I just got access to the new version of Dropbox. And, I just got notification of what it's going to cost me to have said new version of Dropbox. Should I be excited? Are you excited about it? I'm not sure I'm excited about it, but I think what we should do is take a look at the new Dropbox and the value it represents today, here, on Dotto Tech.
Steve Dotto here, how the heck you doing this fine day? If you're like me and you are a Dropbox Plus user, you received notification recently that Dropbox is increasing the price and increasing the functionality of Dropbox. It's come, in my case, in two emails. One about a week ago, another one just this week, saying essentially this: Dropbox is upgraded, it's now adding double storage, world class sync, and something called Dropbox Rewind. All of that for just, in my case, $27 more a year Canadian. I should be thrilled that they've deigned to give me all of these extra services for a meager $27 more a year. I'm not 100% sure that the value's there. I certainly recognize that Dropbox has to improve the quality of their offering on a constant basis because of competition. But it would be nice to be able to kind of stay with the same package if the same package is working for you.
Having said all of that, maybe you and I can take a quick look at what these new features are, and decide for ourselves if it's worth the extra money. Let's do that.
Now, you can start the entire journey just by going into your Dropbox app, and you'll notice right away at least on the Mac, and I assume it's the same for Windows users, that they completely refreshed how the app looks in our menu bar, here. They've got now kind of a whole notifications area happening and they've added all of our access points here to the top. I think we'll start by going into our preferences, and if you go into preferences, there you can find that you can try the new Dropbox desktop app, which it seems to me is one of the new things that Dropbox wants us to do. Is they want us to use the app a lot more on the desktop. It's kind of, I think that's kind of central to the new services that they're offering. I think that we're going to spend more time in the actual app.
They've also got this new Smart Sync, which is not yet enabled on my computer, but I will enable it before the demo is over, which I think is probably the biggest deal of all of the new features that they're incorporating. So for example, I mean, one of the biggest features that they say they're incorporating is giving us now two, or doubling our storage capacity. But I never came close to using my existing storage capacity, so there's really no value there. If you're one of the people that is pushing the boundaries of your storage, perhaps you'll be happy with it. But what I really want to look at right now is what's in this new app, is this new Dropbox desktop app. And what do we get for it? If we click on that link, we're brought into a webpage that talks about all of the different new features that Dropbox is adding. And we really get a sense of where Dropbox is going here.
Follow me through this. The first thing that they talk about is the ability now to integrate Google and Microsoft documents right within Dropbox. So essentially what they're doing here is they're allowing us to create these documents in Dropbox and store them in Dropbox rather than storing them in the cloud services that are built into Google or Microsoft. And you've got to wonder why and where the value is there. And I think this is pretty much a case of Dropbox running scared. Other services are doing the same things that they do. Offering cloud services, cloud storage, sync, backup, file sharing. And often it's incorporated for free as it is with Google or with Microsoft, if you are a Microsoft 365 subscriber. So Dropbox is seeing their value in the marketplace eroded, because their services are being duplicated by these others.
So now what they're doing is they're adding integrations so that you can use those applications, which Dropbox doesn't have, such as spreadsheets and presentation tools, and actually managing all of the files within Dropbox. There's some marginal and incremental value to this, I believe. For example, I really don't like how Google Docs organizes all of my files. I would probably prefer them to be organized in a Dropbox file sharing system. But the value is marginal at best. Moving on. Let's take a look at, next, they're talking about connecting our existing tools. And specifically they're talking about two very popular cloud based tools, and that is Slack and Zoom. And we use both of these, so I'm happy to see how the integration works. And I was excited when I first saw this. I thought, "Great! New Zoom and Slack integration. How is that going to work?"
Well, what they've incorporated for us is the ability to join Zoom meetings from within the Dropbox app, hm, and being able to share our different Dropbox files directly within Zoom meetings. Again, something that we could do before with just a little bit of technical knowledge. And as far as Slack is concerned, they allow us to send Slack messages from within Dropbox rather than going over to Slack to send the messages. Well, we've always had Slack integration with Dropbox. But it happens within Slack. And it allows us to manage all of our files that we're sharing back and forth in the communication tool of choice. I don't think most of us are going to choose to spend most of our time in the Dropbox app and then need to communicate with our people in Slack. Again, they're kind of chasing in catch up mode, thinking that we're going to spend time in this new desktop app rather than in the app that we do spend time in now, which is Slack or in this case Zoom as well.
So, again, a marginal increase. In some cases the convenience might be there. But I don't see incredible extra value here. Then they're also allowing more communication with your team, allowing you to @ mention and allowing you to incorporate different individuals with, allowing you to incorporate your team members in conversations. Again, that's something that you're typically going to be doing in Slack or communication tools. And they've improved search. Now, that might be real value. Having better search. But it also illustrates what I think is one of Dropbox's biggest shortcomings, is the fact that you can search within the files within the cloud means that those files are unencrypted when they're in the cloud, and if there's ever an issue with Dropbox being hacked, your files are completely exposed to others.
I've spoken a lot about this in the past, especially in the demo we recently did on Sync, which encrypts your files before they're put up on the cloud, which better protects your privacy. So this is a benefit, but there's also additional risk attached to the fact that Dropbox hasn't addressed the security issue arounding the fact that the files are wide open and are being searched and crawled by Dropbox in order to be able to better serve you as far as search goes. It's a complicated and difficult issue. But they haven't really solved it, they've just made it a little bit more efficient as far as search goes, which is great. But there are concerns that I have incorporated there as well. So, let's just jump in. Let's have a look at the actual desktop app and see what they have for us.
So, after you download the app and you can install the app, this is the refreshed version of the app that you see when you first launch it. And it's basically a file browser, as we would expect, because that's what Dropbox essentially still is, is a file browsing tool. So let's jump into one of my folders and see where this new functionality kind of rises to the surface. And we'll go into my podcasting folder, we'll go into the folder that we use for sharing our podcast. And hosting our podcast information. Here it is. And when I open it up, I can view this as either a list view or as a file view. I can view the different folders and the different files. Now here we see the first example by clicking on the Create menu, I can immediately create a Google Doc, a Google Sheet, or a Google Slideshow right within this folder. That gives me some nice control over where those documents live. I do like this feature, I think it's nice, but it doesn't really change things all that much for us. But it is an additional advantage.
Now I suspect if I had a Microsoft 365 subscription enabled that I would see the ability to be able to incorporate those files here as well, but I can't be certain of that. I'm not 100% certain what this next icon does. It opens the current folder we're in in Finder on the Mac. I'm not sure if that's for transferring files around and moving files around. Not 100% sure, going to have to look at the documentation. Maybe you'll know and you'll add it in comments below, exactly what that does. But now when we click on any individual file, we now have this side bar of information that's available to us. In here, we have the ability to pin a document, which brings it to the top so it's always pinned. So that's great for with templates, if you're working with document templates that you're going to have to use over and over again, especially on lots of files that are kind of the ultimate version of those templates. When you've actually populated the templates, it allows you to find the template again very quickly. I like that feature. It's a good additional feature.
Here we can copy the link, which we've always been able to do just from up here in the app itself, in the menu bar. We can copy the link. But here under the More menu, we see Smart Sync. This is where we determine how this file is going to be managed under the new Smart Sync interface.
Now I think that Smart Sync is the biggest upgrade that Dropbox has created within this new version. And it's the most significant change in how we're going to be using Dropbox. Smart Sync theoretically allows you to sync all of your files instead of just some files, to Dropbox, thereby freeing up more space on your desktop, on the computer that you're working on, on any one computer you're working on, but still allowing you to access the files on all of your other computers. Now on the surface you go, "That's not that different, Steve, than the old sync we had before which was called Selective Sync, where we just chose which files were going to be shared and which ones were going to be stored in the cloud." And really, it isn't that different, except it approaches it from a different perspective.
Smart Sync believes that you're going to want to sync all of your files to the cloud, and then just determine which ones you only want to sync, which ones you want to have access to locally, if you happen to be offline. I suspect that Smart Sync's main MO is the fact that they've given us more storage, therefore we probably are going to be comfortable storing more files in the cloud? I'm not sure what else there is that they've added that makes it more valuable. But that's effectively how it happened. So once I turn on Smart Sync, all of the files in my Dropbox folder will then be synced to the cloud, but they won't be stored locally on my computer. Unless, here, I tell it to have it local as well. That is the biggest difference.
Now, I may be missing something in how it's going to be applied and how, where the rubber meets the road, how you're going to be using Smart Sync. And if you've got a better application of Smart Sync and you really like how it fits in the workflow, let me know how you're using it and how it's different from the existing Selective Sync that we've been using up to now. But that effectively is what Smart Sync is. And while we're talking about it, let's just go in here and let's turn on Smart Sync while we finish off this demo. Enable Smart Sync. To use Smart Sync, you'll need to allow a system extension from Dropbox. First, click continue. And then I have to open my security preferences [inaudible 00:11:45] and there we go, all set.
Dropbox is ready to set up and use. So now, I imagine it's going to take a little bit of time here, and it's going to go through and it's going to sync all of my data and then once it's done I'll go in and I'll clean up whatever's left over. I'm sure there will be some notifications that happen. So that is Smart Sync, which is now enabled on my particular system.
While Smart Sync is doing it's thing, and I'm sure we will do a follow up video in a couple of weeks to see how it all kind of susses out, let's take a look at the connected apps area. Because this is where we can then incorporate Slack, Zoom, Google Calendar, and, oh look, at this point here, are they the only ones? They are. So within this area here, we can set up that API integration. We can set up the base level integration between Zoom and Slack. And they'll walk us through the process here, through the web, talking us through how we go about integrating Slack with Zoom. Again, this is not something that I want to do right now, I just kind of want to look at the general features that they've added and determine whether or not there's value. But we'll dive into this if I see value in the future. If I see that it makes a good demo, if I find a way that it really changes how we do things, I'll make sure that I do a demo on this, and I would love, again, your comments on that.
That's the overall feature set that they've incorporated and that they're charging us more for. I'm going to share this link as well in the description and in the blog post. This page here does a good job of walking through all of these new features for us, from creating web based files, saving the files, Dropbox integration for Gsuite, for the Google Suite, integration with Zoom and Slack, and also this which kind of does all of the extras. The to-dos, the pin notes, and it takes you through those features there if you didn't necessarily understand, or if I didn't cover them in the demo part.
The bottom line for us, though, is this new version of Dropbox looks slicker, it does give us more storage, it does marginally improve productivity if you choose to use, for example, if you choose to move all of your Google Docs out of Google Drive and into Dropbox. It will give you that functionality. But again, I think that's a marginal increase. It might work for you if it's something that you really like the idea of. But functionally, it doesn't really change all of that much.
This update is really a case, I think, of Dropbox, a little bit running scared. I'm sorry to say it, but they really don't have an enormous value proposition that everybody else out there doesn't. You think about it. Apple's got cloud storage, Google, Microsoft has cloud storage. There's lots of other, Sugar Sync, there's lots of other file syncing services. And the one that I like the best there is sync.com, which is based here in Canada. All of these are chasing Dropbox, and Dropbox is trying to find additional value. This idea that we are going to spend our time, most of our time here in this interface, working within the Dropbox app, and that we need communication tools going out of this, to Zoom, and to Slack, I think that's a little bit wishful thinking on Dropbox's part. Good on them for doubling our storage. Good on them for adding some nice additional touches like pinning files and the ability to be able to save a Google Doc into a Dropbox folder natively, if that's how you want to structure your business. But really there's nothing that I see here that's a game changer, and frankly, there's nothing here that I see that justifies an increase in price.
I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Do you think that it's worth the extra money, or are you a little bit upset, or is it causing you to rethink or Dropbox relationship? Let me know in the comments below. And if you haven't yet subscribed to our channel, please subscribe, ring that notification bell. Until next time, I am Steve Dotto, have fun storming a castle.
If you’re like me and are a Dropbox Plus user then you have probably received a notification recently that Dropbox is both increasing the cost and increasing the functionality of it’s service.
The pitch is that Dropbox is;
- Doubling it’s storage (up to 2 TB now),
- Introducing ‘SmartSync’ and,
- Adding the ability to rollback your information for up to 30 days in case of any accidents.
These new features come in a shiny new wrapper too; a Dropbox desktop app.
The cost? $26.88 CAD a year added onto my Dropbox Plus bill.
So, let’s take a look and see if the value from these new features justifies the new price tag.
Dropbox On Your Desktop
Dropbox has introduced a desktop application as part of these new offerings. Their claim is that this new app is a single workspace which will let their users better organize their content, connect their various platforms, and bring people together.
The reality is that most of what the desktop app is bringing to the table is redundant.
The desktop app will allow you to create, organize, and share documents on Google Docs and Office 365 directly from within Dropbox. I don’t think this really changes anything though as this centralization doesn’t change the way we engage with or use either those cloud-based services or the content hosted on those services. Dropbox isn’t presenting us a better word processor than Google Docs or better spreadsheet software than Excel.
Dropbox just wants you to use a different door to get into the same room.
The desktop app also has integration with Zoom and Slack. The problem is this integration also just asks you to use a different door to get into a room when nothing in that room is any different than before. This extent of this integration is that you can join Zoom and you can send Slack messages from within the Dropbox desktop app…two things which save us a few clicks and fewer seconds of our time over our normal workflow when using those two services.
Dropbox is doubling it’s storage capacity on the Plus plan for individual users from 1 TB to 2 TB.
This is obviously a significant change, but one which might not change much of anything for many people. I never came anywhere close to using 1 TB of storage previously so the value of this change is really clear; if you needed the space it’s great value, if you didn’t need the space nothing is likely to change for you.
Dropbox’s updated syncing system, SmartSync, is the best of the new features in my opinion. On the surface it doesn’t appear to change much; it’s still a syncing utility which allows you to take your locally-stored files and move them onto the cloud. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll see that you can migrate all your files to the cloud but still access them locally and even when offline.
Previously, Selective Sync allowed you to choose which files and folders would be synced to your hard drive, if you didn’t sync them you couldn’t access them. With Smart Sync you can access anything and everything on Dropbox without storing them on your hard drive.
This is the best new feature of Dropbox and one that might be worth paying a little more for.
And Much More…
Ultimately I think these changes to Dropbox are a reaction to the fact that Dropbox is losing it’s value proposition in the space. It is no longer the only service that provides cloud-based storage and it needs to diversify it’s offerings to remain competitive.
I don’t believe any of these changes individually or together justify the new price point. That’s just for me and the way I use Dropbox though, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time,
Have fun storming the castle!
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