Four excellent Dropbox alternatives for your small-business storage needs

Dropbox revolutionized the way we share information, and no enterprises have enjoyed the benefits more than small businesses. Cloud storage has enabled them to access critical data from the road, work across geographic boundaries, easily share large files, and do away with costly physical infrastructure.

But while Dropbox and other popular cloud-storage providers are adequate for the average consumer, most services don’t meet small-business needs for security, affordability, real-time collaboration, and lots of file storage. Here are some Dropbox alternatives that do. Like Dropbox, each offers an easy-to-use interface, 2GB of free storage, and drag-and-drop syncing, and any are guaranteed to be a boon to your business.

SpiderOak

Free storage: 2GB

Pricing: $100/year for 100GB, $600/month for 1TB (100 users per TB)

Best for: Security

For better or worse, Dropbox has become emblematic of cloud security issues. Not only has the service been hacked, it has also made security mistakes such as accidentally turning off password authentication for millions of users. Although there will always be a certain amount of risk with cloud storage, some services out there make an extra effort to protect your data.

Spider Oak’s “zero-knowledge” encrypted service is ideal for storing sensitive business data.

SpiderOak is a cloud-based storage and syncing service that offers full encryption of your data and password, along with a “zero-knowledge” privacy policy. This means that not only is your data encrypted (using a combination of 2048-bit RSA and 256-bit AES encryption) at every stage in the cloud storage process, but nobody—not even SpiderOak employees—can see what you’ve stored without your password. The downside to this ultra-secure service is that your password is also encrypted, so if you forget it, you will lose access to all of the files you’ve stored on SpiderOak’s servers.

SpiderOak features a desktop client (available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux) that allows you to store and access files through a special interface. Like Dropbox, SpiderOak also installs a folder on your computer where you can drag and drop files you want synced to the SpiderOak server. These files are accessible through the desktop client, SpiderOak’s website, and its apps for Android and iOS.

Google Drive

Free storage: 15GB

Pricing: $5/month for 100GB, $10/month for 200GB, $20/month for 400GB, $50/month for 1TB, $100/month for 2TB, $200/month for 4TB, $400/month for 8TB, $800/month for 16TB

Best for: Collaboration

Google’s cloud storage system, Google Drive, looks pretty attractive on the surface. After all, the service offers 15GB of free storage space—more than seven times the amount of free space Dropbox offers. But that 15GB limit is deceptive because it includes your Gmail account and any pictures you’ve stored on Google+. And, while Google Drive offers up to 16TB of online storage space, that option will cost you almost $10,000 a year.

Google Drive’s advanced collaboration features make it a great choice for distributed workforces.

But that doesn’t mean you should overlook Google Drive as a viable Dropbox alternative. Its built-in tools, such as Google Docs and Google Sheets, are great for editing files on the go or collaborating with multiple users. Dropbox and other cloud-storage providers’ collaborative properties typically end at sharing: It’s up to each user to open, edit, and upload the files. With Google Drive, however, you can work on files simultaneously with other users in any Web browser.

For users who need more functionality, there are several free third-party add-ons and services, including an assortment of IFTTT recipes for automating your Google Drive workflow.

While you’re probably used to accessing Google Drive via a Web browser, the service also offers a desktop client (available for Windows and Mac OS X), for drag-and-drop syncing. Google also offers mobile apps for both Android and iOS.

Copy

Free storage: 20GB

Pricing: $99/year for 250GB, $149/year for 500GB

Best for: Affordable storage

Dropbox gives its users 2GB of free storage, and paid accounts start at $99/year for 100GB. But what if your cloud storage needs lie somewhere in between a 2GB and 100GB?

Copy is Barracuda Networks’ cloud-storage service, and it offers a whopping 15GB of free storage to its users, along with an extra 5GB when you download the desktop client. That’s 20GB right off the bat, plus you have opportunities to earn more free space through referrals. (You can earn up to 20GB of free space on Dropbox through referrals, but it takes awhile.) Copy’s paid plans offer more storage per dollar as well: $99 a year gets you 250GB, while $149 a year nets 500GB.

Inexpensive plans make Copy the go-to service for small businesses with big storage needs.

Like Dropbox, Copy’s desktop client installs a special syncing folder on your computer, for dragging and dropping files. Your files are then accessible through the desktop client, Copy’s website, and its iOS and Android apps.

BitTorrent Sync

Free storage: Not applicable 
Pricing: Not applicable 
Best for: Secure syncing

Even with extra encryption and zero-knowledge privacy policies, data stored in the cloud can be insecure. BitTorrent Sync is a service that offers Dropbox-like convenience without the vulnerabilities of cloud storage. Working off of BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer protocol, BitTorrent Sync lets you link up folders across multiple devices and sync files, without ever pushing your data to an external cloud-based server. This means it’s inherently safer than the most secure cloud servers, because files are stored locally and file transfers are encrypted.

BitTorrent Sync is the safest syncing option in our roundup.

BitTorrent Sync is surprisingly easy to set up and use, and it actually works similarly to Dropbox and other cloud-storage services. To get started, download and install the BitTorrent client (available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux) on your computer. You can then choose which folder you want to sync, and BitTorrent Sync will provide a “secret”—which is a randomly generated 21-byte key for that folder. To sync the folder with another device, just download and install the BitTorrent client on that device and type in the secret. Any files you drag and drop into this folder will now sync between these two (or more) devices using BitTorrent’s P2P protocol.

Correction, 8/19/2013: Story updated to reflect correct SpiderOak pricing.

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