Online personal storage has been around for years. Yahoo has had its Briefcase for eons. XDrive, a service of AOL, has also been around awhile. EMC just recently bought yet another on-line storage and backup company called Mozy. So you would think that another entry in this rather crowded field would be a cause for overwhelming ennui.
Happily, that is not the case with Dropbox, one of the latest entries into the on-line personal storage market. It's not so much what they do - all the other companies in the market perform similar functions - but the way they do it. Like XDrive and Mozy, Dropbox has a client interface for your desktop that allows the on-line storage to appear as a desktop folder or drive. Unlike XDrive and Mozy, Dropbox also supports this functionality for Macintosh computers without having to add additional software such as Adobe Air. Like XDrive and Briefcase, Dropbox has a web interface that allows you to access these files from any browser. Unlike those products, Dropbox has a crisp, clean interface. It's sort of the Sauvignon Blanc of interfaces - refreshing and somewhat tart. Briefcase in particular is in need of a face lift. It looks positively pre-2000. It's the Bordeaux that is long past its peak.
Unlike any of the above, Dropbox is fast or at least appears to be. It is very good at caching files so that they seem to be local in terms of performance. Even when you upload a lot of files at once, it is incredibly fast compared to other offerings.
Sharing files with others is very easy too. In fact, this is the strength of Dropbox. Let's say you have a big file that you want to send to someone. You can e-mail it and risk it choking as it pushes through yours and the recipients e-mail gateways. With Dropbox, you can simply upload the file and make it available though a browser link. If they also use Dropbox, you can share it them and it looks like a local or network drive, no matter whether they are on a Windows machine or a Mac. If you change or delete the file, those changes are made immediately available, just as if you changed them on a file server.
In the end, that's what Dropbox really is - an Internet file server. You can do all the things one normally does with shared and private drives on a local file server. It even supports drag and drop well. Compared to Dropbox, all the others seem slow and clunky.
About the only thing that XDrive and Mozy have that Dropbox doesn't is an automatic backup client built into the software. Since this "feature" does not work particularly well for either of these services, that's not much of a lack. Your usual tools including SyncToy work just fine with Dropbox.
Overall, Dropbox is an excellent on-line, personal storage service. I only hope they can figure out how to make money at it. Maybe Yahoo would like to buy it... if they aren't gobbled up themselves