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How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

Saiph
Explorer | Level 3

I have a PC with 2 x 1TB hard disks in it. To organise my storage in a sensible way, I have partitioned the two physical drives into six partitions, to keep the operating system and various categories of data separate from each other, and to make defragging easier. The drives are lettered from C: to H:.

 

The problem I have is that due to current design limitations, Dropbox will only allow me to have one Dropbox folder on my PC. So if (for example) I choose to have this folder on my 😧 drive, if I want to back up anything from any of my other partitions to the cloud, I have to make a second copy of the data on my 😧 drive! This is very wasteful of my hard drive space.

 

Even if I make sure that my Dropbox folder is on the drive which contains the largest amount of data, and place this data in the Dropbox folder (to ensure that any changes I make to important files are automatically backed up) it would still leave me with other important files outside the Dropbox folder on other partitions.

 

For example, to back up my photo collection, I would need to copy all 10GB across from the E: drive to the Dropbox folder on the 😧 drive. Effectively I would be backing up all my photos manually before Dropbox backs them up to the cloud! This doesn't seem very sensible to me, and of course it wastes an awful lot of disk space on my 😧 partition.

 

The current Dropbox design seems to make things very simple for the developers, but imposes awkward limitations on users. Is this really the way professional software companies should implement their design strategy?

 

Is there any chance that Dropbox could be redesigned? My suggestion is this: Allow shortcuts to data folders to be stored inside the Dropbox folder. It would be very easy for Dropbox to recognise these, as they have the file extension ".LNK" on Windows. Dropbox would then toddle off to the folder indicated by the shortcut, and copy all the data from there to the cloud. The cloud folder could simply be given the same name as the shortcut. Simples! This would remove the need to duplicate the data on my PC, and save me doing manual backups to the Dropbox folder!

 

This would appear to be such a simple change, and such a helpful one for users, that I'm amazed that no-one has thought of it and implemented it already. Hopefully the developers will consider it for the future.

10 Replies 10

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

suisse
Explorer | Level 4

It is easy to blame Dropbox. However, you chose a very particular setup in having two disks partitioned to 6 logical drives. 

 

Dropbox uses the easy concept of one single synced folder. That's its key feature. While this certainly has some drawbacks, i.e. in your case, it has the advantage of being very easily understandable for the user. So there actually are advantages in doing as they do.

 

There are other cloud services (I actually do not know whether it is allowed to explicitly name one of them, but some say Edward Snowden uses it) where you can select any folder to be backed up and synchronized. Some reviews say that is too complicated to manage and less preferable than the Dropbox way.

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

Saiph
Explorer | Level 3

I'm not "blaming" Dropbox. I'm spotting a problem with the design of the software (which many other users have also found, judging by the number of posts on the forum regarding Dropbox functionality), and suggesting a simple improvement.

 

I have "a very particular setup"? That is not true. As the forums show (have you not read them?), there are many users with more than one drive on their PC who find Dropbox difficult to use because it is so limited. This suggestion would help all of those people, whether they have two logical drives or ten.

 

"Dropbox uses the easy concept...". Easy for the developers. As shown by the forum posts, not always easy for users.

 

Do you really think it would be too complicated for Dropbox users to simply create a shortcut in the Dropbox folder? I think it's a little disappointing that you credit users with having such little intelligence.

 

Thanks for the reply.

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

suisse
Explorer | Level 4

You say: "The current Dropbox design seems to make things very simple for the developers, but imposes awkward limitations on users. Is this really the way professional software companies should implement their design strategy?"

 

That's not just spotting a problem, that's blaming. 

 

Yes, in your setup the design choice is bad. But as I said in my comment (did you not read it?), it also has advantages, mainly simplicity. Do not forget that the majority of computer users have little or no technical knowledge, some hardly know the difference between files and folders, they have never heard about partitions. Most people buying a standard computer from Apple, Dell or HP do not have multiple disks. 

 

What you ask is not just a little change. Enabling sync for various folders on multiple drives and partitions needs complete rewrite of the file observation daemon (the thing that notices what files were changed and triggers the sync) and also of the configuration dialog, as you need a place where you can select the folders to be watched and synchronized.

 

I know both systems and as I am what most people would call a nerd, I can easily deal with both of them. However, the Dropbox way is clearly simpler and "grand parent proof". So they would need to set this up as default and give some sort of power user option. But still a complete redesign. 

 

Your shortcut idea is not enough. Should all files with .LNK extension be followed instead of backed up? What about operating systems not using this type of shortcuts, e.g. Linux or OS X? What about symbolic and hardlinks on those systems? What if I explicitly want to back up the LNK file with its contents instead of it being dereferenced? Most cloud services do not backup links. Don't you think that there is a reason for that, or do you credit them with having such little intelligence?

 

You write about many users, many posts. Yes, maybe. Can we find 10'000 users in this forum with the same problem? I don't think so. But remember, Dropbox has half a billion users. That would make it just a tiny 0.002% of the user base. It may be a big problem for you, but it is not for Dropbox. And it is not for a very clear majority of its users. Some of them (several millions of them!) would not even understand what you are talking about. Not because they are not intelligent, but because they have no interest in the technical details behind their computer.

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

MicheleT
New member | Level 2

The inability to sync to the location of choice is a big negative.  I have a new computer with a large 😧 drive specifically for storing data. 

 

I have to agree...it's not uncommon for people to have a small drive that contains the OS (C:), and a large second drive (D:).

 

Even googledrive can handle us assigning a sync location.  I'm not a big fan of GD, but if Dropbox is going to hog up my C: drive unnecessarily, it's not something I'll put up with for long.  The GD app is still on my C: drive, but the actual search/sync is on my D.  Perfect. 

 

I get DB needs to launch from C:, but there's no satifactory reason it shouldn't be able to "talk" to D.

 

If I stop using DB, others in my company will stop using it as well. 

 

 

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

MicheleT
New member | Level 2

Wow Susie,

 

I just read your response to Saiph.  Read like you were sticking up your middle finger. 

 

 

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

suisse
Explorer | Level 4

That was absolutely not my intention. But yes, I find it pretty offending to (virtually) walk into someone's office and tell them they are unprofessional and lazy. Even more if that presumably simple solution you suggest (meaning: hey, you dumb people did not even think of that easy thing) actually is not a viable solution, because it also has drawbacks. And finally adding that the problem is a major issue, because it seriously limits the functionality of a product, without even admitting that 6 logical drives is far from being a standard setup. One can simply not expect a company to do fundamental changes for an issue that does not even touch 0.1% of all customers. Even less if it could cause difficulties for many non-techy users.

 

For what you describe, MicheleT: I would think that changing the Dropbox folder should solve your issue. At least reading the help pages suggest so, because it is even said that the folder can be on an external drive, as long as some conditions are met.

 

Dropbox main idea is to have one single folder to be synchronized. Changing that is a big thing, but there are other products that offer this functionality. However, as I understand it, you can put that folder more or less where you want.

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

Rich
Super User II

The inability to sync to the location of choice is a big negative.

 

You can sync to the location of your choice, even if that location is on a different drive. You just can't sync to multiple locations.

 

Even googledrive can handle us assigning a sync location.

 

As can Dropbox. There's also an option during install to specify the location of the Dropbox folder.

 

it is even said that the folder can be on an external drive, as long as some conditions are met.

 

Yes, it can, but it's still not recommended. Under the right conditions data loss can occur.

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

Saiph
Explorer | Level 3

Hello Rich.

 

Thank you for answering MicheleT's questions. Did you read my original post too while you were here?

Re: How about redesigning Dropbox to make it less wasteful of HD space?

Saiph
Explorer | Level 3

No, obviously Rich didn't bother. :slight_frown:

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    Mark Super User II
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    Saiph Explorer | Level 3
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    suisse Explorer | Level 4
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