By Steve Alexander

Q: When online storage service Dropbox started out, it was good for storing data and a useful way to share files too large to be sent via the e-mail systems of the time. But now e-mail systems can carry bigger files, and online storage is available from several companies at relatively low rates. In addition, Dropbox limits free users of its app to a maximum of three devices, even though many people now have more than that. Is there any reason to continue using Dropbox?

— Stan Kaufman, New Brighton, Minn.

A: Dropbox was one of the earliest online storage services when it began 14 years ago. Some critics point out that Dropbox now has large competitors, such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon. Those larger companies can afford to offer more free storage in order to attract customers to their other, for-pay services (see

Others say that Dropbox will do well because it has found a niche by offering easy-to-use software that makes worker collaboration simpler (see

What does this mean for consumers? If you’re looking strictly for free online storage, Dropbox is not for you. Dropbox will give you 2 gigabytes of online storage for free, but Microsoft will give you 5 gigabytes and Google will give you 15 gigabytes.

But you need to judge an online storage service by more than how many gigabytes you get for free. Because, sooner or later, your storage needs will outgrow the free services. For example, I have taken literally thousands of iPhone photos. I pay Apple’s iCloud service $3 a month to back up those photos online at full resolution, or sharpness. That requires about 130 gigabytes of storage space, far more than any online storage company would give me for nothing.

If you, too, eventually need to pay for more storage, Dropbox prices are competitive with those of the bigger companies. For example, Dropbox offers 2,000 gigabytes (2 terabytes) of online storage to a single user for $10 a month. Google offers the same storage at the same price (although it also has cheaper plans with less storage). Microsoft offers 100 gigabytes for $2 a month, and Amazon Photos offers 100 gigabytes for $1.70 a month.

So, does Dropbox have a future? Probably. It just won’t offer as much free storage as the other cloud services.

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