Overview and History
Dropbox has been around for a couple of years and they have done amazing things in that limited of time. I particularly like their VoteBox system which invites you to pick which improvements they work on first: Great idea. They offer three options: 1 free and 2 premium or pro editions. The free version provides 2 Gb whereas the pro editions supply you with 50 or 100 Gb. Backup and synchronizing are straightforward to get going and work constantly in the background making this a true “set it and forget it” utility. The company also offer unlimited file versioning as an option to the pro editions.
Handheld devices are totally supported with apps for iPhone and iTouch and a website for internet enabled devices. Collaboration functions include public and private file sharing as well as commenting on files and folders. With many more features in being developed. Photo albums and video streaming are currently supported. And how is this for customer facing: If you follow the ‘getting started guide’ and complete most of the steps you are rewarded with an additional 250Mb of storage! Excellent! If you want even more capacity, simply invite friends and you get another 250Mb per referral up to a limit of 8Gb.
Dropbox was incorporated by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi back in 2007, and got seed funding from Y Combinator. As of now, Dropbox is well-funded by Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and Amidzad. After launching publicly in September of 2008, they have taken on in excess of three million customers and are growing quickly. They have been featured in the New York Times and on TechCrunch, and have won awards from places like PC Magazine and CNET. Their drive is delivering a program that really delivers and putting it in millions of people’s hands.
DropBox has average security: The web portal is SSL encrypted and you need a username and password to get to your files. File transfers are protected with SSL encryption and once in their data centers, your information is encrypted with 256 AES encryption. Additionally, they use the Amazon AWS service which is supported by the Amazon name and quality stamp.
Always ready and ‘Block Level’ backups are provided to ensure your files are constantly protected. In-use files are archived on a continual basis by using ‘Block level Incremental Backups’ which means that DropBox only uploads the bits of a file that have been changed, rather than the entire file.
Including files and folders to the DropBox backup schedule is really straightforward: Merely select the files you would like to to archive and choose ‘backup with DropBox’. Alternative versions of files are stored so you can always retrieve an earlier edition of a document if you accidentally deleted it. There is a status indicator to show how the backup is progressing.
The bad news is network and removable drives cannot be added to archives and business databases like exchange and SQL server are not supported directly.
Restoring your data is very simple. You have a couple of main choices: Restore from the web portal: log in to your account, navigate to the file you would like to retrieve, then choose how you want to retrieve it. The secondary option is even simpler: Just use the DropBox Manager to get back any desired edition of a file.
Control and Analysis
There are processor and bandwidth throttling available in the DropBox client program. Reports and logging can also be read from the client software. Proxy servers are configurable with options for HTTP, SOCKS4 and SOCKS5.
The interface is uncluttered and easy to use. There are very few options available which keeps everything simple and easy to use. There is client software to install and when configured, the software makes a DropBox folder where all protected files are displayed.
There is currently support for every device under the sun! The way DropBox is designed; if your devices can get access to the internet then they can use and be protected by DropBox.
The web site can only handle file uploads of up to 300 megabytes each however you can get around this limitation by using compression tools like WinRAR or WinZip which permit you to break large files into handier pieces. The limit is not present if you use the client software.
File retention (before deletion) is one month unless you invest in ‘Pack-Rat’ which is available as an bolt-on to the Premium versions and costs an extra $39 per annum and allows you unlimited file versions and file retention.
File Sharing and Collaboration
Data can be shared publicly – which allows everyone to see them – or privately where you allocate access rights to specific files and folders for each user or group.
Photo Albums are also supported and can be shared either publicly or privately.
Comments can be included to each file that is shared and viewers can be permitted to leave additional comments to create a discussion about a particular file or folder.
Synchronization is supported between different devices and between devices and the web site. A really good function is the LAN synchronization. This permits devices on the same network (home or work) to rapidly synchronize changes via the in-house network without going to the internet first. This greatly reduces your internet bandwidth load.
Web 2.0 Integration
At the time of writing, there was no direct integration with online services to allow editing of documents, etc.
There is no telephone, live chat or direct email customer support available. There are however, loads other forms of help available: You can contact support using a web form on their site; there is an extensive knowledge base and FAQ section; the documentation is thorough to a sensible level. There are also tutorials, a demo and case studies available. However, by far the most useful resources for do-it-yourself support are the forum and blog. These are full of valuable advice and support from both the DropBox support crew and clients using the service.
Ease Of Use
Very simple to get setup with: Signup, login, download the program on all your devices and start protecting your files. As of December 2009 there is now a LAN sync feature which is really great. Both the desktop and web interfaces are clear, elegant and easy to use. All things considered a very easy package to use.
- Initial setup: free
- Monthly: Basic: free; Pro50 – $9.99 / mth; Pro100 – $19.99 / mth
- Yearly: Basic: free; Pro50 – $99 / mth; Pro100 – $199 / yr
- Initial allowed storage amount: Basic: 2Gb; Pro50 – 50Gb; Pro100 – 100Gb
- Cost of additional storage: n/a
- Cost of additional devices / PCs / users: n/a
- Referral Program: 250Mb per referral up to a max. of 8Gb
- E-billing facility: Free – n/a; Pro: yes
DropBox is very easy to install and use. It has almost all the features of a complete online storage solution: Backup, Web site, multi-machine synchronization, file-versioning, online photo albums and file sharing. The only feature missing is integration with web sites to allow you to change and create files directly in your DropBox. The pricing is not bad yet there are better options available if you need more storage than 100Gb. The security is very good and the customer support is good, although the lack of phone, internet chat and direct email support is a bit limiting. The forum and blog are great locations to get your queries answered. If you want an all-round online storage solution then DropBox is an excellent choice.