Dropbox: Do I need it?

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Dropbox offers a way to synchronise files between all the computers you own. It also enables you to share folders with other dropbox users – great for families, students, and project managers alike.

The first computer
After a painless signup process and installation of the software, a dropbox folder is placed on your computer in a location of your choice. From that moment on, every file saved, moved or copied to your dropbox is uploaded to the dropbox server. This enables you access to these files from anywhere in the world, by simply loading up a web browser and logging into your account. This in itself is handy, especially as you get 2Gb of space for free, but it’s when you start getting other computers and other people involved that things start to get fun…

The second computer (and third, and fourth, and fifth, and….)
Once you have dropbox installed on your first computer, you can install it on every other computer you use. For every computer you have dropbox installed on, a duplicate will be made of your data. And when you change any file on any computer, the file is updated on every computer that dropbox is installed on. This means I can be working on a word document on the comfort of my desktop computer at home, then when i get to the office i can work on the same document on the computers there.

Inviting others to the party
As an IT Service provider, we often need to share rapidly changing files with our clients, as well as our techs and occasionally external contractors. Previously this would have involved hundreds of emails flying about, and almost always end up with some people not working from the latest version. These days, managing a project between people is dead easy. I simply create a folder for the project, and invite my colleges to join in. From this point any files added to the folder are available for all of us to see and edit. And should any of us stuff something up so bad as to be unsalvageable, dropbox handily keeps every version of every file you have on its servers (for up to 30 days on a free account, or forever if you upgrade to a larger package), so you can revert to a previous version of the file.

This feature can also be handy if you want to share folders full of photos with family members etc…

The bad bits?
So, the review has been pretty glowing so far. With every good there has to be some bad, right? Well, yes there are a few minor niggles. One of these is the paid packages available to choose from. Your free account gives you 2Gb of space, and you can increase this quota to up 8Gb by referring friends.

After that you have to start paying. Currently the only options available are 50Gb for $9.99 per month, or 100Gb for $19.99 per month. If you were a large firm wanting to roll out dropbox to all your employees, I can imagine that 100Gb may not be enough. On the other side of the coin, 50Gb is too much for some people.

The only other disadvantage is that it is currently only available for Intel/AMD based systems. A lot of network servers and newer portable devices are based on PowerPC and ARM chipsets. While this isn’t a problem for your average user, it can make the decision of weather to use dropbox in a corporate environment or not a tricky one.

On the other hand, there are apps for accessing your dropbox files from iPhone and Android based devices.

You can sign up for a dropbox account and join in the fun here.


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