Dropbox suffers global outage: Communication handled well

Dropbox suffers global outage: Communication handled well

Summary: UPDATED. The file storage service, open to SMB and enterprise customers, suffered an outage on Thursday. But it's a testament to the company that it communicated well and recovered quickly.

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TOPICS: Cloud, Storage
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Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 10.56.12
(Image: Dropbox)

Dropbox on Thursday experienced an outage that prevented its users from uploading files or accessing the website.

The file storage service said in a tweet just less than an hour after it first confirmed problems with the network that things we back to normal.

Dropbox communicated the issues well. It's not clear if the company was or is able to send notifications to desktop machines and devices that there were experiencing problems, but many were likely unaware of the situation.

In this day and age, when many always-on services fail to work, many are immediately incensed. That said, it's the way the world works now: we outsource our services to the cloud and panic when they're not available at our immediate behest.

The company stated in a simple message on its website that, "your files are still safe." At this early stage, it's still not clear what happened — an internal post-mortem is likely under way now. 

Dropbox may have suffered a security breach, a denial-of-service attack — which are commonplace nowadays, particularly for high profile businesses, or what's more likely is that whether someone has tripped over a cable in a datacenter somewhere. Or something similar; you get the idea.

There's a lesson above all else to be taken here. That's in Dropbox's communication strategy. 

Dropbox stated very clearly on its Twitter pages that:

  • "We are aware of the site issues" and "[We] are working to correct them" in a single tweet. That shows awareness and that something is being done about it.

  • Once the problem was identified, a Twitter update was posted no more than half-an-hour after the first announcement. Twitter is the go-to-place for instant updates. It's a search-and-notify system for service help and support (as well as being a microblogging platform for Instagram tweets of people's food.)

  • As soon as the problem was resolved, Dropbox notified its customers. It also apologized. So many times, companies fail to even apologize. It's such a simple thing that humans at the originating end of the tweet often forget.

This matters most for the prosumer and the enterprise customers that pay for the service.

The company has proven popular with enterprise customers after first launching as a consumer-focused file-sharing service. Dropbox launched its business service, dubbed Dropbox for Teams, in October 2011. In April this year, the company rebranded the feature that saw it swap out its Teams subscription service with Dropbox for Business.

Dropbox is expected to float on the stock exchange later this year, after it reportedly began prepping for an initial public offering.

Despite the obvious hiccup, kudos to Dropbox. It's disaster management planning at its best. Whether it was spontaneous reaction to take to Twitter or if it was planned in advance such an issue occur, the company handled it well.

Now all it has to do is openly and transparently explain what went wrong. At very least for the paying customer base.

Topics: Cloud, Storage

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6 comments
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  • Welcome to the cloud!

    NT
    statuskwo5
  • Never even noticed....

    But this is a good reason why I do not put files I commonly use on my S3 on any form of cloud service. It's why I do not put 100% faith in anything I do not personally have control over. Cloud is nothing but a new term for a much fancier FTP based service. That being said people, it's the INTERNET! It will happen, nothing on the Net is 100% safe and can always go down or get blocked, attacked, hacked in some for or fashion should someone want to do it. DropBox did a fine job though at rebounding from this and that's great.

    I will never put super important anything or commonly used files ( Music, Movies, Files that are Accessed frequently, etc.... ) on the so called Cloud storage systems. Especially on my phone because Wireless connections can be mucked with by so many things that it's only good for putting things up their to access or move them to desktop later and file sharing between clients. There is no way I'll ever agree that this is the way to go, you're putting too much control into someone else's hands. I am a firm believer you control your own destiny, so if you choose to use Cloud heavily and depend on it? You're no longer in control....
    RTWDesigns
  • Wow

    How does the author of the article fail mention Dropbox's admission they are down because of their reliance on Amazon S3?

    "It's disaster management planning at its best."

    Hilarious.
    Dyslecix
  • Good for backup, though

    I would never put anything important in only one place, whether cloud or local. Drobbox is great for backup, though. And for synchronizing files across different devices.
    bmeacham98@...
  • That said, if Dropbox goes down, you still have your files.

    "That said, it's the way the world works now: we outsource our services to the cloud and panic when they're not available at our immediate behest."

    That said, if Dropbox goes down you still have your files. It's a sync service, working both locally and in the cloud. It's not a totally ridiculous "pure cloud" solution that many bloggers seem to want, but don't realize that nobody in their right mind should really want.
    CobraA1
  • Dude, you need an editor

    Dropbox may have suffered a security breach, a denial-of-service attack — which are commonplace nowadays, particularly for high profile businesses, or what's more likely is that whether someone has tripped over a cable in a datacenter somewhere. Or something similar; you get the idea.
    Doodah