No matter what kind of business you’re running, having the ability to share and manage your documents in the cloud — making them accessible by anyone you choose and anywhere — can be a valuable tool. If you aren’t using this type of tool yet, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it after using it for a few weeks.
You can securely share documents through one of the best cloud document management systems (cloud DMS), determining exactly how end users can use the documents, such as whether they have the ability to view only, edit, or something in between. You also can collaborate on projects and set up groups that have access to the files and documents involved in the project.
Two of the best cloud DMSes are Dropbox and Box. Because they have similar names, choosing between the two can be a little confusing. Although they do have a similar feature set, enough differences exist in the Box vs Dropbox comparison that we do have a recommendation for the majority of customers: Dropbox.
Our Recommendation: Dropbox
For the average user, we believe Dropbox will be the better choice. Admittedly, the two services have very similar features and prices, so it’s tough to go wrong with either one. (In other words, if you’re already using one, we don’t see a significant reason to switch to the other.)
Dropbox’s main advantage in the Dropbox vs Box debate exists in its versatility and ease of use. Dropbox has a history in providing service to consumers, so it is able to serve small organizations and large enterprises equally well, rather than focusing more on large organizations.
We like the fact that Dropbox is widely used around the globe, carrying several times more users in its customer base than Box (although not all of these users are businesses and organizations). We believe Dropbox has an excellent value, too, as its most popular tier carries a stronger price point and slightly better features than what you’ll find with Box’s most popular tier.
Dropbox has significantly upgraded its real-time collaboration tools over the past several years, making for a better experience when teams are looking to work together on a project.
Finally, for those who often deal in uploading and sharing large multimedia and database files, Dropbox is the better selection.
When to Select Box Instead
As we mentioned earlier, Box isn’t without its strengths. If you prefer Box, that’s understandable. Box certainly has some areas where it outperforms Dropbox, including:
- Stronger security: where Box carries more security features and requires users to set up stronger passwords than what are found with Dropbox.
- Cheapest tiers: where Box has the lowest priced overall tier for business use in this category, as well as a lower priced tier with unlimited storage versus what Dropbox offers.
- Business-only focus: where Box has always focused its service on businesses and organizations, staying away from the consumer market, while Dropbox started with service to the consumer market.
Key Features to Compare in Box vs Dropbox
Here are the key features for these two cloud document management and data storage products. We’ve also selected the winner within each featured category between the two brands (or selected a tie) when taking into account the needs of the majority of customers.
We give Dropbox a slight edge in pricing, primarily because the most popular tier on Dropbox (Advanced tier) carries a better price point than the most popular tier on Box (Business Plus tier), despite similar features (with a slight edge in features to Dropbox Advanced).
For those who need to save money above all else, Box is the winner on pricing, as it has the lowest priced tier offering with its Starter tier. Even though this tier is extremely limited in terms of its feature set, it is available for those organizations that don’t have the budget to handle other tiers. Dropbox doesn’t really have a comparable low-priced tier.
Additionally, Box gains the edge in pricing for those who are seeking the lowest priced tier that has unlimited amounts of storage, as Box’s Business tier carries unlimited storage at a strong price point.
However, we believe that for the majority of organizations, the popular middle pricing tier is where they will land, which gives Dropbox the overall edge in terms of price.
Here are the pricing options for Dropbox:
- Standard: $12.50 per user per month with 5 TB of storage
- Advanced: $20 per user per month with unlimited storage
- Enterprise: Must call for price quotes
You can test out the Standard and Advanced versions during a free trial. Dropbox also has a Professional version aimed at consumers, but this is not a business version, as it does not offer administrative features or collaboration features.
Here are the pricing options for Box:
- Starter: $5 per user per month with 100 GB of storage
- Business: $15 per user per month with unlimited storage
- Business Plus: $25 per user per month with unlimited storage
- Enterprise: $35 per user per month with unlimited storage
You can try any of these four tiers during a free trial period.
Dropbox has long held the lead in this category, as users can access their Dropbox accounts on almost any device. The Dropbox brand works on a desktop computer running Windows or Linux just as easily as it runs on a mobile device running iOS or Android.
Box has caught up to Dropbox in this area, as it also offers very strong offerings in apps for mobile devices running iOS or Android, as well as for Windows desktop formats. However, Linux users will need to use a client app to make use of Box.
In our Box vs Dropbox comparison, we’re not going to ding Box too much for this issue, though, because the vast majority of users won’t see this as a problem. But for those who rely on Linux, Dropbox would definitely win this feature.
Ease of Use
Dropbox has an interface that many people are already familiar with, having potentially employed it for personal use at some point over the past several years. Its interface keeps things simple. Sign up for an account, and you can begin using it immediately.
Box has a nice interface too, but it’s not quite as easy to use as Dropbox. Box’s extra security features (more on this later) make using it a little bit more time consuming than Dropbox.
Both Box and Dropbox have good customer service features, should you ever need them. (By the way, if you like to access customer support through Twitter, Dropbox is the clear winner.)
File Size Uploads
If your organization often deals in multimedia files that are large in size, Dropbox is the clear winner. Starting in its mid-priced Advanced tier, you can send files up to 100 GB in size.
Box caps file sizes at 5 GB for all of its tiers, which is significantly limiting when you often deal with multimedia or huge database files.
Focused on Business
The Box service only focuses on business users, as it does not have a tier dedicated to consumer users, as Dropbox does.
Both brands spend a lot of energy and focus on businesses and organizations now, though, so this may not be as big of a deal as it was several years ago, when Dropbox had a far larger segment of its user base in the consumer level.
Dropbox does embrace its consumer users, though, as it works to serve both individuals and businesses well. Some people believe this draws some of Dropbox’s attention away from fully serving its business users.
If you believe having a focus on businesses and organizations is an extremely important aspect of choosing among these two, it is worth noting that Box started with a focus on business users. Dropbox, meanwhile, started with a focus on consumer users, so its business user focus has been added to the service, rather than being native to it from the start.
Business users have come to demand real-time collaboration on documents through Google and Office 365, so this feature has become a must-have among all kinds of business software. While neither Box nor Dropbox are perfect when it comes to delivering real-time collaboration, both services have made nice strides in this area in recent years.
Dropbox uses Dropbox Paper as its real-time collaboration feature. It allows users to work together on a project by offering features like document creation, simultaneous editing, to-do list creation, chat, and synching of files across devices. Create a folder for the entire team, and you can store everything in it using Dropbox, which simplifies the organization of your project.
Box has a similar feature, called Box Notes. It also works for project planning, allowing users to take notes on the project and to share them with everyone involved. Simplifying the ability to collaborate on ideas during the planning phase is another strong feature of Box Notes.
One of the reasons why Box is a little tougher to use than Dropbox is because Box has a greater level of security integrated into the interface, meaning users have to jump through a few more hoops than with Dropbox during day to day usage.
For example, Box typically forces users to create stronger passwords than Dropbox. This may seem like a little thing, but it makes a difference in whether random hackers can use a brute force attack to guess a password in Dropbox versus Box. On the flip side, those in your organization using Box may complain about having to try to remember a really tough password.
However, if you need the best possible security from your cloud DMS in the Box vs Dropbox debate, you’ll be willing to have to follow the extra steps that Box requires.
Both brands give the administrator extensive control over how file and document sharing occur. Setting up encryption for particular files is an easy process. Box has slightly more extensive encryption capabilities versus Dropbox, offering the ability to encrypt documents when stored and while in transit to another device.
Both Dropbox and Box enable data protection through AES-256 encryption, which is an outstanding level of encryption. Administrators can set up two-factor authentication for users in both services, which adds a level of security, in case someone has his or her password stolen.
Box gives you the ability to secure your shared links with passwords that have an expiration time, which keeps them protected nicely.
Dropbox gives administrators the option of limiting users from sharing certain files with those from outside the organization or from outside the approved team, if you’re working on a collaborative project. Box, meanwhile, allows any licensed user to share files with other licensed users. As an administrator, you can determine whether your Box users have the ability to share documents and files with those outside the organization.
Speed of Synchronization
Dropbox basically invented the process of synchronizing files between devices, and the Dropbox sync feature allows slightly faster performance than what Box offers.
Now, the overall speed you may experience will depend on the quality of your equipment and the reliability of your connection to the Internet. So if you have a high speed, reliable bandwidth Internet connection, you probably won’t notice Dropbox’s slight advantage, because both services will seem to work really fast.
For this reason, we’ll call it a draw. Very few people will actually notice the slight difference in speed of synchronization in Box vs Dropbox.
User Base Size
Sometimes when trying to decide between any two products, you can debate back and forth, but you continue to struggle to make a choice. In that case, it may be smart to go with the more popular product, counting on the knowledge and wisdom of the overall customer base to help you decide.
In this case, the winner is Dropbox. The user base group of more than 600 million users for Dropbox is extremely impressive.
Box claims more than 8 million users in about 100,000 different organizations, which is no slouch. It just doesn’t match up to the widespread use of Dropbox.