A little while back, I wrote an article about the security hazards posed by using Dropbox as your firm’s go-to cloud-based data storage, and why you might want to consider alternatives to Dropbox. While ideal for collaboration and portability of documents, the potential security risks inherent in using Dropbox are significant, unless you adopt specialized encryption software. Other major security issues include that one time when they turned off the password requirement for millions of accounts, stripping them of the little security they had.
Those security threats are made even more serious when you consider that the recent ABA Tech Survey reported that Dropbox was, by far, the preferred cloud-based data storage service for attorneys. Well, again a tip-of-my-hat to the guys over at PC World, as they have come up with a list of four alternatives to Dropbox, ideal for small businesses such as law firms.
1) Spider Oak
Pricing: $100/year for 100GB, $600/month for 1TB (100 users)
Best option for: Security
SpiderOak has a desktop client, available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, through a similar desktop interface as Dropbox. The files are accessible through the desktop client, through SpiderOak’s website, or through apps for Android and iOS, allowing users to be completely mobile.
2) Google Drive
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 option for: Collaboration
Google Drive, another data storage service that is quickly gaining adherents in the legal community, is a convenient, popular cloud-based storage service. Attractive to new users for the amount of storage that comes free, users should beware that there are a few caveats to that number. Your free storage includes your Gmail account and any pictures you’ve stored on Google+. Additionally, you’ll notice that the pricing structure of the storage options don’t get better the more you use it. One MB of storage space costs the same at the bottom and the top of the pricing structure. Start needing a lot of space, and it could cost you nearly $10,000 per year.
However, the built-in tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets are great for editing while mobile and, more importantly, for collaboration. Where Dropbox and other services end at allowing multiple users to share documents, Google Drive allows simultaneous opening and editing of documents with other users, from any web browser. Third party add-ons, including IFTTT automation plug-ins, provide additional functionality where needed.
Similar to Dropbox and SpiderOak, Google Drive operates via desktop client, web browser, or mobile app.
Pricing: $99/year for 250 GB, $149/year for 500GB
Best option for: Affordable Storage
One of the key knocks on Dropbox is that it offers 2GB of free storage, and begins pay accounts at $99/year for 100GB, with no allotment for users who need something in between. Enter Copy, which offers 15GB of storage free, plus an additional 5GB when you download their desktop client (for an extra 5GB free, I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re going to download it). Also, you can earn up to 20GB more by referring others to Copy.
As with Dropbox and the other services listed here, Copy is accessible via desktop client, web browser, or mobile app.
4) BitTorrent Sync
Best option for: Secure Syncing
Ok, in fairness, this one is not like the others, in a way that ordinarily may have disqualified itself from this list. BitTorrent Sync is NOT a cloud storage device, but rather a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol. (Yes, in case you’re wondering, “peer-to-peer” is the term you haven’t really heard used since they shut down Napster.) So why is it here? Well, I’ll quote directly from the guys at PC World: “Even with extra encryption and zero-knowledge privacy policies, data stored in the cloud can be insecure.” BitTorrent Sync is a service that allows the convenience of Dropbox’s sharing protocols, without cloud service vulnerabilities.
By linking up your folders across multiple devices, you are able to transfer encrypted data without the data ever being pushed to an external cloud-based server. Once set up on multiple devices, all you have to do is drop the data into the designated folder and the data will automatically sync between the two (or more) devices.