Dropbox expands infrastructure footprint in Australia

Dropbox will be deploying a point of presence in Sydney to bring improved file transfer speeds to ANZ customers.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

Dan Iversen, Dropbox APAC head of solutions architecture

Image: Dominic Loneragan

Dropbox has announced on Tuesday that it is establishing a network point of presence (PoP) in Sydney to bring faster file upload and download speeds to customers in the ANZ region.

As part of an initiative to move the Dropbox service from Amazon Web Services back to its own infrastructure, the company started adding points of presence last year to help customers in parts of Europe, Asia, and the US get data to its network faster.

To minimise the average round trip time per HTTPS request to its datacentres, Dropbox explained in a blog post in November that it has been connecting its PoPs to its datacentres via private backbone links, helping it "avoid the latency cost of opening a new connection when you want your data synced and start the transfer immediately".

Dropbox also revealed at the time that it is storing more than 90 percent of its customers' data on its custom-built architecture, called Magic Pocket.

Daniel Iversen, Dropbox's head of solutions architecture APAC, told ZDNet that it's too early to tell how much faster file uploads and downloads will be once the PoP is deployed in the company's Sydney-based Equinix datacentre.

However, he noted that in Japan, median download speeds doubled following the deployment of a local PoP, while median upload speeds were up to three times as fast.

Iversen said the infrastructure expansion is a direct response to the traction the company has experienced in Australia and New Zealand.

Dropbox has more than 11,000 business customers in the ANZ region, including 44 percent of the ASX200. It has recently acquired customers such as Airtasker, Australian Sailing Team, Built, Campos Coffee, Kogan, and Toyota.

Built, an Australian construction company, is now replacing its file servers and deploying Dropbox across the organisation after noticing improvements in productivity.

"The construction industry is one of the least digitised sectors of the economy but we're looking to change that," Built head of IT Wai-Lum Tang told ZDNet.

"We are already seeing wide anecdotal benefits in the increase in collaboration and productivity, for example less time spent emailing documents; increased remote work flexibility; improving real time decision making and collaborative discussion; speeding up the deployment of setting up new teams, projects, and sites.

"One example is in our marketing team where we have increased the number of tenders they can complete at any one time by four fold by allowing teams in different locations to work and collaborate simultaneously."

Dropbox was officially launched almost a decade ago as a cloud-based service enabling users to store files online and have access to those files across multiple devices and operating systems. But the company has since shifted its focus to solve problems around "content-based collaboration", Iversen said.

"Dropbox has always been about keeping files in sync; and what we've seen is there's really a need to keep teams in sync," Iversen said.

Referring to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, Iversen said a large portion of the work week, or 28 percent, is spent on managing emails. Looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can assist with certain tasks accounted for nearly 20 percent of the work week.

The company's mission now is to bring down the time spent on administrative tasks and boost team productivity.

The first obvious culmination of this strategic shift is Dropbox's collaborative workspace, Paper, which has previously been described by the company's global VP for revenue Thomas Hansen as "a blank sheet where you can be creative, where you can drive ideation, where you can debate".

"We looked at how people work and a lot of it is around content. It could be the meeting notes, brainstorms, plans, proposals, articles, etc. And there are three main ways people collaborate around content -- word processors, wikis, and emails. These ways all suck a bit in that they are either slow, people get disconnected, you can't organise and find things, or they're not conducive to creativity," Iversen said.

"We purposely tried to not create another word processor, because those tools were created 40 or so years ago when you had to print things out. Today, it's less about printing and more about building a creative environment and keeping people on the same page."

Adoption of Dropbox's Paper is among the highest in ANZ based on penetration per capita, according to Iversen.

"Australians and New Zealanders very quickly catch on to new technologies that can improve the way they work. Why that is is probably a more complex question, but if you look at theories like the diffusion of innovation, I think the fact that we are a slightly smaller market, we are well connected, gives us that spirit of innovation," he said.

As for what's next, Iversen was not able to reveal what products are in the pipeline, but did mention that the company tries not to build the product with the most features.

"We're very careful with how we evolve the product. We treat Dropbox like a museum, carefully curating the experience that we want our audience to have," Iversen said.

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