Moving from Dropbox to Google Cloud Storage (GCS)

Dale Humby bio photo By Dale Humby

I’ve been a longtime Dropbox user, the first file I uploaded was in 2009. Back then the service was simple–Files on your local hard drive sync to the cloud, and all other computers you log in to with Dropbox get the same set of files. It was marvelous when working across a work and home computer, and made hard-drive failures less of a disaster. I encouraged everyone I knew to sign-up because I believed in the service. As a bonus I got a few hundred megabytes of space added to my account for the referral.

In 2011 I became a paid user. They provided a service which I loved and was willing to pay their reasonable fee.

The Dropbox of today has alienated me. Even though I am a long time paid user I am pestered to upgrade to Business. I will never upgrade my business to Dropbox, because 1) that decision is not mine to make, and 2) we rely on G-Suite for documents, and don’t need file sync; and if we used MS Office then we’d use One Drive. I am an Apple user and rely on iCloud for backups and photo storage.

Then in 2019 Dropbox announced their price increase from $ 99 to $120 per year, or R 2,300. They justified this increase by doubling the storage space from 1 TB to 2 TB. I didn’t need the extra space: I use 60 GB, or only 3% of the total 2 TB space.

The demise of Dropbox (for me anyway) has been a long time coming, and this was the final push I needed to move my Dropbox files off of my laptop SSD to long term archival storage.

I’m familiar with Google Cloud Storage, Google’s equivalent of Amazon S3, as I use it daily at work. My use case is not to sync files between machines, I only want to backup the content, and so won’t be accessing it often.

I chose the Archival storage class (the cheapest per GB, but costs more to access and to delete early), in a single region (I don’t need high availability, if the files are unavailable for a few minutes to hours that is not an issue for me), in the us-central1 region, the cheapest region. (In general US is cheapest, Europe is more expensive and Asia-Pacific and South America are the most expensive.)

Bucket configuration

In total my bill is 7 USc per month for 60 GB or 86 USc per year of storage, far less than even 1 cup of coffee, and minuscule compared to $120 that Dropbox wanted to charge me.

A small gotcha is the cost for Class A and Class B operations and network bandwidth: It cost me about $ 10 to upload all the files. This is a once-off cost.

The command I used to copy

gsutil -m cp -r -n . gs://<your bucket name>

Where

  • gsutil is the Google Cloud Storage command line program, installed with the GCP SDK
  • -m is multithreaded copying, much faster than single threaded. It’ll max out your network connection
  • -r is recurse (in to directories)
  • -n is ‘no clobber’, i.e. don’t override if the file is already there. Allows you to restart the copy and skip over files that have already been uploaded.
  • . is the current directory (Dropbox)

I’ve safely deleted my local Dropbox folder freeing 60 GB of my 128 GB SSD, and deleted my Dropbox account forever.

For cloud sync I am using a mix of

  • Google Drive ($2 per month for 100 GB)
  • iCloud (<$1 per month for 50 GB)

where I can pay for smaller increments instead of forced to pay for 2 TB.