One word will make your life better: DropBox; One more: Free   September 18, 2009

September 18, 2009

DropBox logoI’ve been using this FREE tool, DropBox, for about a year now (since they were in beta).  I use it on a daily basis and, at this point, could not live without it.  Whenever anything gets to that stage, I cannot help myself, I get a little excited about it, so bear with me.

DropBox is a web service for synching up files across one or more machines.  At it’s simplest, it’s a web-based service for backing up files.  There’s been tons of these services over the years (X-Drive, AllMyData, Mozy, and Box.net come to mind).  But DropBox takes this to a whole new level by adding a program that runs on your desktop, PC or Mac.  This creates a folder on your computer that is automatically synchronized with your web folder that is hosted by DropBox.  The service even allows you to roll back to previous versions of your documents.  Everything can be done from the web interface or, amazingly, right from the program that is running on your desktop.  How many web services have that level of desktop accessibility?  Only a handful.

Ok, cool, now you’ve got a backed-up versions of important files that you can access through the web from any computer.  But if you add the desktop app to another PC, then you’ve got AUTOMATED synching going on 24/7.  Next, you can set up a shared folder with any other DropBox user.  You drop files into it and they show up in the user’s folder on their desktop.  The other user even gets a popup alert after the synch completes.  No more fooling around with FTP just to get somebody a file that is too big for email attachments.  It’s also nice for dropping 500 megs of files into before I leave work, having them synch during the commute home, then having them all ready when I arrive home. Now I don’t have to shuffle through my man-purse for the USB memory stick, wait 10 min to copy files, work on files at home that night, and then forget the USB stick at home the next day .. ugh!  I just work directly off of the files in my local DropBox folder all the time.  Every PC I work has a copy.

DropBox has a couple of extremely minor issues.  I have limited experience with the Mac client, but from the 10 minutes that I played with it, it does not seem as polished.  However, with the rate at which DropBox is improving their features, I’m sure this will be addressed in short order.  Also, I’ve experimented with running my huge Outlook PST file from DropBox to get automated Outlook backups.  No dice.  But that is really pushing the envelope and nobody provides a good system for that yet.

DropBox keeps their site and application VERY simple.  Like crazy, google-level simple.  That makes it easy for the rushed, imaptient crowd and the oft-ignored low-tech crowd like my parents (who absolutely love it).  In fact, for a second, I just want to elaborate on my parents’ experience with DropBox.  My mom uses it to synch files between her laptop at work and her laptop in the house.  My dad, the single-finger typist, used to have a terrible time getting photos to me.  He used to Kodak’s fairly complex photo-sharing service … a good service, but lacking in ease of use for non-tech-savvy peeps.  Now we have a shared folder into which he can throw his photos and I get a little popup when they arrive OR even get updated.  Smooth.

All this for free!  It’s 3 gigs free, with paid options for up to 100 gigs … beautiful.  I’ve been using the free version without issue.

Use this link to signup and you’ll get an extra 250 megs of space for free.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke, “Profiles of The Future”, 1961

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