File sizes are getting bigger. Security is always a big concern. Sharing and collaboration gets things done. It used to be that as computer programs evolved, the size of the files they produced (that is, that you could save and load) grew in size too. This meant that you would constantly be looking out for a bigger hard drive so that you would keep using the programs you love and not have to delete anything to avoid running out of space on your computer.
And if you wanted to access a file (be it a document, spreadsheet, photo, movie, or anything else) on another computer, you would have to first copy the file from your own hard drive to a either a USB stick or thumb drive, a CD/DVD, or external hard drive, and then carry that device around with you, connect it to the other computer and hope it recognized the device and the file would open ok for you.
I was part of this cycle and was a big advocate of CD/DVD storage, especially as a backup medium. I would backup my photos, copy files and take them around with me. There was definitely problems with this solution, many of which are obvious:
- Devices are fragile
- Devices can be lost
- CD/DVDs were a pain to use multiple times and re-writable discs were always messy
And of course, they have a limited lifespan. And who could forget the constant worry of a hard drive clicking it’s way to death.
Now, services are popping up on the internet that act as your hard drive. There’s services from Amazon, box.net, Syncplicity, Ubuntu One, Google Docs, SugarSync and more. One that I’ve found very powerful and flexible, is Dropbox.
What Is Dropbox?
Dropbox is a storage service that allows you to sync your files up to the cloud. Dropbox is a small application that adds a new folder to your computer. Anything you put in that folder will automatically be synchronized up to the Dropbox Cloud.
Dropbox has a web application too so you can get to your document, photos, videos and anything else from the web. There’s absolutely no need to use USB devices, CDs or DVDs or anything else. Simply save to the Dropbox folder and it’ll be available from anywhere!
What’s more is that they have an app for everything: Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone, Android and, Blackberry. Open up the app on your mobile device and you can view just about any file you have in your Dropbox. Imagine being able to browse photos, videos and documents, on your phone, without have to actually transfer any files anywhere. It all seems too easy.
You can also use all your files, like you normally would, without being online. Dropbox will simply queue up your changes and upload them when you’re next online.
It’s super easy to get started with Dropbox, and it’s free. You can sign up here for a free 2GB account. This is the perfect size to get started and you can upgrade to a 50GB or 100GB account with a couple of clicks (refer a friend and you can get up to 16GB of extra space too!). Once you’ve registered, you can download the application for your computer. Once it’s installed, a new ‘Dropbox’ folder will be created inside your Documents folder (Windows), or inside your User folder (Mac).
To start using Dropbox, simply drag a drop a file or folder into the Dropbox folder. The icon in your system tray (Windows) or menu bar (Mac) will show a rotating arrow to indicate that Dropbox is syncing your files. Once the sync process is finished, the icon will show a green tick. You can continue using your files while they are syncing. Just forget about the synchronization process and use the folder just like any other. If you need to install the application on any other computer, you can download it again from inside the Dropbox web application.
Should you find yourself in need of opening a file when you don’t have one of you’re own computers handy, use the web application to download the file, work on it and upload it again. The next time you get back to your computer, the updated file will be there too!
It might seem like I’m really plugging Dropbox here, and I guess I am, but I’m not getting any kickbacks at all. I’ve been using it for a few years now and would never look back. I would highly recommend you give Dropbox a try. It’s very easy to integrate into your workflow and you’ll reap the benefits right away. How do you use Dropbox? Leave your comments below.