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How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone?

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Evie Harrison
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Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage services, which allows not only to store files and share them but also to work jointly with them due to the simple and intuitive interface. In this article, we’ll tell you how much the development of a Dropbox clone might cost and what’s necessary to create such a website.

What the development cost depends on?

Project complexity. These three factors have the greatest impact on the cost of the creation of such cloud services as Dropbox: the complexity of the soft, the developer’s location, and the tech stack. As for the software complexity, this is about the number of features and the depth of their development. In terms of this criterion, the soft is usually divided into a simple one – takes up to 400 hours, moderate – 400 to 800 hours, and complex – 800 to 1500 hours.

The difference between simple, moderate, and complex soft is easy to understand by comparing the capabilities of text editors of Microsoft: Notepad, Wordpad, and Word. In the case of the creation of your own Dropbox clone, the simple soft will only allow you to store data in the cloud, the moderate one – will add the possibility of synchronization and joint work, and the complex one – all current features of the original and main competitors.

Developer’s location. This factor is important because developer's average salary may vary greatly in different countries. Specifically, a developer's average rate in the USA is $95 per hour, Western Europe — $67 per hour, Eastern Europe — $32 per hour. Interestingly, despite such a wage differential, the quality of work of a programmer from the USA and Ukraine is the same. Microsoft, Apple, Dell, IBM, and other American IT companies often take advantage of this and give a part of the development of their own projects to outsourcing to «cheaper» countries.

Here is how much the development of the soft of different complexity costs depending on the developer’s location:

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone

Tech stack. This is a set of tools that are used during the development of software and websites. It consists of software applications, frameworks, and programming languages. As for the cloud service Dropbox, it was originally created on the basis of Python programming language and Amazon S3 storage system. In 2014, this project transferred all crucial infrastructure elements to Go. In 2016, it was transferred from S3 to its own data storage system named Magic Pocket. Dropbox website works on CoffeeScript (JavaScript was in use until 2012).

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone

The development cost of a Dropbox clone

The launch of such a service as Dropbox consists of several stages: sector analysis, interface design development, direct coding, testing, promotion, and maintenance. Here are their estimated cost and description.

Market research

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone

What factors the users pay attention to when choosing cloud storage. Source

You have two options when creating your own Dropbox clone. The first one is to copy the original’s design and functionality. People use this option if they want to enter the market with no competitors quickly. In other cases, they conduct a market analysis first to understand which product the potential users will like and which product will allow you to stand out among the competitors.

The cost of such research depends on its depth:

  • Top-level report — $100-1000. It’s a surface scan of the target market with the help of public sources: statistics and marketing research. The report of this level allows specifying the target audience’s preferences and competitors’ pros and cons.
  • Complete market report — $1,5-8 thous. This is a deeper market study using public marketing and statistical data as well as your own surveys of users and focus groups. Such an approach makes it possible to determine the needs, pain points, behavioral patterns, and demographics of the target audience, and reasons for competitors’ success/failure.
  • The detailed market report on the product — $15-35 thous. In-depth research of the target market, which in addition to the above makes it possible to see promising niches to launch your own startup. Besides, this report usually includes an analysis of trends, which exist and which may arise, and their possible impact on the market, competitors, target audience, and target niche/sub-niche.

Website design development

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone

A design roadmap of the Dropbox app. Source

If you just want to copy the design interface of Dropbox, it won’t take a lot of time – about 50 hours. Using the average hourly rate of designers ($50 per hour) as the base, the cost of simple cloning of Dropbox's design will be $2 500.

As we’ve already mentioned before, this approach will only work if you want to enter the market with no competitors.

If you’re planning to enter a highly competitive market, you should bet on a particular niche and develop a design interface customized to it. On average, the creation of a similar design takes 200 to 500 hours:

  • Frame development (UX) — 50 to 140 hours ($2 500 − 7 000). The development of mock-ups of a user interface, where the user paths and the key design elements are schematically represented. The main purpose of the frame is to visualize the design structure of cloud storage to see and optimize the user paths.
  • Creation of mock-ups (UI) — 100 to 200 hours ($5 000 − 10 000). The purpose of mock-ups is to visualize the app in the form that the end users will see it in so that developers can see what they have to carry out in the coding of the product. Besides, the mock-ups are useful for attracting investment for early-stage start-up financing.
  • Creation of a prototype (UI) — 40 to 150 hours ($2 000 – 7 500). Development of interactive prototypes of all screens of a Dropbox clone, where all buttons, animation, and transitions are working. Due to that, you can find defects, which were previously unnoticed and receive more accurate feedback.

Implementation of main features

It takes 500 to 1500 hours or $25-$75 thous. to implement the main features of Dropbox in your clone. Here’s the list of these features:

Sign up, log in. To use the capabilities of Dropbox, the user has to sign up, enter his first name, last name, and email. It’s also possible to create a Dropbox account with the help of the Google account. During the registration, the user has to install the app on his computer or smartphone and provide it with access to the read-only memory of the device and set it up.

File storage in a cloud. It’s the main feature of Dropbox, which will work as an ordinary folder on your computer or smartphone after the app installation. Depending on subscription and settings, data can be stored only in the cloud or both in the cloud and on your device.

Electronic signature with HelloSign. It’s also possible to synchronize your account on Dropbox to your HelloSign account to send files for a signature and affix signature, without leaving the workspace of Dropbox.

File backup. It enables to synchronize data on your computer with the cloud; for example, to create a backup of all the documents, a separate program, or an operating system as a whole.

Security and confidentiality. The service uses SSL / TLS to protect internet connection and data transfer, and the data at rest is encrypted with 256-bit advanced encryption standard (AES). In addition, the users have the possibility to enable two-factor authentication.

Photo uploading to the cloud and viewing them. Besides, Dropbox makes it possible to upload pictures taken with a smartphone straight to the cloud, which saves a lot of space on the device. These pictures can be made public and provided to users without registration.

Joint use of content. This feature allowed Dropbox to stand out among the competitors. The thing is, you can enable the possibility of joint data management on the cloud – of all at once or of separate folders. It’s very convenient if you need to create an analog of a local network, but you don’t want to spend time and money on the purchase, installation, and equipment settings in your office.

Apart from the joint file management, Dropbox also has:

  • Dropbox Paper — a set of tools for joint work, which allows to write and edit documents, hold discussions, brainstorm, analyze projects, manage tasks, and organize meetings. Dropbox Paper is available only in the browser and smartphones.
  • Connection to Microsoft Office and Google Docs. It’s another option of joint work on texts, only in this case, the file is saved in the Dropbox cloud storage as well.
  • Integrations with Slack, Trello, Zoom, and Atlassian.
  • File exchange.

The service’s code testing

Bug fixing — 25% of development time of the whole project. After a Dropbox clone is implemented in code, QA specialists need to optimize it and eliminate errors and bugs with special software.

Manual testing — about 10% of development time. This testing is performed by simulating end users’ actions. In other words, QA specialists are doing what the ordinary user would be doing. In the case of the creation of a Dropbox clone, it's uploading files to the cloud, file transfer, joint work on files, and the like.

User testing — from 50 hours. After the project team eliminates all errors, which are detected by QA specialists, a small number of end users have to test the software product — alpha or beta testing. It’s usually done while limiting the number of registrations.

Platform promotion

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone

Website maintenance

Domain cost — $10 to $3000 per year. The final amount depends on the domain zone. Besides, you need to consider the possibility of the domain purchase if the needed domain zone is already taken. The purchase price in this case might fluctuate from $50 to several million dollars.

Hosting — $10 to $100 000 per month. Most likely, you’ll be using servers of Google, AWS, Azure to store files for your users. The cost of their rent depends on the storage capacity. It’s best if you connect to a floating package, where the rental costs depend on how many resources you used this month.

SSL certificate — $70 to $300 per year (on godaddy). Browsers and anti-viruses will mark your site as an insecure one without this certificate. It’s required to protect the connection between the website and the users.


How Much Does it Cost to Create a Dropbox Clone? key takeaways:

#1. What the development cost depends on?
#2.
#3. The development cost of a Dropbox clone
#4. Market research
#5. Website design development
#6. Implementation of main features
#7. The service’s code testing
#8. Platform promotion
#9. Website maintenance

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Evie Harrison
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