Dropbox and Box (formerly Box.net) 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 and launched an IPO in January 2015. Dropbox has raised over $760 million. 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.
|Introduction (from Wikipedia)||Box Inc. (formerly Box.net) 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.|
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.
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.
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:
- A starter plan for 3-10 users at $6 per user per month. This plan offers 100 GB of storage and a file size limit of 2 GB, with a 25 version file history.
- A business plan for 3 or more users at $17 per user per month with unlimited storage, a 5 GB file size limit and a 50 version file history. The business plan allows 24/7 access to learning (video tutorials) and consulting services.
- The enterprise plan varies in cost (contact Box for a quote), offers unlimited storage and a 100 version file history. Some industries have preset configurations for operational ease.
- The elite plan offers the same as enterprise, plus customization and licensing of the Box API for further applications. Contact Box customer service for a quote.
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.
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.
Dropbox offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android that automatically uploads the photo gallery from the phone to your Dropbox account in the cloud.
Box offers an app — Capture — that lets business users capture photos for their business workflow and upload directly to the cloud without having to save it on their device. Photos can be uploaded to specific folders, triggering any workflows associated with that folder. The uploader can also tag and notify any members of their team when uploading a picture.
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,.
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.
DiCOM in Healthcare
The standard format for medical images is DiCOM. Box now offers an HTML5 viewer (which means it works on all devices and modern browsers) for displaying DiCOM files. This is a big differentiator for the healthcare industry. Box is already HIPAA-compliant.
Box also offers a 3D viewer that supports all of the major 3D file types — FBX, OBJ, Collada, 3DS, STL, and PLY.
Both Dropbox and Box support streaming and previewing video files from the browser without having to download the entire video first. However, Box offers an experience that is closer to Netflix in that streaming begins quickly and the quality of the video preview adjusts according the to the user's available bandwidth at the time. The result is there is no frozen or jagged video when viewing high definition (1080p) quality files because playback automatically adapts to variable network speed.
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.
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.
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:
- Extra login security: if a user logs into Box from an unrecognized IP address or uses a browser on an unknown (to Box) device, it will ask the user to validate the login request via email.
- Admins can select users and groups for external file-sharing privileges. In earlier versions, the file-enabling was either company-wide or prohibited.
- Admins now have the authority to block or grant access to a user's specific devices.
- In partnership with GoodData, the analytics system now allows companies to see how their employees use Box, for instance, how many documents they're uploading, when they are uploading, and what devices they're using.
- New real-time integration with CipherCloud and Code Green, specialized loss prevention systems. Companies that use highly regulated documents, such as data loss prevention documents, can automatically scan documents for specific information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, then apply their privacy and security policies to restrict sharing and usage.
- Integration with Samsung Knox, the management platform for mobile devices.
In August 2014, Dropbox announced new security features for Dropbox Pro (their paid service) including:
- Password-protection for links to shared files and folders.
- Ability to set expiration dates for shared links.
- Separation of permissions into edit and view-only for shared folders.
- Remote wipe to erase Dropbox data from lost or stolen devices.
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.
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:
- 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)
- Deleting a corporate account from all devices, removing folders. (Impossible)
- Offering any sort of encryption (need to use 3rd party, unreliable)
- 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.
- Management and reporting APIs don't exist.
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.
Microsoft Office Integration
Recognizing that business customers typically use Microsoft Office to manage their documents and workflow, both Box and Dropbox are trying to up their game in terms of compatibility with MS Office.
Box and Office Online
Box lets you create and edit Office Online files. Office Online is Microsoft's free version of Office. It works entirely within a browser and does not offer all the features of the desktop version of Office. But for most basic uses—including editing, reviewing and commenting—Office Online works just fine. A feature available in Office Online that is missing in traditional desktop versions of Office is collaborative editing. Two or more people can simultaneously edit the same file using Office Online.
Box's partnership with Microsoft lets Box users create, edit and share Word, PowerPoint and Excel files online from within Box's interface. This video and this article provide more information about Box's integration with Office Online.
Dropbox has taken a different approach for Microsoft Office integration. Dropbox desktop software now includes the "Dropbox badge", which is visible when any Microsoft Office application (like Word, Excel or PowerPoint) is open. Clicking on the badge displays various collaborations options, such as a list of who else is viewing or editing the file simultaneously.
Simultaneous editing is not possible with the Dropbox badge. If two users simultaneously edit a file, their versions will diverge. The Dropbox badge lets users know when this happens, and lets them download other people's versions of the file. This video and this article provide additional information about the Dropbox badge and its integration with MS Office.
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.
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:
- File Management – Among the more popular tools developed are ones for editing files, editing pictures directly in Box, sending files in Box as Gmail attachments, syncing files automatically, etc.
- Sharing – Files can be shared via links or as email attachments.
- Collaboration – Groups can work on files together in a secure, password-controlled area.
Dropbox provides the following API functions:
- Sync API – Apps can be synced with Dropbox at any time, online and offline, with multiple attempts (retrying), cache support, and file change notifications.
- Core API – Developers are allowed to integrate Dropbox features, such as sharing, searching, reading, editing, etc., in their app.
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.
- Box - official website
- Dropbox - official website
- Dropbox - Wikipedia
- Box - Wikipedia
- Dropbox for Business launches
- Dropbox pricing (dropbox.com)
- Box and Dropbox on the Blackberry 10 smartphone (YouTube video)
- Dropbox chases corporate customers and revenue - Reuters
- Box strikes back against Dropbox with more security controls
- Developing on the Box platform
- Dropbox API for developers
- Dropbox raises $250 million at a $10 billion valuation - Wall Street Journal (January 17, 2014)
- Box announces Box Platform with new services, a 3D document viewer, and a camera-syncing photo app Capture -- TechCrunch (Sep 29, 2015)