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Dropbox Is Moving From the Internet to a Private Network


Dropbox Is Moving From the Internet to a Private Network

The Internet includes too many bottlenecks for Dropbox to rely on it for fast and reliable data storage and access.

There is growing trend for companies to sign up with one of the major cloud service providers to allow their own online services to function. There's no better example of this than Netflix, which relies on Amazon's AWS services to function. But Dropbox is going in the opposite direction. Last year it moved most of its user's data off AWS and on to its own cloud storage network. Now Dropbox is attempting to ditch the Internet in favor of its own private network.

The problem Dropbox is trying to overcome is the bottlenecks and slowdown present on the increasingly complex Internet. You can't always guarantee the speed of a connection due to factors outside of your control, so Dropbox intends to bypass them completely with a worldwide private data network separate from the public Internet, which it has been working towards since 2015.

This expansion includes North America, Europe, and Australia with the private network being built up from purchases of dark fiber when it becomes available. Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering, explains when speaking to Fortune, "We essentially purchase dark fiber within the metro areas and leased services for the long haul across the Atlantic and Pacific. We're not in the business of laying cable, only a few companies in the world need that sort of capability."

Dropbox handles over 500 petabytes of data for its users, most of which will now be stored on its own storage network and increasingly synced over a private network where speeds can be guaranteed regardless of what's happening on the Internet. The goal according to Williams is, "to make user experience as real time as possible since 70% of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America."

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Critics are scratching their heads as the majority of services are moving in the opposite direction. However, Dropbox is generating a profit according to CEO Drew Houston, and networking costs have been cut in half outside of North America thanks to this shift. If the company can complete a worldwide private network insulated from the Internet while remaining profitable, those critics will soon change their minds and applaud Dropbox for a risky move ultimately paying off.

For Dropbox users, this shift to a private network should happen seamlessly if it hasn't happened already. Dropbox plans to introduce new "regional accelerators" in Sydney, Miami, and Paris in Q3 2017 and then Madrid and Milan in Q4. So users in those areas may see their syncing speeds improve by the end of the year.

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