Dropbox is a great cloud storage and now collaborative work solution for SMBs and startups. This is one of the most popular cloud storage solutions for both individuals and businesses and has been in the market even before the big players such as Google, Microsoft and Apple really started leveraging cloud solutions heavily for their user bases. Thus, it is getting up there in age and now competing with the big guns of the cloud space and SaaS. So is it still worth using despite starting out as a small start up in 2007? It depends on what you look for in a cloud service, but I will analyze some of its strengths and weaknesses today.
Dropbox started out small with an idea that at the time did not seem that important to many computer or mobile device users (because being connected online and broadband access was much less prevalent than today): to create an on demand and synchronous storage solution across a wide variety of file types and accessed across all devices. The data or files would be hosted on servers run by Dropbox or its partners and your hard drive space would not be affected. As you may imagine, storing files comes a necessity for security and privacy from eavesdroppers and those who may want to hack our systems and steal our files.
Security & Privacy
In terms of overall security for the more basic plans, whether individual or business, Dropbox relies on connecting to your account via an e-mail address you signed up with. You can even integrate Facebook logins as many other services do and log in that way. Dropbox has a whole section dedicated to security and answering questions on how its security work on its website. When you or someone else signs into your Dropbox account, you will receive an e-mail promptly explaining that says,”we noticed a new sign in to your Dropbox,” and you can verify whether that is you or not thus locking the account and changing your password if needs be. You can also use two-step verification sign-ins and other options for added security.
The Enterprise Plan has a lot more security options — in terms of corporate file privacy and in terms of higher level encryption techniques and firewall options — than the other plans for corporations to take advantage of. According to Dropbox’s business pricing section of its website, the enterprise plan offers “sophisticated admin, audit, integration, and security features.”
Obviously, you will only want to allow access to your files or collaboration through Paper to trusted individuals or co workers. You shouldn’t worry too much as long as you are over a secure connection of your files disappearing or being stolen nor of Dropbox’s servers being hacked, although it did happen at least once previously, so if you are a bank or an enterprise that relies on sharing highly sensitive data, you may not want to rely on Dropbox, but a private cloud solution instead. For most other individuals and small businesses, however, Dropbox is secure enough.
Many companies deal with security breaches from time to time, and Dropbox has not had such breaches occur to my knowledge anywhere like companies such as Yahoo or Sony. Because Dropbox is an enterprise solution that requires the trust of many CEOs and IT teams, it takes personal and company security very seriously. Dropbox even has experts trying to hack into its system, called red team, that recently discovered an Apple vulnerability or zero-day exploit, according to Zdnet.
File sharing and syncing
Dropbox morphed from first just being an online solution to certain files that had to be uploaded individually into offering its users the chance to store entire folders from their computers in the cloud. They can simply save everything automatically in the Dropbox folder on their Mac or PC (after downloading the Dropbox Installer and installing the service) and the files will be available across all devices, including mobile (tablets and smartphones). There is also a separate Dropbox app that can be downloaded to mobile devices where files can be synced into and accessed later on PC or Mac.
Dragging files into the Dropbox folder on PC or Mac is simple and painless. Simply drag a file onto the Dropbox folder or save it there automatically as you export. On mobile, it has improved greatly, with current apps being able to upload files pretty easily. However, it can still be slow to scroll and read longer PDF files. You can also use a browser to access your server that way. This means that even if Dropbox is not available on your device or system or another user is signed into the folder, you can just go to the company’s website to have access to your files. This option offers less features, however, and if you want the full feature rich version of Dropbox it is better you download the installer or the app if you are on a mobile device.
Dropbox also has various options for users to be able to change their settings to their liking, but some of the settings can be a bit quirky or set to defaults. For instance, if your mobile device (iPad in my case) has its language set to another language then English, the Dropbox app automatically changes its own internal language to the same language without giving users the option to change it the way they see fit.
Dropbox comes with a variety of pricing tiers and separate pricing structures for individual users (Personal Plan) and corporations or businesses (Business Plan). The most basic plan, and the one I rely on, is free. It only gives me access to 2GB of storage, however, and Dropbox has the Plus and Professional plans for individuals as well with both plans offering 1TB of storage. The Basic option also lacks most of the other features of the other Individual pricing plans, such as intelligent sync and the ability for you to access your files (sync and load files) on mobile in offline mode. Although I did notice when trying to access files with Wifi turned off that there are some files still accessible by clicking on the small “View offline files” icon.
The corporate Dropbox account is called Dropbox Business and any business can try it out for 30 days free of charge. Its pricing tier costs 10¢ per user for the Standard plan, 15¢ per user for the Advanced plan, and larger enterprises can contact Dropbox for additional tiers. You can find out more about the differences between the Dropbox Business tiers here as the Standard comes with 2TB while the Advanced plan has no storage limit.
Other Noteworthy Features, Collaboration
The really nice feature of Dropbox is that you can click on the lower right of the menu where there is an eyeball icon showing and see your deleted files. You can then bring back those files. This is a very nifty feature for anyone collaborating on multiple files or using one account to do a lot of work where files may get deleted accidentally.
Dropbox even has a collaborative feature called Dropbox Paper that shares many similarities to Google Docs, another cloud service this time from Google that allows its users to work on applications in the cloud collaboratively and store them this way. Dropbox Paper allows users to create documents collaboratively with image and various multimedia insertion possible as well as multiple formatting options. This is a great way to work on a story or article with people across the globe.
To access Dropbox Paper, simply click on the option from your mobile app or head on over to paper.dropbox.com from your PC or Mac. Once you enter the main menu you will realize that there are various things you can do such as create a new document, create a template, or take advantage of Paper’s four main feature you will see on the front section of the navigator. These include a meeting plan, a project plan, group lightning storm (think tank), and importing files from Microsoft Word.
As you see, the options are varied and you can get a lot done in terms of collaborative projects with Dropbox Paper. It is designed to guide groups of users or employees from the starting thinking process to the final document. Dropbox even offers various tutorials and Q&A sections on its website for anyone with questions. In fact, when you click on “create a new document” for the first time, you will be shown a quick welcome video explaining the basics of document creation with Dropbox Paper.
Dropbox is a very nifty service that should service a wide variety of users from individuals to businesses collaborating and sharing files across various devices. It is a service that really was ahead of the time when it first launched in 2007 and started expanding, but now it has many rivals such as Google Drive (launched in 2012) and Apple’s iCloud (2011 launch) as well as rivals such as Box.com. Thus, Dropbox is still useful and continues to expand in features, with Paper for instance, but there is less of a reason for relying on it than before. Now many users will have one Dropbox account, one iCloud account and even a Google Drive account while using Google Docs for collaborative work. So although Dropbox may not be the end it all of cloud SaaS storage, with such fierce competition, it is still very useful to have and may offer the perfect package for teams or businesses that share and collaborate on files across various devices and operating systems.