In case you’re out of the loop and still haven’t owed any of the dozen “CoolGuy87 invites you to join Dropbox” emails lingering in your inbox, all he wants is for you to join the best-established file syncing and online backup service free-99 can buy. iPad Dropbox creates a folder (aptly called Dropbox), the contents of which it backs up to its own cloud server and syncs to any other device on which you’ve installed the Dropbox client. The first 2GB of storage are free, and the only reason not to take advantaged of the 8GB extra you can pick up through referrals is that you probably don’t know 32 people who don’t already use Dropbox. That’s good news of course, as swapping any number of photos, music, documents, or whatever is now as easy as sharing a folder with them.
When you run out of Storage though-and you will run out-you’ll have to decide if an upgrade to 50GB is worth $9.99/month. Given Dropbox’s simplicity and ubiquity, it might be. But there are alternatives with more features that, depending on your needs. Could be less expensive or totally free.
Something ought to be said about Cloud. Apple’s new foray into online cloud storage. A stock feature of iOS 5. iCloud is a more enticing service than MobileMe ever was (because it’s free [and better]). It’s so well integrated with the operating system-straightforward to set up and requiring no further maintenance-that there’s almost no reason not to clack up your contacts, email and calendars with the service.
At least for now though. iCloud’s file syncing doesn’t even compare to Dropbox. Pages documents won’t open directly from iCloud for editing on your Mac; only pictures taken In the last 30 days will appear in your Photostream; and (pending the release of the $24.99/year service iTunes Match) iCloud only syncs music and TV shows that were purchased through iTunes, with no support for movies at all.
As a painless data backup tool iCloud is great and offering a more basic free version of MobileMe is definitely a step in the right direction for Apple. But with such limited functionality it won’t replace Dropbox any time soon.
As with Cloud, Evernote isn’t meant to compete with Dropbox. Rather, it’s a note-taking web app that promises to help you “remember everything”. While Evernote may not replace Dropbox. It could replace every reminder email you’ve ever sent yourself, every notebook of recipes or song-lyrics you’ve ever kept, every grocery- or to-do-list you’ve ever written.
Your notes—whether they’re brief lists, a photo you took with your smartphone, or the full text of a New Yorker essay are organized into discrete “notebooks“, with a tagging option to make them searchable.
They’re backed up to Evernote’s cloud servers, so they’re always available at evernote.com, but the app’s real strength lies in its robust desktop end mobile apps, available for any device you can think of (except maybe that TI-83+ you bought for high school math). Evernote also boasts plugins for every major browser, so ”clipping” rest selections or entire pages straight to a new note is a breeze.
If Sugarsync’s “Magic Briefcase” sounds a whole lot like Dropbox, that’s because it is. The services aren’t entirety identical: Sugarsync will back up and sync with various folders anywhere on multiple machines, whereas Dropbox requires tweaking and 3rd-party software to pull off the same. SugarSync’s media streaming features are more often compatible and better integrated with mobile platforms. Dropbox features LAN syncing for devices on the same network SugerSync doesn’t.
The different as pretty much end there though, so for rnust purposes Sugar Sync’s main distinction is pricing Accounts start with 5GB of free storage, and pall upgrades are cheaper then equivalent Dropbox plans across the board. A smaller user base means sharing files might not be quite as simple as dropping them in a shared folder, but unless your job has you locked in to a paid Dropbox plan SugarSync is worth looking into.
Another alternative to Dropbox, Spideroak’s specialty is security. Not only is your data encrypted: it’s encrypted using a password you set that never leaves your devices. If you were freaked out by Dropbox’s security lapse last June (during which, anyone could access any Dropbox account), you might want to make the switch.
Spideroak isn’t as simple as Dropbox, and its iOS app isn’t as powerful as SugerSynr’s. But with free accounts starting with 2GB of storage and an entire extra gigabyte for each successful referral (up to a possible 50), you might never need to pay for cloud storage again. Even if you do, Spideroak is way less expensive than Dropbox or SugarSync. It you don’t already rely on Sugarsync’s mobile app, or if Dropbox just felt too dumbed-clown for your taste, Spideroak could be lust the thing.