Dropbox was the first online backup service to be developed and made available to anyone who wanted to take advantage of the benefits it offered to people wary of relying on their own hard drives to keep data safe. It held the market for a while, but it wasn’t long before it faced competition, and that competition has grown over recent years; now it seems that Dropbox has not only failed to keep up, it has slipped down the league of most popular online backups.
Dropbox works with Windows XP, Vista, and 7, along with Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android.
What Dropbox Does
Dropbox backs up data and keeps it secure in its servers ready for downloading when required. It stores all versions of a file so that the latest, and any versions from the previous thirty days, are kept secure and accessible.
It allows users to share and collaborate on files with others whose names are added to the account, and the syncing feature ensures that data is backed up to all computers and mobile devices that are included in the user’s plan.
Dropbox by default saves all deleted and earlier versions of files for thirty days; with the Packrat add-on feature, these files will be saved for as long as the Packrat remains on the account, ensuring that all versions are kept safe, no matter how old they are. Packrat can be added to all Dropbox Pro plans.
Dropbox Pro account holders can add others to their plans; this will enable them to share, and collaborate, on all their files such as photos, videos, music, and documents. Personal users can benefit from this because it allows them to share files with friends and family members, and businesses can share important data with colleagues and clients.
Dropbox’s file syncing feature enables data to be synced across all computers and mobile devices that are included in the plan that a user takes out. This is ideal for people who move from one location to another, and who need to be able to access and work on their data from either place. A user can work on a file in the office, and continue with it when he reaches his home PC, or even a computer or mobile device somewhere else in the world, and at any time, as long as there is an Internet connection.
Dropbox transfers data via SSL (Secured Socket Layer) encryption, and uses industry standard 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption to keep it safe once it reaches its destination. The encryption employed during transfer and storage ensures that files are accessible only to the user.
No telephone number is provided by Dropbox. There is a forum on which users can post questions and ask other users for help, and FAQs with a search facility.
Users can click on a ‘submit a help request’ link; this will take them to a list of categories in which their problem may be found. Selecting a category produces a list of possible solutions to some problems and, if the user can’t find the answer he is looking for there, he will have to keep clicking links to eliminate solutions until he finally gets to a link which says ‘Request more help’. This takes him to a form. He fills in the ‘subject’ and ‘details’ boxes, and is told he may have to wait up to three days for a response. This seems an unnecessarily long-winded way of accessing direct assistance, and will certainly not be of much help to a user who just wants to solve a problem and get back to normal.
Clicking into the ‘Pricing’ link at the foot of the page brings the user to a screen showing three types of plan – Free, Pro, and Teams. No features are mentioned, so the user has to start hunting around to find what he will get with each plan.
Dropbox has a free plan which provides users with 2GB (gigabyte) of storage; this is very low compared to many other services which provide at least 5GB. Users have the chance to increase the amount of free storage they have by referring friends and family members; each referral that results in a signed-up user earns 500MB (megabyte) of additional storage. Users can share files or create new ones with others simply by adding them to their accounts.
Users can upgrade to the Dropbox Pro account which offers plans for 100, 200, or 500GB at prices starting at $9.99 per month. No links to features are provided on the pricing page; the user is simply asked to ‘upgrade’ with no idea of what he will get for his money. Under the ‘Teams’ option, there is a ‘learn more’ link, but it is baffling why this is not provided for the Pro options.
While the website is attractive and looks easy to navigate, it’s actually quite difficult to find information via a simple click. Potential customers have to dig around for it. For example, under ‘Pricing’, very little information is provided about each of the plans because there are no feature links.
The free account offers a low level of storage compared to most of the other online backup services which offer more than twice the space, typically 5GB. The paid-for accounts, too, offer low value-for-money storage levels compared to other providers.
Customer support with Dropbox lacks a telephone number, which would not be too much of a problem if there was an easy-to-find email option. As it is, users are taken on quite a trek until they can access a form that enables them to contact Dropbox directly and, even with that, they may have to wait for up to three days for a response. For most people today time is at a premium, and three days is a long time to wait for an answer.
The referral scheme is useful and will be appreciated by many users.
Dropbox is a good ‘starter’ account for anyone who just wants to find out how it works, and it’s not bad for the user with minimal backup needs but, for anyone who wants to get the most out of his online backup service, it is low on storage space, and does not develop new features as quickly or as often as its competitors.