|At a glance|
|Product||Dropbox Dropbox () [Website]|
|Summary||Dropbox is one of the premier cloud storage providers, but not without quirks.|
|Pros||• Industry leading OS support and integration.|
• Good mobile support.
• Flexible sharing options.
|Cons||• Files shared with you subtract from both parties' quotas.|
• Integration at file system level can cause accidental deletion of files.
• Lack of permissions management.
Typical Price: $10
Dropbox is one of the original collaboration and sharing cloud-based storage vendors. In my previous review of Dropbox, I described the different account levels and features, but to recap, account options include:
• A free 2 GB account.
• 50 GB for $9.99/month or $99.00/year.
• 100 GB for $19.99/month or $199.00/year.
Dropbox is all about sharing and collaboration between individuals. Integration in Windows Explorer is well thought out, with context-sensitive menus that appear when right-clicking on a folder inside the designated "Dropbox folder". This folder is placed inside your user's home directory by default but can be moved by changing a setting in the local client. Mac users have similar integration within finder, and the web interface provides the same control and is also easy to navigate.
One of Dropbox's major selling features, transparent OS integration, can also be its biggest annoyance. When utilized in a shared environment, users can easily drag and drop files out of the Dropbox shared folder. This represents a deletion from Dropbox and thus the service will sync the deletion across all shared folder instances.
If this occurs unnoticed, restoring the file requires a trip to the website, which shows user activity for the particular folder and account. The opposite is true when a large zip file is accidentally unzipped inside the Dropbox folder — the unzipped files will be propagated across all synced clients.
Another frustrating part of Dropbox's design is that shared folders "double-dip" quota space. This means if I have a 5 GB folder that I share to someone, Dropbox will allocate 5 GB from their quoata as well. This becomes particularly problematic with team-based collaboration.
Thankfully, Dropbox does listen to their users, and a product is in beta that is geared specifically for teams. This product implements the concept of "shared quotas" to alleviate "double-dipping". Hopefully, this offering will also improve file permission support, since currently all users with shared access can modify and delete files, and can also invite additional users to share the folder without the folder owner's consent.
Access, Support, Security
Dropbox has good mobile integration, with dedicated applications for all the major smartphone vendors, and a mobile-oriented website for any older models that cannot run the dedicated applications. These dedicated applications are basically viewers for the Dropbox stored files, and are tailored to each particular device. This means that Dropbox for iPhone can view PDFs, as an example. The client interface itself is very minimal, as it relies on the OS file browser to handle file moves and copies within the Dropbox folder.
Support is available through online forums or through a ticket submission process. Dropbox has a feature called "Votebox" which allows users to post feature requests and have the community at large vote on them. This has produced features such as allowing direct linking to a file in a Dropbox account.
Files are encrypted utilizing AES-256 encryption before being transferred over a SSL encrypted connection. All files are stored encrypted and thus are inaccessible by Dropbox staff unless they are provided with a user's account information. It is important to note that files are not stored encrypted on the user's local hard drive, so it is important not to share data with people you don't trust.