Dropbox: online storage done right

Dropbox officially launched at TechCrunch50 this week, and although they didn’t win (online storage fails the originality test more than corporate Twitter) they are a company worth looking at.

San Francisco based Dropbox started as a YCombinotor startup and went on to take a round from Sequoia, taking funding to $1.2 million. The Dropbox team is young, and stupid enough to believe they can make a business in a space where most give away storage for free, and others have failed. The business model, at least from what I can gather, revolves around charging people for additional storage above the 2gb they get for free. In Yes Minister speak, it’s a courageous business plan, and I wouldn’t be investing in the company based on it, but here’s why it might just work.

Dropbox is online storage done right.

The key selling points: quick and easy. The service supports Windows and Mac, and they’ve just launched a Linux client. Installation is easy, and on a Mac Dropbox appears in your places list, like any other folder. To use, you drop the file you want stored directly in, or save it directly to Dropbox from the program you are using, just like any other folder or location on your computer or private network. To access files, open Dropbox via Finder, and open the file, or access Dropbox from the program you’re in.

The biggest selling point for me: there’s no lag in opening a file unlike other services where you usually have to wait for the file to download. Using Dropbox feels like using files locally, even for someone like me on the other side of the world (try pinging a server in San Fran from Australia and you’ll know what I mean). In two months of use, I’ve never once had an issue with speed and ease of opening. It’s so good, that I switched from using my home network drive to share documents across computers to using Dropbox, because Dropbox was quicker! No, I don’t have a scientific speed test to prove that, I only know from using it. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but they have.

I’ve tried other online storage solutions before, and I still have iDisk access via my MobileMe account, but I’ve never stuck at one service for more than a couple of days due to the speed and ease of use issues. I’m two months in on Dropbox, and unless something comes along which is way better, I’m not giving it up.

Business plan aside, Dropbox is a winner. I test a lot of services, but far few end up being in the list of things I regularly use. Dropbox made that list.