The 3 Best Self-Hosted Dropbox Alternatives, Tested and Compared

Kris Wouk 03-04-2019

For years, Dropbox has been the mostly undisputed king of cloud storage. Unless you’re heavily invested in another ecosystem, Dropbox’s free storage offers more than enough for most people. Slowly but surely, however, the company’s free offering is becoming less attractive.


In March of 2019, Dropbox quietly introduced a limit on how many devices you can use with a free account. Whereas before there was no limit, now you only use three devices on a free account. For many people, this may not matter, but for others, it’s a sign that it’s time to look at other services.

What Does Self-Hosted Mean?

To put it simply, you can download and install any of the services on this list on your own server. If you’re concerned with privacy, hosting your own Dropbox alternative is a major bonus. It’s also important if you want to be certain that your data won’t disappear without warning someday. Your own experience might tell you that self-hosting apps can save you money Start Hosting These Popular Web Apps Yourself to Save Money All web apps come with privacy and security risks. Why not host some popular apps yourself? Let's look at the pros and cons of hosting important web apps on your own Read More in the long run too.

Of course, there are downsides to this. If you install one of these on your own server, you’re responsible for all the maintenance. You’ve also only got yourself to blame if your data does missing.

1. ownCloud

ownCloud user interface

ownCloud launched in 2010 and was one of the first self-hosted Dropbox alternatives to really take off. While the service initially focused solely on cloud storage, it has scaled up its offerings dramatically in recent years.


From cloud storage to synchronization, ownCloud can do pretty much anything Dropbox can. It supports large files, automatic folder synchronization, and file access control. If you’re concerned about privacy, ownCloud also features support for end-to-end encryption.

It doesn’t matter whether you use Windows, macOS, or Linux, as ownCloud is fully cross-platform. This means it has a client available for Android and iOS devices as well. Unlike desktop clients, this isn’t free. No matter whether you use Android or iOS, you’ll pay $0.99 for the ownCloud app.

What Else Does ownCloud Offer?

Cloud storage and sync is just the beginning. With ownCloud you also get the Collabora online office suite. If you’re looking for an alternative to Google Docs, this isn’t as full-featured, but it might be all you need.

There’s also a marketplace with a variety of add-ons for ownCloud. These include a basic text file viewer, blood pressure tracker, an ebook reader, and more.


Will ownCloud Stick Around?

In addition to the free, open source version that ownCloud offers to individuals, it also features a version for enterprise users. This gives ownCloud an income stream to keep work going.

Does this guarantee that ownCloud will be around forever? No, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to use it right now.

2. Nextcloud

Nextcloud user interface

Nextcloud is a fork of ownCloud with many of the same features, plus plenty of its own. One key difference is that while ownCloud has a commercial offering, Nextcloud is an open source project. If you want to ensure that your free cloud storage stays free, that’s an important distinction.


While Nextcloud is fully open source, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an enterprise option. The service offers a subscription-based enterprise product that makes migration easier and grants priority access to security updates. It also includes support and assistance to make using the service easier.

Like ownCloud, Nextcloud offers clients for any platform you may use. This includes Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Unlike Nextcloud, the mobile versions are available free of charge.

Since Nextcloud is based on ownCloud, many of the third-party apps for ownCloud also work with Nextcloud. This includes software like CloudNotes, a notetaking app for iOS. You can’t count on this working in all cases, but it can be useful.

What Else Does Nextcloud Offer?

Like ownCloud, Nextcloud features an office suite. By default, this is Collabora, but you can use other options as well. If, for example, you want to use OnlyOffice instead, that’s entirely possible. NextCloud also offers its own App Store that lets you add all sorts of different functionality.


If you don’t want to run your own server, Nextcloud makes finding a free Nextcloud host easy. The amount of free storage space varies from provider to provider, but many of them offer more than the 2 GB of free space Dropbox offers.

Will Nextcloud Stick Around?

Nextcloud has an enterprise option, just as ownCloud does. It also has a very active community. This alone has kept plenty of projects going in the past, so it’s likely that Nextcloud will be around a while.

3. Seafile

Seafile user interface

Seafile is actually older than ownCloud and by extension Nextcloud, but it never seemed to gain the same level of popularity. As it focuses mainly on storage, it’s the least full-featured option on this list, but it makes up for that in speed.

Over the years, Seafile has actually gained a reputation for being faster than ownCloud or Nextcloud. This is going to vary wildly based on your server and other factors, but if you frequently sync large files, it’s worth keeping in mind.

Like ownCloud, Seafile offers a free option and a paid option. With the paid option of Seafile, you’re mainly getting support. Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Android, and iOS. All of them are free.

What Else Does Seafile Offer?

As mentioned above, Seafile focuses on storage alone, so you won’t find an office suite. What you do get is advanced file versioning and snapshots. You also get client-side end-to-end encryption if you want it, which is nice if you value privacy.

Will Seafile Stick Around?

Seafile is already a long-running project, and it doesn’t seem that the developers intend to change this any time soon. As it is fully open source, the project should remain viable as long as there are developers to maintain it.

Which Is the Best Self-Hosted Dropbox Alternative?

All of these services offer compelling reasons to use them. Even so, Nextcloud should be the first option you consider. Not only does it offer the most features, but with free hosts available, you can easily try it out before you commit.

It can be difficult choosing the cloud storage company responsible for your data. While you can set up your own server to host one of the above services, it’s not for everyone.

That said, it’s nice to know that if something goes wrong, you can fix it if you have the knowledge. If you are interested, take a look at our list of the best web hosting companies.

If you’d rather stick with a big name but want to look at options other than Dropbox, that works too. Curious about your options? We’ve got a comparison that shows how Dropbox stacks up against Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More .

Related topics: Cloud Storage, Dropbox, File Management.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Franco
    July 13, 2017 at 5:25 am

    There is so many adds, i do not realy know which is related and which is not...

  2. Cosmin
    January 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    I was wondering if any of this solutions is good for multiple users opening same file. I mean if one user opens a file and then another user wants to open the same will deny second user to open the file or it will update the file with the modifications that both user made to the file? If anyone tested this, please help me with an answer. Thank you!!

  3. Alin Pogan
    January 10, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Hi, I recently wrote an article about - Why Should You Use a Self-Hosted Cloud
    Maybe you will find this useful!
    Thanks for this great article!

  4. annie magnum
    September 21, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Practical analysis ! I was enlightened by the details - Does someone know where my assistant might acquire a blank permit search form to fill out ?

  5. Mikael
    April 19, 2015 at 5:40 am

    Just stumbled across something that LOOKS promising (haven't tried it yet):

    Supports most hardware platforms in existence but is still at a very low version number. I'm going to play around with it and see if it worth anything. Seems to lack server-side encryption so that the server admin can't see what data and metadata is stored on his server. Perhaps this will be added in a later version, until then one can use TrueCrypt (not on Windows 8+).

  6. Dhruv
    March 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    I would like to recommend a file sync service "Conduit" for Linux users (unfortunately there is no such service that I know of on windows :( ) as this is one of the best that is available to sync data across multiple services like Facebook, Picasa, Flickr,, Local Folders and custom services too. Check it our at and screenshots at.

  7. hgw
    March 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    I've had good luck with ownCloud, I've been using version 5.x for almost a year on my own DO VPS (as suggested above). No problems. For those not interested in the technical work or maintenance of having your own VPS for ownCloud, there are services available to host an ownCloud instance for you (e.g., - owncloud and email, encrypted, monthly fee).

    Reasons I like owncloud, especially as compared to some of the other services referenced above: open source, open protocols (e.g., webDAV, CardDAV, CalDAV) and no reliance on a central/shared "coordination" server.

  8. Simon
    February 18, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Bitrix24 is probably the best free Dropbox alternative that has both cloud and self-hosted editions. Teamlab is decent too, but it's only has paid plans

  9. Adam
    February 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm


    I think that is the beauty of GetIt Remote. You don't have to worry about storage limits any longer. You choose which folders you want shared from your local box or network and then boom, you can access them through the web or their iPhone/ipad app from anywhere in the world. So in essence you become a local cloud without any additional hardware. It's quite revolutionary in my mind's eye.

  10. Richard
    February 5, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    What about the Transporter (by Connected Data) which is your own hard drive that syncs to all devices and you can share files like dropbox. You connect it to a portable hard disk via USB and hard wire to your wifi.

    Anybody used it? I'm using dropbox for my small business now but running out of space

  11. Mohamed
    January 11, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Ownclouds is not that good. it has a major problem of deleting your files alone!

  12. James Stapleton
    December 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I have used OwnCloud on a debian server with a self generated cert and the IO performance was very slow.

    I currently use Seafile which performs better.

  13. Sajesh
    December 24, 2013 at 11:14 am

    One of the best Dropbox alternative for businesses is Vembu File Sharing which is designed from the ground up to serve the needs of businesses and comes with both Self-hosted and Cloud option. Businesses can choose their deployment option based on their requirement. It has a good blend of being simple and easy-to-use for users and at the same time provides the right level of control and visibility with security for the IT.

    Source with three essential reasons to choose Vembu File Sharing over Dropbox:

  14. Bastiaan
    November 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I believe you could use Tonido to send out acces links for separate files. Although at that moment you are opening your data to a third party.

  15. Acho Arnold
    November 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    @KevQ Bittorrent sync requires you to connect to the internet before it can start the sync
    I have a linux laptop and a windows 8 pc but when I am offline, I get the message
    "no-connected devices"
    if I am not connected to the internet

  16. Acho Arnold
    November 12, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Is there a means to sync my files offline??
    I want to sync files between two Computers which are not connected to the internet

    • Kev Q
      November 12, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      All of these tools provide offline capabilities. When you're offline, simply edit any files you want, and when you re-connect, the latest version will be synced.

      This can cause problems if you are editing the same document from two locations, at the same time, whilst both are offline - but like I said, they will simply sync the version with the newest time stamp.

    • Kev Q
      November 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      If you want to sync between two machine that will never be connected to the internet, then you can use BitTorrent Sync to sync data over your LAN. The two machines need to be on the same network for this to work though.

  17. Andrew Belt
    November 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    rsync has been around since 1996, so I don't see why these other overly-complicated systems are taking any market share.

  18. Josh Henry
    October 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I'm curious about using BitTorrent with a hosted folder on the web. I have an open source ticketing system, OSTicket, where I currently have clients sending us questions etc. One thing they can do is upload files that we need to receive. (for security, I only allow .pdf files).

    I'd like a good way to "share" that hosted upload folder with the PCs on our network in the office so we can access those reports easier than logging in and downloading.

    Your thoughts?

  19. ebricca
    October 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    I was also searching a bit a while ago ..

    for decentralized certainly btsync is great (also git might be abused)

    for centralized i found
    seafile which seems to be great and evolving

    ajaxplorer was actually the one i took as it had tagging of files etc

  20. Rich
    October 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Own Cloud is a massive resource hog. Setup, contrary to your article, is really not that hard at all IMO, but it's seriously inefficient at dealing with lots of files. e.g. upload 4.7Mb in a few hundred files ACCROSS A LAN, on a descent machine took 20mins! Ruled it out for me.

    Aero very interesting offering.

    Going to try BitSync, though, thanks!

  21. Dr Evan Mitchell Stark PhD
    October 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    @Kev: Good article. It never occurred to me that I could do this; I didn't know the tools available. Thanks Kev.

    • Kev Q
      October 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      No problem at all Evan, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. :-)

  22. Patti H
    October 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Wow, great info all. Thx

  23. Igor Ivankovic
    October 16, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Great article, I really love the cloud service, but Dropbox is my prefered choice for I don't have so much images. Maybe in the future I'll go for ownCloud.

  24. Arpit G
    October 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Thank Kev!

    I wasn't able to differentiate between Self-hosted and services like copy. It's clear to me now.

  25. Arpit G
    October 14, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Instead of these..Cloud storage services like Copy, SkyDrive, MediaFire, Box are a great alternative to DropBox. And combined they offer a hell lot of space.

    Then why should one add one of these?

    It's just a doubt that popped in. A brief explanation would be great.
    Maybe i am not able to differentiate .

    • Kev Q
      October 14, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      The point of this article Arpit, is to look at alternatives to Dropbox that you can host yourself. So if you're worried about the privacy of your files when syncing then to Dropbox, you can control the whole process from end-to-end, so you know exactly what's happening to your data, and where it's going.

      The services you mention above are not self-hosted service, so, although they're great alternatives to Dropbox (especially Copy where I actually have over 750GB of free storage from referrals), they're not applicable to the point of this article.

      Hopefully this has cleared things up for you. :-)

  26. Yutao T
    October 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

    I wish there would be more articles like this one. Fascinating!

    • Kev Q
      October 14, 2013 at 8:58 am

      Thanks Yutao, I appreciate the kind words. But to be fair, there are a tonne of amazing articles, from some of the best writers I have ever had the pleasure to work with here on MUO.

  27. Vyk
    October 12, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    to Steve: I am using You have a big soundcloud-community and different options to share your files: on facebook, twitter, (etc.) AND via mail / link. It is very easy to keep (privit or public) or share files.

  28. Steve
    October 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    By "public" I mean a simple web address - not requiring people to type in passwords or install plugins or players. Kind of like a youtube playlist player for audio files.

    • Kev Q
      October 12, 2013 at 6:55 am

      I don't think you could do that with any of these systems Steve, as that's not what they're designed for.

      What you could do with ownCloud, is create an account with a simple username and password, and give that out to the people you want to share it with.

      Having a public music player brings with it all sorts of legal and licensing requirements, so I really wouldn't recommend doing this.

  29. Steve
    October 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Which service would be best for public sharing of music files? (without making others sign up to listen)? I know its possible to use Jotform or EntourageBox to invite people to upload TO my DropBox. Just wondering about the best option to make mp3 or wavs public from there. Would OwnCloud work for that?

    • Vyk
      October 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      to Steve: I am using You have a big soundcloud-community and different options to share your files: on facebook, twitter, (etc.) AND via mail / link. It is very easy to keep (privat or public) or share files.

  30. Shawn D
    October 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I don't see how OwnCloud and AeroFS are protecting your privacy. Granted you are not storing your content on their servers as in Dropbox but your content is still being synced through their service. So they could theoretically monitor and see any and all content you are syncing. The only true way to avoid this is to set up your own personal cloud device at home, connected to your network that you can store your content on. A simple example is the POGO plug devices. Not talking about the service you can buy from Pogo plug but just the device. A friend of mine has one and has external hard drives connected to it and then it is connected to his network. He has multiple folders set up so that his smartphone content is synced to his folder and his family members smartphone content is synced to their folders. You can set up permissions to multiple folders and it is all local. No go between at all. If you are truly concerned about privacy, this eliminates that concern altogether. Unless I am missing something with the other two services you mentioned.

    • Kev Q
      October 11, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      With ownCloud and AeroFS, you data is not going through their service. ownCloud is seflf-hosted, so you manage the whole process, end-to-end. At no point does your data hit their servers, the only server is hits, is yours. ownCloud is also open source, so we know there is nothing funny going on behind the scenes.

      With regards to AeroFS, that syncs in a very similar way as BitTorrent Sync, whilst you can manage folder permissions from their WebGUI, you cannot see the contents of these folders, that's because the data does not go through their servers - it's synced on a peer-to-peer basis.

  31. Humphrey V
    October 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm
    • Kev Q
      October 12, 2013 at 6:50 am

      Synology are amazing pieces of kit, I was strongly considering using Cloud Station instead of AeroFS, but the large cost of a Synology NAS would put a lot of people off I think.

    • Joe W
      October 12, 2013 at 6:56 am

      I'm on Synology as well. Unless you are buying a business class, you can get the setups for a decent price. I think my 4TB ds412+ setup cost less than a Grand. Wouldn't suggest it unless you really want the many other features as well though.

    • Kev Q
      October 12, 2013 at 6:58 am

      A grand is a hell of a lot of money, especially when you consider someone could run up a hosted VPS, and install ownCloud for as little as $5 a month.

      Even I wouldn't pay that kind of money for a NAS.

    • Humphrey V
      October 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      A grand?! A single disk entry level version gives you all the same functions, will be more in the sub $300 region.

    • Kev Q
      October 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Synology are great, they're so much more than a NAS, they're basically a mini server. However, $300 is still a lot more than what most people are willing to pay, especially when they can get Dropbox for a lot less. Nevermind all the awesome wasted features they would be missing out on with Synology.

  32. Daniel
    October 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm


  33. Prasad H
    October 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    What about koding .com ?

  34. EL
    October 11, 2013 at 12:49 am

    If BitTorrentSync would let me sync subfolders to different computers, I'd drop everything else and use it for everything.
    Example: If I have my entire Documents folder synced between my 2 computers, I can't sync a folder that's within Documents with a colleague.

    • Johny Woller Skovdal
      October 11, 2013 at 8:28 am

      Have you tried using Directory junctions ( - with the /J flag)? I think that would work. Create a folder in your root called e.g. "MySharedSyncFolders", and inside simply create directory junctions to all the folders you would like to be able to share individually, and then add those folders to BitTorrentSync. Again, I do not know the service, so it might not work, but worth a shot.

    • Kev Q
      October 11, 2013 at 8:49 am

      BitTorrent Sync will let you sync any folder on your hard drive. So you should be able to sync sub-folders as well as top level folders. The screen shot in the article shows that I am syncing "Documents" from within my Google Drive Folder.

    • EL
      October 13, 2013 at 5:27 am

      @Kev: the problem is when I am syncing the top level folder as well. When I try to add the subfolder, it tells me "This folder cannot be added to BitTorrent Sync. It is a part of a folder that is already syncing."

      @Johny Woller: I didn't think of symlinks. I think I'll try it.

    • Kev Q
      October 14, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Ahhh ok, I'm following you now. So, for example, you have Documents and Documents/Pictures. So you're syncing Documents, and you want to Sync /Pictures separately so that it's accessible to others, without making the root Documents folder available. Do I have that right?

      If that's the case, then, as Johny said, Sym Links should definitely work.

  35. Mihir Patkar
    October 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Great article, Kev!

    For me, the big pull of Dropbox is that a lot of friends and family use it, so it's easier to share folders and files. Do any of the above have a cross-platform kind of usage, where I can use these while others are using Dropbox, and still share files seamlessly?

    My guess would be no, but no harm in checking :)

    • Kev Q
      October 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks Mihir!

      Unfortunately there isn't an app that does this as such, but there is a workaround. What you could do is simply sync your Dropbox folder with any of these services.

      Unlike Dropbox, all of these services allow you to sync any folder from your hard drive. So you could have a "go-between" folder that's synced into both Dropbox, and these services.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      So wait, do you mean I can ask one of these services to sync my Dropbox folder on my hard drive directly with the service, so it's a service(web)-service(local)-dropbox(local)-dropbox(web) link?

      Let's say I do that and my computer is shut down. If I upload a file on service(web), it won't get synced with my dropbox(web) till I switch on my computer, right?

    • Kev Q
      October 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      It depends. For example, if you were using ownCloud, and you used the mobile app, your Dropbox folder and your ownCloud folder would be one and the same. So, if you added a file to your Dropbox folder using either app, it would be synced simultaneously to both ownCloud and Dropbox.

      On the other hand, if you did the same thing, but substituted ownCloud for BitTorrent, then they would still both sync, as Dropbox and BitTorrent are again sharing the same folder. So the file you add would be synced to Dropbox, and and BT devices you have turned on. When you turn your machine back on, the file will obviously sync.

  36. JOnm
    October 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Owncloud doesn't have a mobile layout and the addon mobile script is horrible. BT Sync is great. I havent tried AeroFS

    • Kev Q
      October 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      True, but why does ownCloud need a mobile layout, when it has a mobile app?

    • JOnm
      October 12, 2013 at 12:59 am

      Wheres the Windows Phone app then?

    • Kev Q
      October 12, 2013 at 6:49 am

      With the market share of Windows Phone being so low, I suppose the developers decided that is wasn't worth their time to create a Windows Phone app.

      You could always ask on the ownCloud forums to see if there is one in the pipeline.

  37. Karthik C
    October 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Then i guess the DigitalOcean VPS offering is ideal for this kind of setup.

    • Kev Q
      October 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Definitely, I personally use DigitalOcean for my hosting. Excellent service.