If you’ve had much interaction with me regarding computers, no matter what the medium—Twitter, Facebook, email, dinner conversation, small talk during a gathering—I’ve probably mentioned a service called Dropbox. A few of you have already succumbed to my uncharacteristic marketing tone and signed up, but I thought I’d blog about it and perhaps get more people on board.
I’ll start with the reasons I like the service, and then explain why, exactly, I’m doing this a little later.
The site bills itself as an online synchronization and backup solution. I use it mostly for the backup, but that will probably change in the future. After all, it was created by a couple guys who were tired of forgetting their flash drives. It’s ironic to note that my current use of Dropbox is to back up my 8GB (soon to be 32GB) SanDisk Cruzer Micro, using a modification contributed by another user.
Dropbox is just plain fun to use, and it has a lot of cross-platform compatibility. It synchronizes files between computers running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux; keeps backup copies online (using Amazon’s S³ service—not that I should get too technical); stores revisions when files are changed; and keeps deleted files in case of the inevitable “damn, I shouldn’t have deleted that” moment.
The backups, revisions, and deleted files are accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. Files can be added, updated, deleted, and otherwise managed via the website, too, which is great for travel or forgotten files (presentations, school projects, whatever). There is also a mobile website for PDAs and a higher-end version optimized for Android- and iPhone OS–based devices, as well as an iPhone App (there’s an app for that™) which of course also works on the iPod Touch.
When naughty Vista workstations have tried to corrupt irreplaceable recordings and other files, Dropbox has restored them (with a little direction from me). Last summer, I bent the connector on my flash drive pretty severely while working on a design project at a poorly arranged Emerson computer desk. It still works, and retracts; but after asking around a bit and hearing that the drive was now likely unreliable, I was motivated to upgrade from the old Dropbox U3 mod—which had trouble on all sorts of non-personal computers—to DropboxPortable—which has worked everywhere so far. (It still won’t work at the local public libraries, though. But neither will anything else; they blanket–block EXEs.) If and when my drive decides to give up the ghost, I know Dropbox will be there to give me my drive back just as I had it, as soon as I replace the failed hardware.
I also back up my music collection in Dropbox, which is a great, perfectly legal way to make sure I don’t lose any downloaded or ripped MP3s. As it turns out, it’s also useful because the device I use as my MP3 player—a Roland Edirol R-09HR—happens to be very picky about file structure. If there’s one bit out of place, I get an “Improper Song!” error and can’t listen to that file. When this happens to a song that used to play, I’ve often been able to go back into the previous file versions for that MP3 and load a playable version onto my R-09HR. It’s much easier than using a so-called “repair tool” on the file.
There’s also the matter of deleted file recovery. I’ve used the deleted file recovery to reinstate everything from seldom-played music (deleted to free up space) and design research (I just messed up) to irreplaceable recordings from my R-09HR (corrupted by Vista).
The list of times Dropbox has come in handy and/or saved my bacon is endless. If it’s saved me so many times in the space of one year, it can surely do you some good.
So do yourself and the great people at Dropbox (“the Dropboxers”) a favor and give it a try. I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed.
Note: Signing up through the links in this post will net you an extra 250MB* of storage in addition to Dropbox’s free 2GB plan. That extra storage will stay with you if you decide to upgrade your account. (Disclaimer: You’ll also earn me an extra 250MB.*) I tried to work out something special with the Dropbox team via their now-defunct affiliate program, but they stopped the program just before I inquired, so I’m unfortunately rather limited in the benefits I can pass on. Too bad, really; I had in mind something rather spectacular. 😉
* – Please note that you must install the Dropbox application on at least one computer before you or I will receive any additional storage.