The Coming Dropbox Apocalypse

>300,000 files in Dropbox considered harmful

It’s a given that everybody loves Dropbox. From the moment they launched I was in love with the magic blue box too, but recently I’m afraid our relationship has gotten bumpy and the reason may have an impact on their long term future.

“Your stuff, anywhere” is their tagline and I was an early convert in 2009. For four years I’ve been living the sync dream. Everything was at my fingertips no matter which of my home/work computers I was on. Pay for it? No problem at all, in fact I’ll pay extra for versioning. Even better, I’ll tell all my friends, they’re going to love it!

As time went on, I ignored the security gossip and really committed, I put everything into that folder, safe in the knowledge it was all going to seamlessly work. But the more I stored in my Dropbox, the more problems I had.

At first there was few mis-syncs, a few stuck files and a bit of “Dropbox: 129%” utilisation in Activity Monitor, but over the last few months it’s got really bad. Dropbox hangs with a full core being utilised for hours. New syncs don’t finish at all. Time to talk to support…

…after a week (!) I get a reply and they point me to help page 14 which contains this nugget:

“Dropbox’s performance may start to decline when you store above 300,000 files. At that point you may observe some slowness. We’re currently working hard optimising Dropbox to better handle accounts with unusually large numbers of files.”


Is 300,000 files really “unusually large” these days? I’ve got a folder with 20 node projects that contains over 100,000 files. My User folder on OS X has 225,000 items. A single work project can easily top 2000 asset files. What’s the point of giving me 100Gb if I can only use half of it? And “some slowness” is underplaying the problem massively — this isn’t just an extra few minutes of sync time.

It’s pretty easy to say “But Dave, you’re a geek, no one else will have that problem!” or “Stupid Node.js and it’s fractal dependencies” but that’s not really the point. The problems I have now are going to start happening more and more frequently as Dropbox matures and people add more data to their Dropboxen.

Even worse, if your considering moving to Dropbox for Business as I was this should be a massive cause for concern. The feature list for Business states that you can have “as much (storage) as needed” but that’s not going to be very useful once your company gets to 300,000 files.

I really hope Dropbox can sort this out, they’re a great company and it would be good to see them fulfil their potential but for the moment they have a problem thats only going to get worse with time.

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