number of devices for $79.50 or $99.50 per year. 

The Team plan starts at 5TB for five users at $99.50 per year, and heads up to 100TB for 100 users at $1,999.50 per year. Business plans are pricier, but come loaded with more features and regulation compliance, starting at $99.50 per year for 250GB, for an unlimited number of users and/or computers. For reference, the 50TB Business plan costs $11,599.50 per year. 

As is the case with most online purchases, there are often deal flying around, and the same is true of Dropbox and iDrive. Dropbox offers annual commitments that promise to save up to 20%, while iDrive requires annual subscriptions, but signing up for two years can bring the price down.

Dropbox vs iDrive: Verdict

It can be tough to make the right decision, especially when you’re considering a long-term commitment like an annual subscription, but fortunately, it’s fairly easy to decide between Dropbox and iDrive. 

If it’s cloud storage you need, and you want to be able to access and edit documents virtually anywhere, Dropbox is not only the best among these two, but one of the most rounded solutions full stop. 

iDrive comes into its own if you work from your own existing hardware. We value that all plans will backup computers and mobile devices, and that there are server options too. Not just this, but it’s reasonably priced and full of handy features. If it’s just a backup you need, iDrive is the way to go.

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!