Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review : Dropbox

I recently came across a new file sharing service called Dropbox. The service is currently in beta and comes with an optional client side software which makes working with the service really simple.

The service comes with a 2GB space limit for free usage, with plans for providing more storage at different pricing options. The site is really easy to use and pretty fast (they have made good use of AJAX to make as few page refreshes as possible). The single, most prominent, differentiating factor between dropbox and the other tons of file sharing services out there is the desktop app that comes with the service. A folder is created as part of the local file system and works just like any other local folder : you can seamlessly drag and drop files and folders into the dropbox folder and the changes will be synced to their servers and eventually to other users connected to the shared folders. If you have the system tray icon running, you will also get notifications anytime your dropbox folder contents are changed by other users.

This desktop app makes it really easy to work with the service and cuts down on the learning curve. This folder contains 2 sub folders by default : Public and Photos. The public folder is supposed to contain the files and folders that you want anyone to be able to access. For each file in this folder, dropbox generates a link which can be sent out to anyone (Even non-dropbox users) and they would be able to access the files. The Photos folder represents a photo gallery. Each sub folder in here will become an album on the web interface and you can drop any photos within these folders. The service has been built on top of the incredibly useful Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3).

Here are the pros and cons of the service in my view :

Pros :
  1. The web interface is really fast and easy to use, complimented nicely by the desktop app, making the service extremely user friendly
  2. The site uses SSL for transferring any content over the Internet, making the process safe and secure
  3. Dropbox supports all 3 major OSes : Windows, Mac and Linux
  4. It uses the "Delta sync" technique to sync the files and folders. What this means is that the entire file isn't uploaded every time it has been changed. Only the parts that have been changed are uploaded thereby saving precious bandwidth and reducing syncing times

Cons :

  1. The storage limit of 2GB is pretty limiting, specially if you are planning to store images and audio/video content
  2. It doesn't handle conflicting changes really well currently, taking only the first change and requiring users to manually resolve conflicts

Overall, I found the service really useful and simple to use. Instead of trying to implement too many features, the dropbox team has given importance to simplicity and they have come up with a service which does minimal things, but does them really well. I would definitely recommend people to at least give it a try, at least I am going to keep it installed and will use it whenever I need to share stuff with my friends. It is much easier than going to a website and uploading files from there and sending the resultant links through email.

Let me know your experience with the service and what you liked/disliked about it


  1. dude.. howz security handled -authentication n authorization??.. coz u said tat a link is generated and anyone(inc. non drop-box users) can access that link.. so tat becomes an issue right..

  2. Overall security is handled by using SSL for transferring content between your machine and their server. As for the link generation part, this happens only if you want to make the folder public hence, the issue of link becoming easily accessible is the use case and not an issue IMO