By Dave Peiser
A couple months ago I signed up for a service recommended by my Canadian cousin Evan called DropBox. All I knew from the initial hype was that I would be getting 2 gigabytes of free online space to store some of my stuff, and that it had a syncing capability between my PC and their online storage. Since then, I've been using it all the time and I love it, and here's why:
1. I can sync files on multiple computers
I have three PCs I work on: My desktop in my home office, a laptop I take along when I have serious work to do while out and about, and a small netbook for long trips and for onsite visits with my IT consulting customers. There are certain files I like to have with me no matter where I go. One is my password list that's in an excel spreadsheet, and there are plenty of others. Because I have Dropbox installed on all three computers, these files are now exactly the same, no matter which computer I am working on.
There's no more wondering about which version I edited most recently. If I start working on a proposal on one computer, I can continue working on it on a different computer. If I decide to delete a file, it's deleted on all three. Everything is synced automatically. Or automagically, whichever term seems most appropriate. And I don't have to remember to bring my thumb drive with me, which is typically out-of-date anyway.
2. I can share folders with mutiple work partners and with multiple projects
I currently have two businesses I'm involved with as well as a non-profit. Plus I have an on-going business planning conversation going with my brother-in-law, Franck.
I have set up a separate folder in Dropbox for each of these projects, and have shared the folders via Dropbox with only the people who I want to have access to the files in the folder. So with Peiser Solutions, my IT business, my assistant has access to the Peiser folder. With Greenliness.com, my Green eCommerce business, there are two people doing data entry and research for me who have access to that folder. And then there is a separate folder that I share with my brother-in-law. I can see and edit any of the items in my folders, but only the people I have shared specific folders with can see them. The other person's view, for example my assistant's, has a Peiser folder plus whatever folders she has created. She doesn't see any of my other folders.
3. It's fast and easy to use
The files you work with are on the PC you are working on. So, this is not like a VPN connection, where you are copying files across the internet every time you use them, and it's not like a strictly cloud-based storage system where you have to find files online and wait for them to open. It's all on the PC you are working on, and whenever you close a file it is synced with the online site.
4. It's automatically backed up, and deleted files are recoverable, so I feel safe sharing important files with contractors.
One of my fears when considering whether to share file folders was a concern that someone might delete an important file. This fear went away though, when I learned about how Dropbox saves files. They actually save a copy of every version of every file you have stored for 30 days (or you can have longer storage for a fee). So, not only can you recover deleted files, but if a file is edited and you want to go back to a previous version, it's as simple as right-clicking on the file.
5. You get a decent amount of space for free
Free accounts from Dropbox include 2 gigabytes (GB) of space. You can also earn additional free space, by referring the service to new customers (like I’m doing now 🙂 ) or by sharing folders with new users. Or, if you know you will be needing more space, yoiu can simply sign up for one of their paid plans. You can get 50GB of space for $9.99/month or $99.00/year, or 100GB for $19.99/month or $199.00/year.
6. I can look at all my Dropfox files on my phone!
I just downloaded the Dropbox Android App to my phone, so I now have access to all my Dropbox files. Awesome!!
7. You can use DropBox as your offsite backup solution
If you want some quick peace-of-mind regarding offsite backup, you can simply sign up with Dropbox, put the files you need to back up into the Dropbox folder on your computer, and they will be automatically copied to the online site. And you get 30 days of revision storage and deleted file recovery.
8. There's an easy-to-use photo viewer
I put this last because it's not a big deal for me, but if you plan to store or back up photos in Dropbox, when you put them in the "Photos" folder they automatically open in a nice Photo Viewer. This is a great way to share folders with friends and family across the country.