Hunting for a Dropbox replacement


Dropbox recently announced that free accounts would be limited to three devices. That includes a laptop, desktop, and my personal phone… but there are other ones I want to add. I only ever needed the free tier, so it’s time to look elsewhere.

To be clear, it’s an inconvenience, but I’m not angry with Dropbox for this change. They owed me little as a free user, and it finally gave me the impetus to research alternatives. Encrypted sparsebundles were also a hack.

My wishlist

  • A simple file-sync service that handles merge conflicts and deletions nicely. I’d lean towards a centralised source of truth somewhere, but I wouldn’t be adverse to a P2P approach.

  • Self-hosted, either on my home bhyve, or an OrionVM FreeBSD instance. If I’m putting the effort into moving services, I may as well go all the way rather than substituting with another hosted service that could will change. It also means I can have data encrypted at rest without ugly containers.

  • Integration with a good iOS text editor like 1Writer, and presents a generic enough share for something like nvALT on the desktop.

  • A FreeBSD binary, or source available. And while I’m at it, native macOS and a .deb for my lone Debian box. Qt is fine :).

  • Easily shareable, for stuff Clara and I work on together.

Options I’m considering

  • NextCloud on a ZFS jail or on my bhyve box at home. My experience with the original ownCloud was mixed, but I’ve been told by people who’d know that it’s much improved.

  • Rsync superficially looks like the easiest option, but I can see where it could get messy quickly with lots of different machines.

  • Syncthing looks like the nicest distributed option.

  • Resilio Sync (né Bittorrent Sync) has positive reviews, but I may as well use Syncthing if going down this route.

Let me know if you have any suggestions.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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