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Is "Dropbox" Safe For File Transfers and, By the Way, What Is It?
Let's Start With What It Is
First, please know while I have years of experience with computers, this does not entitle me to communicate I am IT savvy because I can assure you that I am not. I do like to educate myself, however, on information that is new or in the news as well as sharing the value of such news.
WHAT IS DROPBOX?
For the technology challenged mind, Dropbox will be defined simplistically. It is an on-line file hosting service utilizing what is called cloud storage. Cloud storage stores data (i.e., files, folders) of which users are able to access on-line. The accessibility is through what is termed file synchronization. For example, the files of data in an office can either be mirrored or duplicated whereby one copy is in the office and another is in a storage that is usually managed by a third-party hosting service. And, whatever you save to Dropbox, the same is routed to your desktop, your mobile device and the storage in Dropbox. The key is the ability to access your files anytime from any place. You can also share this information (documents you may be working on with another individual, or photos) with others who can have access to your folder.
WHO INVENTED DROPBOX?
Dropbox is operated by Dropbox, Inc. which was founded in 2007 by two graduates of MIT, namely Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. It is a funded operation that is based in San Francisco, California. The two grads were reaching for a better way to access their files instead of sending them to where they worked from more than one point of access. It’s really an interesting concept and even more interesting is that they advertise their basic plan of storing 2GBs as free. Obviously, plans above that will be priced accordingly and the main difference between the free or paid plan options is storage space.
The Dropbox model can be downloaded on your desktop or your mobile device. From a 2007 concept to a much realized financial success, millions are utilizing this model. I am not able to adequately venture into the technological aspects of the behavior of Dropbox. Like every other subject that is available on the Internet, simply type in “dropbox” in your browser and you’ll receive enough hits to further add to your mental database.
How Safe Are Your Files With Dropbox?
If you click here, you will be routed to the official site where you can view a video of how this model functions. Obviously, like any other company providing this same service, they will purport that your files are safe. The site for this model has a page dedicated to the security of your data including that "Dropbox uses Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) for storage, which has a robust security policy of its own."
In May 2011, a story was being circulated on information technology sites as a result of an individual filing an FTC complaint against Dropbox in regard to its security and privacy language. In June 2011, Inc.TECH published a short article indicating there was a very brief period (four hours) in which the requirement for a password was inadvertently dropped (no pun intended). This did provide a small window of opportunity for vulnerability. The article went on to state there is a program with Windows enabling a user to encrypt a file before syncing it to Dropbox which I think is a great idea and why wouldn't a user perform that anyway? It also recommended using TrueCrypt for encryption and indicated Dropbox recommends this also for those files that are highly confidential, but with this method, if it is a shared file, it would be difficult to edit.
I think if you want to use this model for non-secure data on an individual level, including photos you want to store and share, I don't see there is a problem utilizing it. While there is some scrutiny on the Internet concerning Dropbox's terms of service relating to the government's ability to access your files if a legal process deemed it appropriate, I think if the material isn't illegal, it should not present a problem. The lifehacker site does provide instructions how to permanently delete files on Dropbox because even if you delete them from your computer, the replica is still being stored.
Noteworthy, there are several publications which produced accolades on behalf of Dropbox which does refute the allegations in the complaint filed by the FTC. I think if we performed research on whether a lot of information technology based operations were sued, we might find this is not the first time one has been sued. It presents a problem because it is a negative occurrence. That could change dependent on the outcome of the suit. Of course, when the next company is sued, it might then become old news.
Sites like workawesome sings praises for Dropbox in regard to backing-up and synchronizing your data. Also, in October 2011, The New York Times published a good article entitled,"Dropbox Bids to Find Entry in Businesses." There have been other accolades on behalf of Dropbox. As many people who utilize this company's model storing a phenomenal amount of data, it has to be doing something right.