Dropbox Drops the Ball, Service Down for Three Days

By Doug Barney

Dropbox thought it was doing a good thing by upgrading the operating systems that support the service. That great idea turned into two to three days of downtime, an eternity when it comes to cloud services.

At first there were claims that Dropbox was the victim of a hack attack, but this was a hoax. That’s good news. A vulnerable Dropbox is clearly not a good thing. The system went down this past Friday night. The timing was a blessing for business customers who slow down over the weekend, but a curse for consumers that want to upload their latest party photos.

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For many customers, the service was back up in a few hours, but problems for others lingered on till Sunday. Hackers soon took false credit, but it took mere hours for Dropbox to issue a mea culpa, blaming the outage on its own mistakes.

“On Friday evening we began a routine server upgrade. Unfortunately, a bug installed this upgrade on several active servers, which brought down the entire service. Your files were always safe, and despite some reports, no hacking or DDOS attack was involved,” said Aditya, VP of engineering for Dropbox. “While we restored most functionality three hours later, some users continued experiencing issues throughout the weekend across, our desktop client, and our mobile apps. Dropbox should now be up and running for all of you, but we’re working through a few last issues with the Dropbox photos tab.”

Aditya then issued a heartfelt apology. “We know that many of you rely on Dropbox every day — we pride ourselves on reliability, and any downtime is unacceptable. In response, we’re currently building more tools and checks to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We’re sorry for the trouble this caused, and we thank you for your patience and support,” Aditya said.

Akhil Gupta, Dropbox head of infrastructure, shed more light. “We use thousands of databases to run Dropbox. Each database has one master and two slave machines for redundancy. In addition, we perform full and incremental data backups and store them in a separate environment. On Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT, we had a planned maintenance scheduled to upgrade the OS on some of our machines. During this process, the upgrade script checks to make sure there is no active data on the machine before installing the new OS,” Gupta said. “A subtle bug in the script caused the command to reinstall a small number of active machines. Unfortunately, some master-slave pairs were impacted which resulted in the site going down.”

In fact, on Sunday afternoon, some 5 percent of users still couldn’t sync from their desktop clients, and 20 percent couldn’t access Dropbox from mobile devices.

Fortunately no data was lost due to the problems.

Dropbox Aims at MSP

Dropbox is growing up and moving into the most demanding space in the IT solutions universe – managed services.

The latest Dropbox MSP partner is TechSquad IT, which now carries Dropbox for Business which it sells to SMBs. Dropbox for Business is no slouch, and today counts more than 2 million businesses as customers.

While the consumer version of Dropbox is aimed at file sharing, the business release has an added focus on backup. As part of its MSP push, Dropbox has its Dropbox Partner Network, a reseller program that addresses those 2 million businesses that use the tool, and assuredly more as partners bring on new clients.

The program boasts a Dropbox Reseller Portal, which offers sales and marketing resources as well as training.

While Dropbox counts 2 million businesses as customers, it also has some 175 million end users. And for a potential MSP partner, this means a readily recognized brand to promote.

Current MSP partners are already leveraging that brand and technology. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

MSPToday Editor at Large

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