Box vs. Dropbox

Dropbox and Box (formerly are two of the largest and most full-featured cloud storage and online backup services (others being Microsoft's OneDrive and Google Drive). While Box has historically focused on businesses as their customer base, Dropbox grew with a consumer focus; however, Dropbox launched Dropbox for Teams in 2011 and rebranded it to Dropbox for Business in April 2013. Dropbox is a much larger company with a higher annual revenue and market share, so the service is likely to stick around, but dollar-for-dollar Box offers more storage. Both services allow access via the web (browser-based), software for Linux, Mac, and Windows, and mobile apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phones.

Both companies have been heavily funded by venture capital firms — Box has raised over $520 million[1] and launched an IPO in January 2015. Dropbox has raised over $760 million.[2] Whereas Box received angel investment from Mark Cuban, Dropbox counts U2 members Bono and The Edge as individual investors.

In 2011, Dropbox was named the 5th most valuable startup, trailing Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and Groupon.

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Introduction (from Wikipedia) Box Inc. (formerly is an online file sharing and Cloud content management service for enterprise companies. The company has adopted a freemium business model, and provides 5 GB of free storage for personal accounts. Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by Dropbox, Inc., that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and client software.
Initial release 2005 September 2008
Operating systems supported Windows, Mac, Linux (via website), Mobile (Android, iOS, Blackberry, Kindle Fire) Desktop: Windows, Mac, Linux - Mobile: Android, iOS, Blackberry, Kindle Fire)
Online Document Editing Yes Yes
Storage space 10 GB to unlimited storage, depending on plan 2 GB to unlimited storage, depending on plan
Pricing Free to $15/mo. Enterprise-level users receive custom quote according to their needs. Free to $15/mo.
Focus B2B (selling to business customers), enterprise collaboration; has expanded to include personal users. Historically B2C (selling to consumers), online backups for important files; has expanded to include businesses.

Contents: Box vs Dropbox

edit Plans and Pricing

Both Dropbox and Box offer different plans for personal and business use, and segment business use into small clients (classified based on the number of users) and large, enterprise customers. Both services also offer a free tier, with Box offering 10 GB on personal accounts versus Dropbox's 2 GB (expandable to 16 GB when introducing new users to the service).

Other options and customizations to Box or Dropbox plans may be available. Prices and storage tend to be negotiable. Both companies have sales reps and customer service departments.

edit Dropbox Storage Costs and Plans

Dropbox offers free accounts with storage up to 2 GB, with free ways to increase storage up to 10 GB. Pro accounts start at $9.99 per month for 1TB of space and remote wipe access. Dropbox for Business pricing starts at $15 per user, per month, with larger companies able to seek a customized quote for services and users. There are no storage limits for business accounts, and file recovery is unlimited on Dropbox.

edit Box Storage Costs and Plans

Box offers personal users a free account with 10 GB of space and a file size limit of 250 MB, but expandable to 10 GB storage and a file size limit of 5 GB — based on referrals of new users — substantially more compared to Dropbox.

Business accounts on Box are as follows:

Plans and pricing options for Box as of February 2015.

edit Viral Growth for Dropbox

Dropbox grew virally by offering an incentive to its users where they could increase the free storage available to their account by referring their friends to the service. For every new user that they refer, users with free accounts get 500 MB of bonus space, up to 10 GB.

Dropbox also gained major traction with users as developer communities used or modified Dropbox's API to create add-ons (most unauthorized by Dropbox) to do things such as sending files directly to Dropbox from Gmail, managing BitTorrent files, syncing IM chat logs, and even hosting websites.

edit Apps and Syncing

One of the advantages of Dropbox is the availability of software to sync a user's files. Dropbox software is available for Mac, Windows and Linux, as well as iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone access. For all these platforms, the software creates a special folder on the computer, phone, or tabletthat is then synced with Dropbox. Anything placed in the Dropbox folder automatically gets uploaded to Dropbox servers and is available on other devices using that account.

Box provides such software only for Mac and Windows, with Linux access still in the works (although a hack for Linux is available). Box sync software was only available for business accounts, but is now available for personal accounts as well. Box Sync can now upload folders and offers more flexibility than earlier versions. However, many users point to Dropbox as the easier, more flexible file uploading interface.

edit Other Features

Other features are where the distinction between Box and Dropbox and their primary focus become more apparent. With Box, the focus is on enterprise collaboration. So Box offers features like email notifications when new files (or new versions) are uploaded, comments on files, expiration dates on shared files and delegation (users can create sub-accounts and control their privileges). Versioning is another capability that is more well-developed with Box than it is for Dropbox. The Box service has built a platform that allows other business app developers to write apps (that customers can then "install") that help customers in their workflow while leveraging Box at the backend to store files, manage user identities and messaging.

Dropbox for Business has added features, such as collaboration and shared file history, that were once exclusive to Box,.

edit Document Viewing and Annotation

With its acquisition of Crocodoc, Box now offers users the ability to preview documents (Word, PDF, etc.) online. Crocodoc also lets users annotate these documents from their browsers without the need to install any additional software. Editing the source files still requires users to download the file to their computer and open it via an appropriate editing program. But annotation can suffice for a large number of enterprise collaboration needs.

Dropbox now offers viewing and annotation of shared files in their Pro and higher plans and online collaboration via their web app.

edit Document Creation

In September 2013, Box announced Box Notes, which allows Box customers to create simple, shared documents. While the service was primitive at launch, Box indicated their ambition to enable content creation through their service, in addition to collaboration and management of content.

edit Version History and Recovering Deleted Files

Dropbox's feature for retaining version history and deleted files is called Packrat. It costs $39 per user per year for Pro accounts and is included free for Business and higher accounts. Deleted files and old versions retained in Packrat do not count towards storage. Without the Packrat feature, Dropbox retains all deleted and earlier versions of files for 30 days.

Box offers free version history retention for Business and Enterprise users.[3]

edit Security Features

Box has a better toolset for enterprises to manage security and access controls for users. While both Box and Dropbox support SSO, or single sign-on, integration with a company's main identity system (such as ActiveDirectory), Box offers additional fine-grained control features such as the following:

In August 2014, Dropbox announced new security features for Dropbox Pro (their paid service) including:

edit Encryption

Data uploaded by the Dropbox client software is also encrypted before it is uploaded to Dropbox servers. Dropbox stores files on Amazon's S3 service. The company encrypts files with 256-bit AES before transmitting them to Amazon's servers via an SSL connection. However, Dropbox employees can decrypt these files, as can the Dropbox system.

Box only stores encrypted files for enterprise users. Box also uses 256-bit AES encryption and, just like Dropbox, Box employees and systems can decrypt stored files.

When using either of these services to store confidential or sensitive information, it is advisable to encrypt files using software such as TrueCrypt before storing them online. Box or Dropbox will then encrypt your encrypted files but will not be able to decrypt them to get at the actual data.

edit For Enterprise Customers

Dropbox originated as a consumer-oriented service but is now trying to penetrate the lucrative enterprise market. However, Box's offerings to business customers are more mature. From a comment on a Hacker News thread in January 2014:

As a customer of Dropbox for Business, I can confidently say they have a long, difficult road ahead of them here. The way they've defined their concepts seems hostile to the very things businesses need in a product. Even being a company that spends 50k a year gets you next to nothing wrt feature requests or support outside of what would be given to a free user, aside from speed of reply. If you want any level of control over data and sharing, you're sent over to "sookasa", a shambles of a business, or you can look at non-recommended solutions like boxcryptor (an incredible product that unfortunately carries it's own administrative overhead). If anyone from Dropbox is reading this, the things that make my life the hardest are:
  1. removing shared folders from a user's account. (Impossible unless your IT department controls every shared folder in your organization. Difficult & time consuming if they do)
  2. Deleting a corporate account from all devices, removing folders. (Impossible)
  3. Offering any sort of encryption (need to use 3rd party, unreliable)
  4. Managing/reverting changes. Terribly ugly, difficult, and time consuming process. It's bafflingly inefficient, and in an organization of any size clueless or new hires are going to create these problems on a weekly basis.
  5. Management and reporting APIs don't exist.

edit Dropbox Security Controversy

Dropbox has had several issues with security, ranging from misleading users on the company's ability to access their files, to password breaches and hacked accounts. In July 2014, Edward Snowden called Dropbox "hostile to privacy" and suggested that users who wanted to ensure the privacy of their cloud-stored files switch to SpiderOak. Possibly in response, Dropbox has announced it is developing a user-selected encryption model similar to SpiderOak's.

Part of the controversy may stem from Dropbox's decision to add former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to its board of directors. Previous advisors had included former national security advisor Stephen Hadley and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, partners with Rice in the consulting firm Rice Hadley Gates LLC.

edit Training

Box offers well-designed training modules for new users who are getting started with their service. This is useful, especially for business users working with the collaboration, file sharing, and workflow applications within the Box ecosystem. The Dropbox tutorial is limited to a PDF with simple examples.

edit APIs and Integration With Other Apps

Both Box and Dropbox provide APIs that let app developers integrate their apps with Box/Dropbox cloud storage behind the scenes. This includes mobile apps and desktop apps, as well as web services. Examples include PhotoEditor (iOS and Android) and DocViewer (iOs, Android and BlackBerry).

Several apps that integrate with Dropbox are consumer focused. They allow users to store files in their Dropbox account. With Box, the initial focus of apps was squarely on the business side — Box integrates with business applications, such as Salesforce, Outlook, and Google Apps. Their growing list of integration partners is an advantage for Box for business users. But new consumer-focused interface options allow Box users to customize access from smartphones and tablets with ease.

The OpenBox API allows developers to integrate Box with applications and web sites. There are over 60 services that connect content to and from Box via its API. Box applications can provide the following functions:

Dropbox provides the following API functions:

In July 2014, Dropbox doubled its syncing speed for large files. The new function was motivated by the frequent use of the storage service, which was estimated to have over roughly 300 million users and accounted for about 0.3% of all Internet traffic worldwide. According to OPSWAT, Dropbox accounted for 33.8% of the worldwide cloud storage market in 2014 and 47.9% of the worldwide backup client market.

Last edited on March 11, 2015.

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Comments: Box vs Dropbox

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Anonymous comments (3)

March 25, 2014, 5:14pm

love dropbox

— 76.✗.✗.61

March 21, 2014, 6:18pm

Been using Dropbox for years, sharing folders with dozens of colleagues. It works great. It's super easy to install and use. Even my least computer-savvy colleagues can install it in minutes. Dropbox also keeps all my files synced across three PCs, and I can access them all from my phone and tablet. It's been one of those install-and-forget-it applications, and now all my files are always available on whatever machine I choose to use.

I'll admit that I haven't used Box in years. It was pretty clunky at that time, so it sounds like it has gotten much better. Still, while I know hundreds of Dropbox users, I have just recently met my first Box user. I work in a research shop and not a highly controlled enterprise environment, so maybe that's an important difference (although several of my Dropbox-using colleagues do work in those highly controlled enterprise environments and still use Dropbox).

It seems to me that if you're after an easy to use system, Dropbox is the best option, but if you need to highly control users' interaction with and access to files, Box works best. Dropbox is more personal, with great handling of photos and videos, while Box is enterprise oriented.

— 140.✗.✗.16

September 5, 2013, 6:24pm

I spent a couple of hours trying to make dropbox work because yahoo won't attach documents any more. Then I had to strangle next door's cat and have deleted, I hope, all trace of dropbox. Feel much better now. I also found another way to do the necessary attaching.

— 92.✗.✗.31


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