Exploring Dropbox alternatives

It’s Christmas tech support season and one of the topics that came up visiting my parents was document storage and sync amongst their 4 unit strata.

They were using Dropbox (maybe all with free accounts?) but it went over the 2GB freemium limit, and people didn’t want to all have to keep paying. There are 4 owners / 3x2 people + 1 = 7 people total. There could be 4 accounts / 1 account per owner.

Or, there could be 1 account shared among everyone, but it feels like that would be bad.

They mainly share binary files - Word docs, Excel spreadsheets. The graphical architectural and mechanical plans of the building. Various legal documents. File sync — where those files are kept in sync on a desktop — seems to be the understood mode of working.

The free option would be personal Gmail accounts and GDrive.

There may be something similar with Office365 but not something I want to recommend. My parents do pay for annual Microsoft Family Plan — which is 5 users and 1TB each. Not sure if free office accounts exist, and generally the Microsoft accounts system is horribly convoluted and will have arbitrary stuff that does or doesn’t work between personal accounts and organization accounts.

I could host Nextcloud accounts on my Cloudron server…but I’m a little concerned about how much tech support I would need to do, given that Nextcloud has a lot of moving pieces. On the other hand, the desktop app on mobile and Mac desktop does seem to just work.

CryptPad / CryptDrive seems worse from a usability perspective.

SyncThing is definitely too complicated from a UX perspective. It syncs fine… but the interface and setup is not something non technical people can deal with.

Maybe just Surfer with a password. Would still need to get some of them setup with WebDAV.

Something like a mailing list with some file storage might be ideal, or a simple project management system for keeping track of things around the strata.

The old free version of Basecamp would be a fit. But not something I want to recommend any more. Redmine does file uploads but is a complicated software centric PM tool.

I think a wiki would be too complicated — especially if the focus is on lots of files. Confluence does file uploads but they’re mostly page centric. Same with MediaWiki, DokuWiki, WikiJS, Bookstack, HedgeDoc, Outline - page centric not file centric.

And after all that, maybe Nextcloud is the best 1-to-1 replacement for Dropbox.

And indeed, looking at AlternativeTo Dropbox, Nextcloud comes out on top.

Other Hosted Services

From AlternativeTo, here are a few others:


Proton Mail now has Proton Drive. The family plan right now appears to include 15 email addresses / 3 custom domains / 3TB of storage for $24USD/month.

Not open source or self host able.


It’s been requested as a Cloudron app.

There is a third party packaging proper Docker files GitHub - ggogel/seafile-containerized: A fully containerized deployment of Seafile for Docker, Docker Swarm and Kubernetes.


Hosted solution from 3€/month. It is open source AGPL and some language around self hosting, but doesn’t seem very simple.

Request thread for Cloudron


AGPL front end that can be self hosted. Point it at places where files are stored and access all through a browser.

Doesn’t do sync.

Cloudron request

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Rosano suggests MEGA for its generous free plan Pricing - MEGA

@boris@cosocial.ca more generous free plan from MEGA Pricing - MEGA

i’ve been using it some years for a partial secondary online backup, interfaces have been ‘designed’, i never open it in the browser because decryption takes too long

Rosano / Strolling: "@boris@cosocial.ca more generous free plan from M…" - Mastodon

Do you want to take the blame for issues?

I’d push the cheaper of Dropbox/Gdrive and stay out of it.

They hit the free plan limit of Dropbox which means everyone (7 people) would need to upgrade to a paid plan.

They ended up with GDrive which has more storage with free GAccounts.

This generally would be a repeated pattern: an organization or group of 6-15 people (arbitrary size grouping here) who would be at $60-$100 per month for some service.

another approach might be to downscale - do all those people really need all those docs? Do they need to co-manage frequent changes to those docs?

Yes, they do, because that’s how they think about accessing it: files on disk that are up to date and synced.

I can come up with all sorts of work arounds but (as you said) support is an issue.

Nextcloud’s synch I’ve been using and seems to work well for the basic “Dropbox” use case for just binary file synching (eg don’t care about any web app features other than basic folder sharing).

I thought there would be more options!

Coming back to this a while later: was Nextcloud the answer?

Yep. Nextcloud is the most viable Dropbox alternative.

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