Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

Summary: Over the weekend, I deleted my Dropbox account and moved all my synchronization tasks to Windows Live Mesh and its companion service, SkyDrive. Why the change? Because security matters, especially in the cloud.

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I cannot imagine personal computing without a reliable, robust, full-featured sync solution. Over the past year or so, I’ve been using both Dropbox and Windows Live Mesh to keep my work files, pictures, Office settings, bookmarks, and other files in sync across multiple devices. I’ve used each service extensively, on the web, on every PC I own, and on the Mac that shares my desktop with a Windows PC.

Over the weekend, I deleted my Dropbox account and moved all my synchronization tasks to Windows Live Mesh and its companion service, Windows Live SkyDrive. To their credit, Dropbox makes the process simple and straightforward. On the Account Settings tab, look in the lower left corner for a Delete My Account link.

Click that link, enter your password, and you're done.

Why am I making this change? First and foremost, because a recent security failure at Dropbox makes me hesitant to trust the company. I first read about this problem in real time, when security researcher Christopher Soghoian posted details about a shocking lapse in Dropbox security that completely disabled the authentication system for an unknown period of time. For several hours, anyone could log into any Dropbox account using any password.

In a blog post, Dropbox CTO Arash Ferdowsi confirmed that the problem occurred and blamed it on “a code update … that introduced a bug affecting our authentication mechanism.”

Dropbox claims the outage lasted nearly four hours. A letter from the CEO to an affected customer confirms that user accounts were accessed during that outage:

Earlier this week, we wrote to tell you about a security lapse at Dropbox. Today I am writing to tell you something I never expected to tell a customer. During our forensic analysis, we discovered that an extremely small number of accounts, including yours, were subject to some suspicious activity.

Our investigation revealed that at around 11:25 PM UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on June 19, 2011 someone logged into your account. It is likely that your account was compromised by a third party. According to our records, neither your account settings nor files were modified, but data was downloaded from your Dropbox account.

Ferdowsi acknowledged, “This should never have happened. We are scrutinizing our controls and we will be implementing additional safeguards to prevent this from happening again.” An update to his blog post adds the detail that “fewer than a hundred” Dropbox users were affected.

It’s going to take more than just promises of “additional safeguards” to erase the doubt that a mistake like this inspires. At the very minimum, Dropbox needs to have a thorough security audit from an independent group to ensure that it has the processes in place to back up those promises.

If this were the first offense for Dropbox, I might be tempted to give them a break. But security researchers have pointed out other security bugs in Dropbox as well as problems with encryption and deduplication policies. And there have been ongoing problems with changes in the terms of service, including a dustup just this week. (For details, see 7 cloud services compared: How much control do you give up?)

I've seen mixed reactions from fellow Dropbox users. Some say they don't care, because they don't store any personal or confidential material there. Others are encrypting their files (an option I discuss on the next page). But a fair number have deleted their account, as I have.

If you're a Dropbox user, which option is right for you? Allow me to share my decision process. You might come to a different conclusion based on your needs and use case.

Page 2: Why I switched -->

 

Topics: Software, Operating Systems, Security, Storage, Windows

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131 comments
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  • Doesn't appear to have smartphone sync apps

    I'm wanting a new solution; but this one appears to lack any apps for use on smartphones (or if it has it, it's only for the relatively smaller population using Windows Phone).

    I want another solution - but at this time, Dropbox appears the only solution that can cross all the devices that I use. If someone has found another solution, please post it - I would love to check it out.
    D.Barek Evans
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans

      Spideroak has an Android app. I have it installed but have not tried it yet.
      Cosmix
      • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

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    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans I agree. Skydrive looks great for non-mobile platforms (e.g., Windows) but Dropbox has apps for Android, iOS, etc. I am now very concerned about the security issues with Dropbox but I'm not sure what the alternative would be.
      nomorebs
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    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans I'm developing one in WP7 using Azure. Will let in Eds blog ASAP once it's ready.
      jinishans
      • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

        @jinishans WP7 Mango has SkyDrive access natively built-in. You might want to spend your time developing something else.
        merill
      • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

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    • SugarSync

      @D.Barek Evans Exactly. Live Mesh is good for PC syncing but not mobile. SugarSync supports folder selection like Mesh but also has iOS and Android clients and integrates with other apps like Goodreader, Quickoffice etc
      Nihon8888
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans I switched from DropBox to SkyDrive and LiveMesh also. Initially I was frustrated by lack of apps, but you should look at SMEStorage. The support SkyDrive / Live Mesh (amongst other clouds) on iOS, Android and BlackBerry, and on Windows, Mac and Linux. The service is not perfect but it's a good complimentary addition to the native Live Mesh tools and support is good.
      TechGuyUK
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans Check out Oxygen at www.oxygencloud.com
      sumit@...
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans

      You can always go to http://skydrive.com from your mobile browser. :)
      Narg
      • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

        @Narg Can't upload to skydrive on Mobile browser
        jward@...
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans

      A smaller population that's growing each day. It's time to join the Collective.
      Rob.sharp
      • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

        @rob.sharp@...

        You may want to pay more attention to sci-fi. Any time the word "Collective" is used for a group, they're the bad guys.
        tmsbrdrs
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans <br><br>"Relatively smaller population using windows phone" <br><br>NOT FOR LONG. Mango = Awesomeness, got it running on my Focus and it's incredible.
      mikroland
      • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

        @mikroland

        ...gawd I hope that they also offer Mango on the Venue Pro. I use my Skydrive heavily, and if Mango supports sockets then Skype may be saying, well now we can do WP7.
        Raid6
    • RE: Why I switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh

      @D.Barek Evans Live Mesh is THE solution IMO for large scale pc to pc and as you say it doesn't support mobile. However, Dropbox does one thing better than Mesh. On large files (500-1000MB) Mesh falls on its face syncing them everytime they change. It can take hours and the file is blocked for that period. Dropbox is fast on differential backups, in the minutes.
      LarsDennert