Every company has to deal with the question whether to run a private cloud, or to use a public cloud of a renowned hoster. This question can arise several times during the course of a company’s history. On the one hand as a matter of accounting, on the other hand due to changing requirements. That is what happened in the case of Dropbox. To date, the US file hosting company has been using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) services. But now they have taken the step towards information technology independence: Dropbox has invested in its own data center.
So far Dropbox mostly used the simple storage service (S3) of AWS. The flexible scalability of AWS was a major contributor to the rapid growth of Dropbox, according to the company: "We were an early adopter of Amazon S3, which gave us the ability to scale our business quickly and reliably. Amazon Web Services was and is an invaluable partner – we could have not grown as fast as we did without a service like AWS. " With around 500 million users and 200,000 business customers, however, the company has long become an important player of its own. The investment costs for a separate data center are hardly higher than the expenses for using the services of an external host. The data center is therefore likely to be redeemed quickly. Moreover Dropbox was increasingly concerned about the lack of differentiation possibilities at AWS. The in-house storage solution allows for complete network transparency and full control over the components. This makes independent adjustments to the specific requirements possible. Furthermore, modifications to hardware and software can be made without becoming uneconomical. But setting up an own data center is not necessarily required to reap the benefits: providers such as InterNetX offer a wide range of flexible hosting solutions. Another positive effect that resulted from Dropbox's business strategy decision, is the increase in reputation. In the past, the California based company often had to deal with negative publicity due to unauthorized data use. By setting up their own data center, Dropbox now benefits from increased confidence with their customers.
The gaming platform Zynga went the same way and built a dedicated data center after years of using AWS. In 2015, however, Zynga returned to Amazon Web Services. Dropbox already announced to continue using AWS for some workloads. According to Wikipedia, Dropbox will use the services of Amazon Web Services for around 10% of the data. 500 petabytes of data have been transferred to the new data center (Petabyte = 1015 Bytes, ie 15 zeros! Transferring the Dropbox data would require 125 million 4GB USB sticks). And it has all been managed by a team of 12 employees and without temporary disruption of the services. Chapeau!