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Is "Dropbox" Safe For File Transfers and, By the Way, What Is It?

Updated on January 2, 2012
It's Dropbox, not mailbox...although possibly a good metaphorical representation of how data is sent and stored.
It's Dropbox, not mailbox...although possibly a good metaphorical representation of how data is sent and stored.

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.

I think regardless of what company an individual or entity uses for a web based file storage service, research all of the options and be aware there is always room for a possibility of a vulnerable moment. Also, read all the privacy policy and terms of service language so there is no room for misunderstanding of the material you are reading. Ask questions to the resources' contact personnel. In today's business environment, a lot of companies have clients who need to be able to access information readily and easily. I think what Dropbox includes for mobile service is pretty interesting, although other companies might provide the same utility. From a marketing standpoint, I like the name of this company and the way their language and images are presented on their website. I use another social media source for sharing my photos, so I wouldn't choose Dropbox for that service. I suspect I will try the service anyway solely for the purpose of sharing some photos in an effort to see how it operates.

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.

Comments

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  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR

    Cathy 

    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Website E, thanks very much for your comment. I do like what it offers and I, too, wouldn't use it for anything that needs to remain highly secure. Similarly to what I post on a popular social media site would be the method I would use with it. Thanks for the read.

  • profile image

    Website Examiner 

    6 years ago

    Dropbox is a brilliant service, which I use both for sharing files among my different devices, for sharing documents with editing clients, and - once in awhile - for public access. However, I would not feel comfortable using it for documents of a private and confidential nature. I too had heard about the negative story, but that has not influenced my attitude or changed my user habits. Great hub!

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