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Online backup: Dropbox alternatives

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28th Feb 2013
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Having been lured into online storage through the Dropbox consumer service, an increasing number of AccountingWEB members are now looking for more robust alternatives. Rachael Power rounds up advice on the options available.

Dropbox made a big impression in this thread from last year, but some of the objections raised during that debate may have struck home.

In several more recent Any Answers posts, members have been sharing advice about other remote backup services. There’s no shortage of alternatives for those looking for online backup, security and more. This article presents a digest of the top suggestions.

In one recent thread, AccountingWEB member Marky narrowed his choice down to three options: Sugarsync, Justcloud or Mozy Pro. The balance of comments went in favour of Sugarsync, based on the site's daily email updates on backed up data, automatic synching and “last five” version history. On another thread, duncanphilipstate said he preferred Sugarsynch as you can with your existing folder structures, along with simple sharing with varying levels of openness.

Sugarsync

Marky opted for Sugarsync, which offers 5GB of free storage with TLS encryption, in contrast to the 2GB of unencrypted space available with Dropbox. Sugarsynch automatically synchronises your local files with the online back-up and suports free Android and iPhone apps. It also lets you synch via email.

IRIS OpenSpace

Last year, tax and practice software supplier IRIS targeted the Dropbox tendency with its OpenSpace online storage facility. Starting with a free 1GB of annual storage, OpenSpace is designed as a service for accounting professionals and includes links to the rest of the IRIS Accountancy Suite so that you can save reports directly into the online portal via a Print menu option. OpenSpace now also includes an electronic approvals mechanism.

The response from AccountingWEB members is generally positive. “Used the e-approval function the last couple of weeks for tax returns and it proved invaluable,” commented jm66. “The team like the integration with Iris itself and the simplicity of uploading documents.” According to Paul Scholes, another OpenSpace enthusiast, IRIS is planning to add multi-person approval, so all client contacts can be asked to approve documents electronically in a single upload.

DocSafe

DocSafe is another possible contender suggested by AccountingWEB members. Prices for the service start at £50, and it comes with endorsements from paperless office expert Kevin Salter and AccountingWEB member Cloudcounter, who commented: “Clients can log in to access their documents and it works very well at reasonable cost,” the member explains. “You choose the names of directories, and can restrict access on a directory by directory basis.  For example, you can set up a subdirectory for each director for personal affairs and those directories can be viewed only by the director concerned.” Paul Scholes, however, noted that the £25 a month "Lite" version did not come with document authorisation, which is only available with the £50 a month Pro version.

Google Drive

Gameplan however opted for Google Drive for its integration with other Google products.

“Rather than back things up the cloud, I tend to just work in the cloud,” he said, adding that this method has the advantage of easy sharing without having to think about backing up files. Google Drive is free, available across all devices and also provides 5GB free, multiple-author in-document editing. There is an option to upgrade to 25GB for around $2.50 per month.

Dropbox

Despite receiving the thumbs down from chatman and DMGBus, Dropbox continues to be used by many accountants, because clients are comfortable with it. Dropbox offers users 2GB of free space, or up to 100GB for an additional monthly cost. The service lets users ‘drop’ files into a special folder on a PC, and can allows access by authorised individuals via the Dropbox website, smartphone or iPad.

The free account offers a 30-day history of files, allowing even deleted files to be resurrected, while subscribers will be able to access longer file histories. While it was flavour of the month in this thread, Dropbox was barely mentioned in recent online backup discussions.

Cubby

The online backup of choice for Peter Saxton is Cubby, which charges £50 per year for 100GB of storage. Free storage is up to25GB and includes a user-held encryption key, unlimited direct sync, a 1GB reward per referral, multi-openness sharing and desktop app. The only reservation held about the software was its slowness to load, according to Peter Saxton.

Justcloud

Also mentioned was Justcloud, which member bazy2k favoured. “I’ve had nothing but a smooth, reliable service that’s integrated into my office well,” they said. Automatic backup, data being recoverable from a central location, a simple interface and staff satisfaction of the system were some of the positives they mentioned.

Unlimited devices, unlimited cloud storage space and multiple platform use are some of the other features mentioned on their official website.

Lindenhouse Virtual Cabinet

If you want to go up a step and use online storage not just for sharing client documents, but for all your internal files too, then the Virtual Cabinet from specialist developer Lindenhouse is worth considering. According to thelma65, Virtual Cabinet from Lindenhouse, which "is very impressive and seems to be better linkeed together than most". The Virtual Cabinet portal works in tandem with the Lindenhouse Document Management application and was the first to include electronic authorisations. When users send a file requiring client approval from the document management system to the portal, it emails the client a link  with instructions of what to do. 

PracticeWEB Secure Document Exchange

PracticeWEB's  Secure Document Exchange (SDE) comes at the problem from another direction, as a client portal module you might host on your PracticeWEB-powered website to provide online access for clients to their tax and accounts documents. It's not strictly designed to host all their practice files and working papers, but is a contender if you are particularly in sharing and storing client documents securely online.

There are many more options to consider when it comes to cloud storage, with the emphasis for accounting professionals on ones that are secure, reliable and come with large storage space. Follow the links below to see suggestions from previous discussions and articles on this topic. And we will continue to monitor members' suggestions and keep you up to date on the most likely candidates.

What cloud storage options do you use and recommend?

Further reading

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Replies (13)

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By brianheg
28th Feb 2013 11:34

Engyte

We use Egnyte, which is a very good product.

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By thelma65
28th Feb 2013 11:46

portals

yeah - i have gotta say the virtual cabinet offering is a far more rounded solution and really integrates back well into the virtual cabinet package!

a must see if you are looking at going down this route!

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By Damon Warr
28th Feb 2013 13:19

Mega?

I have been following developments of the new Mega which promises 50gb free and all the information is fully encrypted.

Its in beta at the moment.

If they can get some good desktop / mobile apps developed it should do well.

 

The only downside I foresee, is that they get targeted by the FBI again.

 

On that front, what is to stop that happening to any site, including Dropbox?

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By pauljohnston
28th Feb 2013 13:38

Docsafe

We have been with them for sometime.  Approvals as mentioned above is a bonus as is the continual improvements and addittions.  In times of trouble you can speak to the boss man, I have spoken with him but never had any trouble.

 

First class product

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Nigel Harris
By Nigel Harris
28th Feb 2013 13:52

US vs EU?

Damon touches on a good point - in fact, are there not data protection issues in storing personal data outside the EU? Indeed, are you comfortable storing sensitive data of any sort overseas?

I assume the cheaper cloud storage options are probably US-based, whereas IRIS, DocSafe and PracticeWEB (I would assume) are probably based in the UK. Is that an issue that bothers anyone, or is it all just down to cost?

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Replying to Matrix:
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By Damon Warr
28th Feb 2013 15:02

Encryption and Data Protection?

nigel wrote:

Damon touches on a good point - in fact, are there not data protection issues in storing personal data outside the EU? Indeed, are you comfortable storing sensitive data of any sort overseas?

I assume the cheaper cloud storage options are probably US-based, whereas IRIS, DocSafe and PracticeWEB (I would assume) are probably based in the UK. Is that an issue that bothers anyone, or is it all just down to cost?

Nigel,

Good point on Data Protection.  I was not thinking of client personal data, but other may do so. 

I am no expert on data protection, but if data is fully encrypted can it be held outside the EU?  My point is that the key to decrypt the data is witin the EU and therefore, no identifable data has actually been transfered out. 

I don't know the answer to this.  Any comments? 

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
28th Feb 2013 13:54

Vested interest?

Apologies if I'm wrong thelma65 but given this post (and others) are you not a representative of Virtual Cabinet?

If so then I think it's only right you make it clear.  Certainly the quote attributed to you in Rachael's article as well as your own comment above gives no hint.

Again, apologies if I'm wrong, but members need to be sure who they are relying on when deciding on products & facilities.

Thanks (3)
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
28th Feb 2013 14:20

@nigel

With regard to the US v EU question, I've been a Dropbox user for years and thoughts of where its sited as well as who can have access (eg the FBI) has not been a consideration. 

Then over the past year a couple of clients in the IT industry as well as one not, have commented on both issues, plus the EU Data Protection issue does seem to be getting a lot of air.

Whilst it's not yet as omnipresent (can't think of a better word) on all my kit as Dropbox, although I believe it mght be in time, Iris OpenSpace sorts this out for us and so all our sensitive docs will be shared on there from now on, especially now the electronic approval is up & running.

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By John AJ Ellis
28th Feb 2013 23:45

Dropbox alternatives

Why does Dropbox need any alternatives. It painlessly backs up files and allows access to them from any computer with minimal setup including iPads.

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
01st Mar 2013 00:40

Not really comparing like with like

John - I know what you mean, Dropbox is a gem.  My Dropbox has replaced my docs and when I'm dashing out to a client I just drag & drop the client's folder into dropbox on my work machine and it's there on my laptop ready for the meeting, which has saved me several times when the internet connection is not good enough to log in to our hosted system.

It also syncs with my phone and the public photo gallery is great for sharing with friends and family.  I also get 4.75 GB free.

But, it doesn't link with my Iris database and whilst I share folders with some clients it doesn't have electronic approval of documents and some of my clients are iffy about having their personal stuff up there.

Whilst the article is a great summary it's not really about, as the title contends, backup. I have a bit of a green thing about having static data sitting on spinning disks 365 days a year and so I don't use Dropbox or OpenSpace for backup. 

In reality the facilities above are a mish mash of backup, holding spaces and collaboration and it's the latter where I think the value is going to be, in having the ability to do more than upload & download. And if, the EU storage/encryption and level of security issues do become more important, or a legal consideration, then firms will migrate towards specifically designed collaborative facilities.

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By SimonColeHamilton
01st Mar 2013 16:30

Conflicted copies

Dropbox is great, but when working on files with clients it is all too easy to end up with conflicted copies.

Does anyone know of an alternative to Dropbox which will lock a file when someone has it open so that only one person can update it at a time?

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By BrettDaren
03rd Jun 2013 14:11

Dropbox Alternatives

Dropbox is highly regard as one of the best online backup service provider. As a technology geek i have used it for long time. But now i realized after analyzing that some providers are quite competitive and can match the excellence of dropbox. I used some of the following online storage providers mentioned in this list. http://www.cloudreviews.com/cat/cloud-storage.html      But still in the intial phase as only used free versions of them. But certainly the future looks different of online storage industry

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By surferride
13th Sep 2013 17:03

If you need a lot of Storage Copy is a good option
I actually like a lot Copy, works very similar like Dropbox but they are giving 20 GB for free and 5 GB for every person you get to register with your own referral link. No joke, I already have 1.5 TB of free online storage. I find it really stable, fast (I am in Switzerland) and you can drag and drop shortcuts to sync the destination folder, something Dropbox is missing since a long time. They are relatively new but their parent company is Barracuda Networks who has a long well respected history in IT Security.This review explains more about it and has links to get 20 GB for free too: http://www.itcentralpoint.com/copy-com-a-fantastic-online-storage-and-sy...

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