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Dropbox IPO prices: Cloud storage lures investors but its deal isn't best for consumers

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LOS ANGELES — Dropbox hopes to make a mint on Wall Street with its new IPO.

But consumers looking to strike the best deal in cloud storage would not want to begin with Dropbox. It has the least liberal terms among the big five, which also include Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. 

And online backup firms BackBlaze and Carbonite both offer online storage for lower fees. 

Cloud storage has become a big issue for consumers in the digital era, as our phones fill up with more data and email programs have limits to how much data can be attached.

Physical hard drives haven’t become more reliable and are known to eventually crash, so many consumers turn to cloud software to both move files to friends and clients and to back up in a more secure setup. The big companies save files to multiple servers, which ensures their safety. 

Dropbox got its start with consumers, but entries by behemoths like Apple and Google into online storage pushed the San Francisco company to focus on business’ storage needs, competing with Google, Microsoft and Box. 

The IPO is expected to be one of the biggest tech IPOs since 2017’s Snap, Inc. raised more than $3 billion. Dropbox, which begins offering shares Friday on Nasdaq under “DBX”,  priced its IPO at $21 a share, according to the Wall Street Journal, over the expected range. 

That values it at about $9 billion, or under the $10 billion private valuation in 2014. 

Dropbox says it has 500 million users, but those are primarily people with free 2 GB accounts. Only 11 million people pay Dropbox for the premium services.

For Dropbox, consumers are “a loss leader,” says Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moorinsight Strategy. The company “expects to make money from enterprise.”

Rivals tout big numbers for their services as well but don’t quantify the paying customers.  Google says it has 800 million users of Drive, while Apple says it has 782 million users of iCloud. Microsoft and Amazon haven’t revealed numbers. 

Like many new tech companies, Dropbox has yet to turn a profit. It said it lost $111.7 million in 2017 on revenues of $1.11 billion.

Steve Koenig, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, says for Dropbox to be successful on Wall Street it needs to profit from its consumer history and convince enterprises to sign up for the paying service.

“That’s the easy part,” he says. “The more difficult part will be building the sales model and learning how to do enterprise selling.”

Both analysts see Dropbox locked in a battle for enterprise with Microsoft and Google, primarily. But these two corporate giants won’t turn their backs on consumers, they say, because they need to bring in to use their products such as Gmail and Windows. 

So take a deep breath everyone — you’ll still be able to get some free, entry-level storage, for now. 

Here’s how they compare: 

Dropbox 

Offers 2 GB of free storage, or $120 yearly for 1 terabyte of storage in the Dropbox Plus plan. Another service targeted to pros, Dropbox Business, offers 2 TBs for $150 yearly.  

Google Drive

Offers 15 gigabyte (GB) of free storage (split among Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos) or $120 yearly for 1 terabyte (TB) .

Apple iCloud

5 GB free, or 2 TB for $120 yearly. Doesn’t offer the 1 TB option. After free, goes to 50 GB for $12 yearly, or 200 GB for $36 yearly. 

Amazon Drive

5 GB free, or $59.99 yearly for 1 TB. Note that Amazon recently changed its offering, which had been unlimited storage for $59.99 yearly. 

Microsoft OneDrive

5 GB free, or $69.99 yearly for 1 TB. Also comes with a free subscription to Office 365, which allows for online use of Microsoft programs such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel. 

The cloud storage services are all about sending large images and video files to friends and clients, and some use them to back up their data as well. 

The others

For pure backup, BackBlaze charges $50 yearly for unlimited backup, and Carbonite is $72 yearly for unlimited backup to one computer. 

So who has the best deal for cloud storage — Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft?

That’s an easy question with a complicated answer. 

— Apple gives you more storage for the lowest fee — 2 TB at $120 yearly.

— Amazon has the lowest price for 1TB — at $59.99 yearly.

— Google is the most generous with free storage — 15 GB free.

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham

 

 

 

 

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