I have been an avid MobileMe user for two years now and it has been a wonderful product that seamlessly sync all my keychains, bookmarks, contacts and calendars to all my Macs and iPhone without any issue. And to top it all off the “Find My Iphone” is really something cool especially when and if I do lose my precious iPhone, not only I can have a chance to locate it but I can totally disable it and render it useless. But I guess the Achilles’ Heel of the MobileMe platform is the iDisk.
I maintain a large amount of documents in iDisk in order for me to work at the office, at home, and on the road and it is critical for me that the files are sync properly and is always up to date without any problems. The downside of iDisk are too many to mention until I gave up and immediately get myself a paid account for Dropbox. Below are some of the issues I’m facing with iDisk (almost to the point of me cursing it) and my observation of Dropbox as a comparison:-
1) If you do the initial sync especially with many files involve, it will take a day or even longer to complete it depending on the total file size. Initial sync for Dropbox takes almost as long for uploading but I do observe downloading from another Mac takes a shorter time frame
2) Say a Word document is being open for editing and when it sync it always pops up an annoying box saying that it fails to sync. I don’t see this an issue in Dropbox. Infact every time I hit the save button, I can see Dropbox immediate sync up the file and the great thing about it, it keeps multiple version of the document I worked on and I can revert back anytime I want to. Dropbox just makes it so seamless and behind the scene as if it is part of the operating system. I might be wrong in this but iDisk seems to put a lock when the file is open for editing and it wouldn’t sync until the file is close, and during a sync process of that file and if happen to open it up to edit again, it will be only “read-only” which is very frustrating.
3) Whenever a Folder with large amount of files are being move to another location or rename, iDisk somehow has to resync the files all over again and that takes a lot amount of time. I tried this in Dropbox by first renaming a Folder which contains lots of files and also try moving it to other location; and the sync process just takes less than a second but iDisk takes hours to complete as if it has to resync every single files that is in it. (This is stupid)
4) I read this article and i quote:-
Need I even say more. Dropbox will have no issue as you can always check out previous revisions and your files are practically intact.
5) Both iDisk and Dropbox has great apps for the iPhone. Dropbox does seems to so much faster when accessing files and traversing thru folders, but iDisk somehow needs a longer refreshing time. As for caching local copies for faster viewing iDisk allows up to a maximum of 500MB caching while Dropbox works in a little different way where you can favorite a file and it will be available for offline viewing.
6) Another issue has to do with Time Machine. The greatest and most seamless backup application that makes backup and restore as easy as reading ABC. (Take note Microsoft – Nothing Fancy and complicated and it just works). Before I talk about Time Machine, let’s ponder on the architectural differences between the two. iDisk chooses to maintain a filesystem as a sparsebundle. Basically it is one big chunk of file like the Mac Disk Image (*.dmg files) and mounted on as an iDisk. As for Dropbox, the files within it are store basically like what you would store a file in the local filesystem using the HFS+ filesystem. Now back to Time Machine, what does this mean? It means that files in your iDisk are practically not able to be backup in Time Machine, although technically you can do it by having it backup the actual bundle itself which a one large big file BUT if you choose to do so, every small incremental changes to a file will cause Time Machine to backup the whole large chunk of the bundle files and this will eats up heavy resources, whereas Dropbox treats every file like a normal files you would have in the harddisk, Time Machine will have no issue backing up those files. Now what we have here is extra redundancy and it virtually guarantee that all your files are safe in an external storage and also in the cloud (not to mention all the different versions that Dropbox maintains). If a file in your iDisk is corrupted it is as good as gone once it is sync because your other machine will be sync with the corrupted copies and you have no way to revert it back.
I did gave iDisk few chances thinking why should I be using Dropbox even though having such rave reviews because I still firmly believe iDisk will be more firmly tied to the MacOSX and it is part and parcel of the MobileMe subscription that I am maintaining. It did fail on me a few times and I have to restart the iDisk sync and have it sync the entire files all over again and I am patient enough to give it one more chance until I had enough when few days ago it decided not to sync anymore for no obvious reason with vague error logs, and no other ways to make it sync again, and YES i am not gonna restart iDisk again as it will be permanently TURN OFF.
I have yet to fully utilize the potential of Dropbox and there are many tips and tricks out there like maintaining a centralize copy of Firefox profile, 1password keychain, itunes and iphotos and not to mention many third party application to further add value to it. So far I have been loving it and also it seems to share files conveniently with my colleagues at work irregardless of the platform of OS they are using. Do try out Dropbox, afterall they give you a free 2GB of space to start with.
update [27th January 2009] – The beauty of using DropBox; Every time someone accept your referral, you get an additional 500MB and this will keep growing as long as you keep inviting. Something iDisk / MobileMe should learn.