Dropbox has slowly but surely nested itself as the go-to tool for a lot of file sharing and syncing, as well as coordinating apps over devices.
At the same time I always tried to do as little as possible with Dropbox (although I am a paying customer), but I never seriously looked for an alternative until the past days.
There are several reasons to stay away from Dropbox:
I’d rather use a European service that adheres to European data protection regulations, and preferrably to more stringent national ones where they exist. I’ve taken a look at several possible alternatives.
All have their own drawbacks so it is a decision on how to balance loss of ease with increased security. SpiderOak is in the US and otherwise similar to Wuala, so that one is out in comparison to Wuala. Strato HiDrive does not provide meaningful syncing services so after a quick test-run of their paid for services I cancelled that again. Their company and data centers are in Germany which has strict data protection laws, which counts in their favor.
JottaCloud looks interesting in terms of features, although it seems to fall short in working with teams e.g. With the company and data center in Norway they are under a favorable legal data protection regime, but encryption is missing.
Wuala, incorporated in Switzerland, is owned by LaCie (incorporated in France) which in turn is owned by Seagate (incorporated in Ireland). Their data centers are geo-redundant and in France, Switzerland and Germany. Although that looks good on paper Seagate HQ is in the US, placing Seagate under the Patriot Act, and thus Wuala ultimately too. Wuala for the desktop requires Java, which is a bad thing. Their encryption and syncing however are a plus, as is the ability to work in teams.
OwnCloud is an open source solution you run on your own server. On the plus side this gives you full control, including checking the source code. It does mean maintaining your own server which is not for everybody, or alternatively renting a server elsewhere. The latter basically only pushes the selection question down from choosing a syncing service to choosing your server infrastructure. (although it may be easier to find a well protected server, than a syncing service)
For now I have started using Wuala, as it is at least two steps up from Dropbox because of its encryption and their data centers in Switzerland, Germany and France. Their service is not ‘patriot act proof’ (and they know it, judging by their consistently vague and indirect answers in support fora), but the encryption helps address that. Of course there is no real way to check their encryption either.
The purpose here is not to have a perfect solution, but one that is better than Dropbox on a few aspects, while not losing a lot in terms of ease of use. Next to Wuala, I will keep a Dropbox account for some app integration and to receive files from others that use it. I just don’t want to use it (and never have) for parts of my own business files.