DropBox : Review, Invites, and 7 Questions with the Founder

A program called DropBox has recently entered public beta and has been making the rounds on networks like Digg and Reddit. I’ve been a private beta member since January and have been using it pretty heavily in my daily processes – and it has worked absolutely wonderfully. Dropbox is currently available for Windows and MacOS X, and we are told that an Ubuntu or Linux client is in the works.dropbox1   DropBox : Review, Invites, and 7 Questions with the Founder

I recently interviewed the Founder of Dropbox, Drew Houston, to answer some questions I had about the service. You can read the interview below, after my short review of the service.

Dropbox Review

After installing Dropbox, there is a folder placed in your My Documents named “My Dropbox”. To sum the service up in 1 sentence: any files placed into this folder will both be uploaded to the Dropbox servers, and will be synchronized with any other clients in your account.

So, in a single computer situation, this Dropbox folder is effectively a backup solution. If you have more than one PC in the account, any files placed into this folder on one computer will automatically be synchronized onto all others running Dropbox in the same account.

This creates a nice way to send files to and fro – my old method was either a) email to myself or b) put them on my USB keychain. Although those old methods work, Dropbox makes the process of transferring files to and from work absolutely effortless.

Installing Dropbox is easy and after the installation, there is nothing to manage. Files placed into this folder are sent to the Dropbox servers in a secure manner, and once they are there they are encrypted. Dropbox currently uses Amazon S3 storage system “in the cloud” for their data storage.

In addition to this basic use, I have found the following features to be very handy:

Revisioning System

dropbox2   DropBox : Review, Invites, and 7 Questions with the Founder

The ‘killer’ feature for me is that Dropbox also includes a versioning system. For those not familar with versioning systems, it allows you to keep multiple versions of a file. This helps in case you need to ‘roll back’ a change if you are coding, or just for general use and tracking of updates. It also helps on the backend because if only changes of a file need to be sent to the server, so much bandwidth can be saved.

Photo Gallery

Another neat feature is a built-in photo gallery. Drag photos to the “photos” folder and they are automatically available for viewing on the web in a simple manner (Hi Grandma!)

dropbox3   DropBox : Review, Invites, and 7 Questions with the Founder
In summary, I think Dropbox is the best online storage solution I have seen. It combines online file storage, folder syncing, and versioning control in one simple to use package. They are constantly rolling out new updates, so look for more features soon! If you would like more information before you sign up, please check out the screencast bellow. It’s both entertaining and informative — and there are lots of easter eggs! :)

Plus since you got this far, read my interview with Drew and get an invite at the bottom of this article!

Interview with Dropbox Founder Drew Houston

1) The first obvious question – what makes Dropbox different from the other online backup / storage solutions?

Drew: Unlike other companies, which tackle only backup (e.g. Mozy), or only sync (e.g. Foldershare), or just putting files online (e.g. box.net), we provide one solution to all of the problems people have managing their files. I was looking for some kind of continuous rsync + subversion + tortoisesvn-style-shell-integration + web access holy grail, found it didn’t exist, and then got to work.. Arash even dropped out of MIT with just a few months left :)

2) I understand you are using Amazon S3 for storage on the backend; do you have any other sort of data backup plans in case S3 would go down or sustain data loss? Can customers use DropBox for sole storage of their data, or do they need to be concerned with other backups? [An alternative view of this question -- is Dropbox considered a file sharing solution or a backup solution?]

Drew: We’ll be exploring other options (e.g. our own data store), especially for paid customers who want extra redundancy. I will point out though that Amazon does a pretty damn good job of handling large volumes of data and does a great job storing billions of objects and petabytes of data redundantly across multiple data centers. This isn’t easy, and many companies that first built their own data center (e.g. smugmug) found that they could lower costs and drastically increase reliability by using s3. We may not be on s3 forever, and will build our own store in addition, but for now this lets us focus on both the client software and the performance of the layer we’ve developed on top of s3.

The other major point that people might not realize is Dropbox is replicating copies of your data both across all your computers in addition to the online copy. So copies your data are always stored on your own computers, unlike other services which are online-only, Where the one and only copy of your data rests on their servers. This also means you aren’t locked into using Dropbox; if you decide you don’t want to use the service anymore, you’re in complete control of your data.

3) Security is a big concern for many people — how is data secured in transit and on the data store? The more geeky the explanation the better! :)

Drew: We have our own protocol that runs over “https” that combines binary diffing and compression, so no file data or metadata is *ever* sent over the wire in plaintext form. On the back end, we encrypt all file data using AES-256 before storing it on S3 (this is in addition to the security that Amazon provides.) We are working on a way for people to provide their own private keys or passphrases for people who choose to do so as long as we can preserve the simplicity of the user experience. What some people might find unusual about our team is all of us have been using Linux since the 90′s and so the usual server-side security precautions, etc. are second nature to us.

4) Do you have an ETA on a Linux client? A lot of Ubuntu users would love to get on the boat with this.

Drew: No eta right now. (Though we will tease you and say we’ve had a working client in-house for months, and nearly all of the client code is written in Python.) We want to make sure we can provide at least a decent experience on Linux, even though many Linux users would be comfortable with a CLI version or don’t care about having icon overlays/tray icons.

5) What are the details on the paid accounts? Do you have any specs on online storage, transfer limits, and prices?

Drew: Still finalizing this, but we’re planning to have a free account with some amount of storage and paid accounts for people who want richer sharing options and more storage.

6) Do you plan on targeting home users, business consumers, or both? Why?

Drew: Initially, consumers/professionals, with businesses/teams/enterprise coming later. As you go up the spectrum, you need more bells and whistles/collaboration options, management/configuration options, and things like direct sales teams and/or resellers and other channels — which we’ll definitely tackle later on, but right now we think Dropbox seems to resonates with individual users and small groups in its current form.

6) As a company, what are your goals?

Drew: We want to change the way people think about files and storage. It’s 2008, and despite all the hype around services/storage “in the cloud”, the most common way people manage their files is by carrying around USB drives, emailing themselves attachments, and manually uploading files to websites.

We’ve always thought that in “the future”, you sit down at any computer and your stuff is always there, always backed up, always version controlled, etc, but for some reason no one had made it practical. Plus it’s a hell of a lot of fun designing a distributed filesystem to support tens of millions of people.

7) Finally – Your screen cast was reminiscent of the “You suck at Photoshop” screen casts. Coincidence?

Drew: I’ve seen a few of them and they’re hilarious, though there is no deliberate connection. Trying to sneak surprises under the radar made making the screencast a lot more fun and hopefully more entertaining than the usual pragmatic, slow-paced, corporate demos we’re all used to.

Invites to Dropbox Beta!

Dropbox kindly offered us 100 invites to hand out. Click the link below to sign up, or use the invite code “makeuseof” to sign up!

http://getdropbox.com/beta/makeuseof

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69 Comments -

0 votes

Jeton

Many thanks for the invites. I’ve been waiting for one.

A great service!

0 votes

dropboxfan08

Hi Ive been waiting for something like that for ages TY

0 votes

Aibek

Dave,

Same here, thanks for the invites :-)

0 votes

Keith

Im very thankful for the invites, I saw this on Digg awhile ago and was hoping for an invite. This will help my parents show me their pictures from Hawaii easily.

Thanks again!

0 votes

I.Vassilev

Hi,

You could also try the backupsol.net – Backup Solutions Network.
We provide professional backup services – all communications are encrypted and you have SECURICO to double secure your files as you can encrypt them on you computer before uploading. You can have your files from all over the world thanks to the unique time expiring links, that you can generate for all of your files and then download with any browser or download client.
Thank you

0 votes

g

Thanks a lot for the invite. I only discovered this website (makeuseof.com) a week or 2 ago and I am so hooked.

Thanks again,
G

0 votes

Koselara

Neat review — but WTF, only four comments & about 4 hours after it’s posted, yet clicking the link says: “Sorry, that beta code has expired. Sign up for the beta below!” Otherwise, there’s nowhere I can see on the site to put an invite code in during signup, just a place where it says “sign up for the beta” but actually is a mailing list.

0 votes

Tina

Wow, those 100 signups poofed in light speed. Post was viewed 118 times and they’re all gone. Too bad for me. :)

0 votes

RSD

Koselara, I was think the same thing. I tried minutes after I saw his post in my RSS reader and it already said expired. Even more odd is the fact that 2 of these comments (like g) were posted about an hour ago…so how does someone get an invite to work an hour ago, but I received “Sorry, that beta code has expired. Sign up for the beta below!” within the same hour this was posted? I will call upon the lucky readers (specifically the 100 that got a beta account) to please share on of their invites with me, please, please, please. I need a service like this starting this week and I really do not want to use M$ foldershare. Thank you in advance! – Richard

Please send it to: shuez [*at*] hotmail.com

0 votes

Arpit Jacob

wow those invites got over rather fast. are you sure there were 100 invites :(

0 votes

Shrihari

Need more invites :)

0 votes

g

anybody have any concerns about privacy with these types of services?

0 votes

Dave Drager

Trying to get some more invites :)

0 votes

Malar Edu

There is a service called sugarsync that seems to be identical to this one. Basically Foldershare plus backup. What I don’t like about sugarsync or dropbox is that they require the folders being synced to be moved to a particular folder which will be difficult if I have files on different drives. Foldershare design is best for this one. There was yet another service tubes http://www.tubesnow.com that promised identical service and it is no longer there. What is the viability of drop box or sygar sync? Should we just continue to use foldershare?

0 votes

Dave Drager

I see three major differences between Sugarsync and DropBox. Someone please correct me if I am wrong because I’m not on the Sugarsync beta.

1. Sugarsync requires a client to do all of the transferring. At least that’s what I can tell from the screenshots. Dropbox is integrated in the shell.
2. Sugarsync does not include a versioning system.
3. Sugarsync has a “lite” sync feature which just uploads to the server and not synchronize across all devices. With DropBox all files are replicated across all systems, which probably is not the best way to handle large files you might not need on all systems.

I’d love to get into the Sugarsync Beta if anyone has an invite!

0 votes

Richard

Dave Drager, it would be nice if you got more invites, but I think it would be BETTER to see at least SOME of the people who got in today with the first 100 to pay-it-forward. Come on makeuseof readers, you now have 5 invites to give out each…500 potential invites. even if everyone gave only 1 back here, it would still be a 100% return. So……..

Anyone want to make my week and send me one? Pretty please? Spread some joy my way with the email: shuez [ at ] hotmail.com

Thank you to someone in advance!

:-)

Richard

0 votes

Dave Drager

DropBox doesnt have a way to really invite people, but you can create a shared folder and invite others to use that folder which automatically gets them into the DropBox beta! :)

0 votes

Karl Gechlik | AskTheAdmin.com

On its way Richard!

0 votes

DrUnKtAnK

very cool. Too late for the beta invite, but if more are given I’ll take one! :)

0 votes

Ari

Hey, no fair, I’ve been trying to get an invite for this service, and they are all gone already!
If someone has extra, I would be forever grateful.
Aritrash [at] gmail.com

0 votes

Karl Gechlik | AskTheAdmin.com

I just sent you an Invite Ari – courtesy of http://www.askTheAdmin.com . Don’t say we never did anything for you :)

Anyone else want one email Betas at askTheAdmin dot com

0 votes

Richard

Karl, thank you very much, but something is amiss. I followed the link and it promps for username & password. below that, it says “don’t have an account? create one free” so I click there and enter my info and use the long alpha numeric sequence from the email for the beta code and it tells me: “That invitation has already been declined.” Anyone have an ideas why this is happening? Thanks!

shuez [ at ] hotmail.com

Richard

0 votes

Karl L. Gechlik | AskTheAdmin.com

It looks like they stopped allowing more than 2 invites to be launched from within a single account. I am waiting on some more invites hopefully they will come through in the next little while.

It really is a great service!

And thanks for the kind words Richard!! AtA thinks you are cool as well :)

0 votes

Richard

Oh, and BTW I ckecked out http://www.askTheAdmin.com — cool site.

0 votes

Jackson

Hey Dave,

I checked out DropBox for Mac. It integrates really well into the OS. It even has its own context menu to show the external link of the file that you’re sharing.

0 votes

Sean

Wow, this website looks really awesome. Can’t wait till it’s out of beta, or somebody throws me an invite (nimblerabit@gmail.com).

Thanks for pointing out such a great service.

0 votes

Dave

@Malar, Dave, and others – I’ve been using a service called Syncplicity (syncplicity.com) that seems to combine the best of all three worlds: sync and backup of any folder, a lightweight but useful client UI with shell integration, online access to your files, unlimited storage, and folder sharing. They don’t have a Mac client yet and versioning support is in the works, but all the other pieces are in and working pretty well.

0 votes

susan

I’d be eternally grateful for an invite as well — pretty please???

aliyahbukra [ at ] gmail dot com

Gracias!!

0 votes

JohnD

Rats! I missed the invites! I’ve been waiting for this site to open! If anyone has one to spare I would deeply appricate it. johnd101web gmail.com, Thanks a million!

0 votes

Dre

I was looking for some information on if it was possible to move the location of the ‘My Dropbox” folder from within “My Documents” to another location when I accidentally came across the following PDF document titled “Why You Can’t Trust MyDropBox”. Is this referring to the same company/organization?

http://my.unl.edu/bbcswebdav/users/phe/skanky/mydropbox_v2.pdf

Personally, I think the service/program is great so far. Though, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with putting private or work sensitive files within My Dropbox folder, however.

0 votes

Tyler

I missed the invites…can someone send one to me?

Thx

lyonrt at gmail com

0 votes

sredlums

Same here, I would very much like an invitation…

Thanx in advance!

marc at matrabike dot nl

0 votes

Nick

I’d love a dropbox invite. I’m having such a hard time getting one. :(

0 votes

Nick

I’d love a dropbox invite. I’m having such a hard time getting one. (I forgot my email address)

dropbox [at] nuggetofjoy.com

0 votes

Chris

If anyone can spare an invite.

AL_moranas (at) hotmail (dot) com

0 votes

robounix

$20 to the first to provide me with a dropbox invite for testing and write-up.

robounix aht gmail dizot com

0 votes

Dennis

I’m trying to find an invite since day1, unfortunately no luck, if anyone got an extra invite it will be really appreciate. Thanks in advance!

keys80 (at) gmail (dot) com

0 votes

dupree

I would love an invite if anyone has one to spare.

jonnyl (at) gmail (dot) com

0 votes

Jason

Hey – I have been searching for some time. I hope everyone is paying it forward. I would love to get away from SkyDrive.

Email address: jasonheas[.at] gmail (dot) Com

Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0 votes

Chris

I would REALLY love to have an acc, has anyone got an invite left for me? please…
chris.sulzbach *at* gmail * com

0 votes

Sean

I would love an invite if someone is still handing them out.

estese at gmail dot com

Thanks in advance

0 votes

Franz

Hi there, I would appreciate if someone could invite me.

franzlxhuber [aet] web [dot] de

Thanks in advance =)

0 votes

Irfan Azher

Hay where is my invite ;)

0 votes

Gus

If there are any invites, I would love one! I know I am late, but I’ll be hapy to invite anyone else if i get one!

gus.cuddy (at) gmail (dot) com

Thanks in advance!

0 votes

Vasco

Pleease can someone send me an invitation? Txs a lot
casquilho (at) mac (dot) com

0 votes

nka

Hi, if there are any invites left, please send one my way and I promise to post invitations back.

bkabb23 (at) gmail (dot) com

0 votes

nka

I have invites available: bkabb23 at gmail dot com

0 votes

Mark

Hi there,

I would REALLY appreciate an invite and of course I would post my invites back on the web:

mpeb613 (at) googlemail (dot) com

Many thanks!!

0 votes

Udit Agarwal

Hey..

I’d love to have an invite.IF anybody has one.Please send one to uditaagarwal (at) gmail (dot) com

0 votes

realjons

Hi,

May i have an invite, Plz send one to realjons(at)gmail(dot)com

thank you very much

0 votes

Tommy

Invite me, oh pleeeease invite me!!

Thank you

tommipk[at]gmail[dot]com

0 votes

Freddy

Love you forever :)

freddymaze gmail.com

I have invites to swap ;-)

0 votes

Karl Guðmundsson

The greatest of minds give us the simplest of things — simple, beautiful, useful things. The others graduate with honors. :)

0 votes

Gunnar Steinn

Please invite me :)

gunnarsteinn (at) gunnarsteinn.com

thank you

0 votes

Joe

Please send me an invite !!!

joehenriod@gmail.com

0 votes

escherichia

please send me an invite!!!!

escherichia2@msn.com

0 votes

Leon

Please send me an invite !!!

r01ustc@gmail.com

0 votes

Mulder

It looks like a promising service, so I’d appreciate your sending me an invite.

0 votes

TicTac

Invite please! tic__tac@hotmail.com

0 votes

Andy

If there are any invites left, invite me please

admin.esl@gmail.com

Thank You!!!

0 votes

Stephen

if anyone can be so kind, please send invite to stephendlim@hotmail.com

please…

0 votes

Angela Jhon

Hmm.. looks very similar to SugarSync (sugarsync.com/).. which I have been using for some time now and its really great. Please send me an invite

0 votes

Muslix

If you use this link to sign up, we BOTH get 250 MB extra space…

https://www.getdropbox.com/referrals/NTc1ODg2Nzk

Enjoy!

0 votes

Dropbox

It’s perfect service. We share all our files between or team on all projects!

0 votes

jimbo

GET 250MB MORE WITH THIS INVITE

https://www.getdropbox.com/referrals/NTIxMDU5Nzk

thanks for using it

0 votes

Sid

I also have an invite that gives you an extra 250mb:

getdropbox.com/referrals/NTQ3NTA5OTk

I have been using it for over a year and it is the best of any such service, simply because the desktop app is fully integrated with you OS file management system and it is quick!

0 votes

ps

Please use this link https://www.getdropbox.com/referrals/NTE3NTg3MTk
and you will get another 250MB
thx :)

0 votes
0 votes

Jenfer

in case the other referal links expire, here’s one

https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTQwMDM5NDY5

you’ll get an extra 250mb storage on top of the normal 2gb