The Tools I Use – Dropbox

- by Joe Nassise

For my contribution this month, I want to talk about what I use to backup, sync, and share my files across multiple computers. All it takes is one crashed hard drive to understand just how important a task this is. Thankfully there are some excellent tools to help you accomplish this task.

When I am working on a project, I tend to write on multiple machines. If I’m working in my office at home, I write on my desktop. If I’m working at the library or local coffee shop, I use my personal laptop. If I’m on the road in my role as consultant for my day job, I’m usually carrying my company laptop. Not wanting to keep personal files on a company computer, I usually store everything on a flash drive and then mix and match files when I get home.

As you can imagine, trying to keep all of my files organized and up-to-date can be a real pain in the neck as a result. Enter Dropbox – a free online service that lets me handle all of this and more. I’ve been using Dropbox for several month as part of their invite-only beta launch and just this past week they opened up to the public, so the time is write to share with you what I’ve learned.

Dropbox

Dropbox

Dropbox is an online service that lets you store, synch and share information from one computer to another. It will also serve as an automatic backup service for your files, should something go wrong on your end. Once you install it, Dropbox creates a folder on your hard drive. Any file you put inside that folder will automatically be synched and monitored for changes. Each time the file is saved anew, it backs up and syncs the file again. Even better, it keeps a running list of revisions, so you can always go back to an earlier version should you need to do so. You can even undelete any file that you might accidentally have trashed.

Any file you sync with Dropbox is available on any computer you sync it to or through the Dropbox web interface. Each time you sync, Dropbox only syncs the parts of the file that have changed, which saves bandwidth and storage space. The service comes with 2 gigs of storage, which is more than enough for any of the several projects I’m working on at any one time, but additional storage is also available for a small fee. And by the way, your data is safe too, for it is sent using SSL and encrypted with AES-256 before storage.

Dropb - online sync, storage and backup of files

Dropb - online sync, storage and backup of files

One aspect of Dropbox I haven’t used yet is its ability to share files with other people, be they fellow Dropbox users or not. I can see this being extremely useful for group projects, collaborations, and the like.

And before you ask – yes, the product is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so no matter what major operating system you are using, you should be able to give it a try for yourself.

So there you have it – one solution out of many that are available for synching and backing up your data across multiple computers. I’d love to hear other unique ways people are using Dropbox or what other applications you might use instead, so feel free to leave a comment and let’s talk!

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2 comments

  1. I’ve been using Dropbox for about 2 1/2 months and I love it. It’s wonderful for being able to sync files, as you pointed out.

    The sharing files option is a good one, too. I stuck a file in a folder in Dropbox that I share with a couple of other people because I wanted one of them to look at a power point presentation I had done. She gave me a critique, made a couple of corrections (on her computer) and saved it back to Dropbox and I had it back, with the corrections, in a matter of minutes.

    Very very useful program.

  2. In a classic example of synchronicity, Lifehacker has a post today on synching your files outside of Dropbox. You can find it here.

    http://lifehacker.com/5154698/sync-files-and-folders-outside-your-my-dropbox-folder