A little less than a year ago, my husband found this file sharing service and persistently talked to me about it, as ‘we need this.’ Have I mentioned how resistant I can be about new technology? I didn’t mind the old school way of e-mailing each other attachments. Or worse case, I’d paste the information into Google Docs where he could log in and see it (minus formatting, of course). Yet, did you notice the phrase “didn’t mind”? If I were working with someone, that phrase alone would make me pause and ask some follow-up questions. Is it worth settling for a “don’t mind”? I’m on the lookout for ways that it can be simple and maybe even enjoyable.
Dropbox, this file sharing service my husband was so excited about is just that – simple and enjoyable to use. It’s also free, at least for anything under 2GB, which works for us without problems. You can also “earn” additional free space by having friends join.
One of the reasons it’s easy is that is puts a folder, appropriately called Dropbox, on your desktop if you use Windows, or under Places in the Finder on a Mac. You take any files you want and put them into the Dropbox folder.
What’s so special about that?
Well, first you can install Dropbox on any computer and it connects your files with each computer. This is not all though – it also works on most smart phones. There’s also the ability to access it on the web if you want. This also means that you can work on a file even when you don’t have an Internet connection, and it will sync when there’s a connection again and your work is then available everywhere again.
Second, you can share folders with anyone. If you’re going to be working with a group, you can create a folder that you all have access to. What this means, is that each person can work on any given file; you won’t need to track which version is the most recent. This was the important aspect for my husband so that we could coordinate various files. Although I’ve not tried to use it, Dropbox provides access to old versions of a file for 30 days with the free version, and longer for the paid versions. It also apparently will create two files if there is a conflict, like two people making modifications at the same time, so it works hard to protect the data.
It’s funny to me that many reviews of Dropbox group it with online back-up services like Mozy or Carbonite. Although it certainly offers that service, it functions uniquely as it offers a free file sharing service. Certainly at the free 2GB option, it’s not going to be superior for backing up most files on your computer.
Also, since you’re likely to put files in it that are in progress or important to you, it offers the security that they will be there when you need them. This is exactly where Dropbox excels in my opinion. I don’t want access to all my files from every device, yet there are many files I’m working with or want access to, and Dropbox gives me that access easily and simply. I don’t know about you, but I’m not backing up all my files each time I modify them, so Dropbox keeps them safe until I’m ready to back them up elsewhere. It also means that when I’m on the go, but have some time, I can open Dropbox and get things done. It allows my husband and I to make lists for shopping or financial things.
There are additional services that I’ve not used or explored much. You can e-mail a link to a file or folder to someone so they can access the files you want to share. The photo folder apparently creates a public gallery for slideshow sharing of your pictures.
I mentioned earlier that it would sync your files across devices. Sometimes this takes time. My mom was frustrated at one point when I uploaded a video we’d taken because it took a long time before it was available in our shared folder. It was a big file though and cannot imagine how long it would have taken to attach and mail only to need to be downloaded later. You need to be aware of the fact that it can take time for files to get synced to the cloud, and then synced to the various locations. I’ve found this to rarely be an issue, and I’ve been quite pleased with the speed of syncing.
This is a must have service if you use multiple devices or work with other people on files. Since my only minor struggle has been an occasional delay in syncing, I’ve found no other drawbacks to Dropbox. That alone seems extraordinary! Consider how you might improve your productivity by getting this.