The Dropbox cloud storage service as a disruptive innovation

Venture capitalist Bill Gurley’s personal blog, Above the Crowd, has a post pointing out why Dropbox is a “major disruption” (that is, a disruptive innovation—”an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology” per Wikipedia) in the industry. Prompted by a new feature Dropbox added, to allow Android devices to synch photos automatically, Gurley points out that it’s easy to underestimate the importance of what Dropbox has done.

He explains that Dropbox was the first service to solve the crucial problem of state synchronization—keeping the same files current everywhere. And because it was able to do this, it has made possible a whole way for people to work with their files.

Once you begin using Dropbox, you become more and more indifferent to the hardware you are using, as well as the operating system on that device. Dropbox commoditizes your devices and their OS, by being your “state” system in the sky. Storing credentials and configurations of devices, and even applications are natural next steps for this company. And the further they take it, the less dependent any user becomes of the physical machine (HW and SW) that is accessing that data (and state). Imagine the number of companies, as well as the previous paradigms, this threatens.

I certainly see where he’s coming from, since I’ve been using it that way myself. I keep the stories I’m working on writing in my Dropbox private folder, originally as DOC files and lately as Scrivener project files. I can work on the docs with LibreOffice on my Windows desktop, or my Laptop booted into either Windows or JoliOS, and Scrivener is similarly platform-agnostic (though I haven’t installed the Linux beta yet).

And, of course, Calibre users know that it is possible to create a Calibre library in your Dropbox folder so that you can immediately load any of your e-books into Stanza or IbisReader on demand. I can also use it to share files privately with friends.

I’ve been getting along quite well with my 10 gigabytes of free Dropbox space, of course. I don’t know if I’d ever need to upgrade to their paid service, for the small size of files I use. On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to keep my entire iTunes library in the cloud. And I could probably manage that for just $10 a month on its “Pro 50” 50-gig plan. Worth thinking about for the future, I suppose.

4 Comments on The Dropbox cloud storage service as a disruptive innovation

  1. “Worth thinking about for the future, I suppose.”

    I’m a writer, and I’ve always been paranoid that my computer would crash and die when I was in the middle of writing a scene. This actually happened go me once – the one time in my life that I lost an entire story.

    Well, the worst-case scenario happened again: I lost a laptop in the East Coast earthquake last summer, at a time when I didn’t have the latest edits of some of my stories backed up on my flash drive. Plus, I found out later that my flash drive was defective and had lost a lot of my story files.

    But I was on the computer at the time my laptop died, and Dropbox was busy automatically backing up online everything I typed. As a result, out of the 20 gigabytes’ worth of files that were on my irrecoverably dead laptop, Dropbox saved all but three sentences’ worth.

    Worth every penny of the monthly fee.

  2. Depending on whether you want to use DropBox for consumer or businesses purposes, it may or may not be right for you. For businesses in many regulated industries, DropBox is not compliant. Their website clearly states this:
    https://www.dropbox.com/help/238
    Dropbox Enterprise File Transfer from Thru is the secure solution for businesses and enterprises. Their solutions have been working for large businesses for ten years without a single security breach.
    http://www.thruinc.com/solutions/dropbox-enterprise-file-transfer/
    http://www.thruinc.com/products-services/secure-file-transfer/

  3. nxb3942 – “Business” is a very big world. DropBox is widely used in many businesses, especially small and medium sized. I have used it for several years and business clients and business customers use it a lot. This included architects and accountants and construction businesses.

  4. The reason for non compliance for using Dropbox for business isn’t about just securing the files. Compliance requires more than just encrypting your files. You’ve got to do other things such as maintain an audit trail of where the files have been sent and when, who has access to the files, security around the hardware systems and backup systems, etc.

    Dropbox, Google Drive, SpiderOak and others are using simple encryption to good cause but other processes are still required to meet compliance regulations such as HIPAA, FERPA, SAS 70, ISO 9001, ISO 27001, or PCI certifications.

    Many businesses look to Managed FTP systems that help meet these requirements. An example is:
    http://www.goanywheremft.com/solutions/secure-ftp-server

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