Dropbox – The Lightweight, heavyweight.

Tim O’Reilly’s 8th web pattern is about “Lightweight Models & Cost-Effective Scalability”. This week will I will examine what it means to incorporate cost effective scalability into a successful web 2.0 endevour and examine the best practices involved in doing so. I highly recommend the following video, I think its perfect to tie the entire semester together, yes it’s long at 55 mins but it’s Tim O’reilly. He’s essentially the reason this subject exists and not only does he talk about the 8th pattern, he provides an excellent summary of how all the patterns work together.

If the model for Web 1.0 companies was “get big fast”, now it’s “small is the new big” why? For a start consider the up front costs involved in the antiquated thinking associated with web 1.0. A company could invest untold amounts of money, construct a website that they thought was great and hoped would be successful, and then watch it fail very quickly. This outdated thinking was to burst onto the scene, to take the internet by storm and be the new big thing without thinking too much further than that. The burst of Dot.Com bubble in May of 2000 is testament to this type of thinking just not working. 
There has been a paradigm shift, companies now realise that they need a defined strategy of approach, that re-use and leveraging from other sources is important, that they don’t need to do everything themselves. It is now about working the smartest and not necessarily about spending the most amount of money.
Dropbox adheres to these best practices in an examplary fashion. I think much of it has to do with it being a text book example of what a business needs to get right in order to become a true lightweight heavyweight.
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Dropbox had humble beggings, essentially developed by Drew Houston as a program he could utilise himself after becomming frustrated with forgetting / losing USB sticks. Dropbox was essentially a one man development team responsible for a piece of software, that did everything right on a small scale. Let’s examine exactly how Dropbox grew to having over 100 million users, being responsible for .29% of the entire bandwidth on the internet by adhering to the best practices for this, the 8th O’reilly pattern.
Scale with demand
Scaling with demand is Dropbox’s forte. From it’s humble beginnings as a single user piece of software, it quickly established right away that it was indeed a force to be reckoned with (on a very small scale at least). As Dropbox gained clientele through strategic marketing it was simply a matter of acquiring more server space and keeping the service exactly the same fundamentally (of course there will always be feature add ons), and leveraging the long tail of the internet to reach more users.
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Syndicate business models
Dropbox is has gone to great lengths to ensure that it is integrated into most online storage offerings. There are a plethora of addons and applications available that offer seamless integration with Dropbox. One click to Dropbox from many applications,  smart TV’s, smartphones, and its almost “part of the original package” appearance in the windows 7 operating system ensures it is exposed to a host of mutually beneficial revenue generating opportunities. In 2012 the Dropbox integration with Facebook groups was yet another display of innovation that has become synonymous with the name “Dropbox”
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Outsource whenever practical and possible
Dropbox utilises amazon s3 data hosting services adhering to the “rent-a-server” model. This strategic move allows them to concentrate on what they do best, seamless integration with other programs without suffering the expense involved with establishing a physical data bank.
Provide outsource infrastructure, function, and expertise

Dropbox is a popular choice for infrastructure outsourcing, and its easy integration over almost any platform is particularly enticing to business ensuring adoption costs are low. Real time file synchronisation for all business team members, excellent reliability and backup offerings, as well as mobile access to files at all times makes it a perfect fit for many organisations.

Scale your pricing and revenue models

Dropbox caters for almost any type of user. They offer anyone a basic 2GB account, but offer extra storage space to those who refer the service to their friends, or purchase certain products or services. Recently, connecting the latest Samsung Galaxy to Dropbox via their application resulted in 50GB of bonus space. The high end of the market is also catered for offering businesses and large organisations a range of services for greater amounts of data with flexible pricing options.

Market Virally

There is incentive to use Dropbox almost everywhere and again this is in many ways as a result of its seamless integration with the products and services that matter. Offering users free space through third party programs is a win-win situation. Display a small Dropbox advertisement or integrate a plugin and gain the ability to offer your users storage space through you. 

Further Reading;