How much do I love Dropbox? A lot. For someone like me, who uses three laptop computers plus an iPad on a regular basis for production work, Dropbox is the best thing that’s come down the pike in a very long time.
Dropbox is the practical quintessence of what cloud computing has to offer, while keeping synchronized (at least to the last time you logged onto the Internet) copies of files contained on all machines.
Case in point; this weekend I had to drive into the nearest village that has a post office, bank, and shop for two hours before the bank opened in order to harmonize with my wife’s work schedule. Consequently, I took along my “road” laptop—a well-worn but still very serviceable 11-year-old Pismo PowerBook—and hunkered down in the car within the local library’s Wi-Fi hotspot radius. When I fired up the laptop and logged onto the Web, the news stories I’d been working on last night on my MacBook were immediately there in my Dropbox folder after a couple moments’ synchronization.
Later in the morning, arriving home after doing a bit of banking, I got on my utility Mac—another Pismo—and once again the hour and a half’s work I’d gotten done in the car outside the library was almost immediately available on that machine so I could pick up right where I left off. Too cool.
Before Dropbox, my analogical file transfer and synchronization method for works in progress was to either compress and email the files to myself, then download them to the other computer(s), or—if no Internet access was available, or the files were very large—I’d use a USB flash drive. Both methods work. Neither is as quick, slick, or efficient as Dropbox, which intelligently syncs only the parts of a file that have ben modified (not the whole thing).
If you’re not yet familiar, San Francisco-based Dropbox—which claims to have 25 million registered users in 175 countries who save more than one million files every five minutes, and 200 million files daily—is a free service that lets you access your files: photos, docs, videos, anywhere there’s Internet access, Joining Dropbox is a simple matter of downloading and installing the Dropbox software (free for Windows, Mac and Linux), which will create a special folder on your computer when launched. Anything you add to this Dropbox folder will automatically save to all your computers and to the Dropbox website. You can also invite people to share any folder in your Dropbox, which makes it ideal for team projects or sharing photos with family or friends since you cee other people’s changes instantly. Security-wise, Dropbox uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption.
The Dropbox mobile apps (also free for iPhone/iPad, Android and Blackberry) lets you take your life on the road. Dropbox also keeps a one month history of your work, allowing you to go back in time to fix mistakes or rescue deleted files.
Dropbox offers 2GB of space for free, enough for thousands of documents or hundreds of large photos. For a fee, you can upgrade to a Pro account with up to 100GB.
If you ever have need to transfer and/or synchronize files between two or more computers (and who doesn’t?), you really need to try Dropbox if you haven’t already. It’s free for up to 2GB storage in the cloud (which, incidentally, is the capacity of the original hard drive in the wall Wall Street PowerBook that I bought new in 1999), so if you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?