I thought I would write up a post that shares my good experiences with a service called Dropbox.
Dropbox is a form of “cloud storage” in which you can store and transfer files from one computer to another without moving them to a thumb drive or external hard drive. You can hook up numerous computers and even mobile devices (like an iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.) to the Dropbox and access files in that manner. When you change a file on one computer, it will automatically be changed on any other computer that you choose to link to the Dropbox.
One benefit: you never have to use a thumb drive again. For example, when we were recently out of state, my brother-in-law did a slideshow for a funeral, and my wife wanted to transfer the photos of her grandmother to our home computer. There was no thumb drive transfer. We simply logged into my account at the Dropbox site, and uploaded the file to my Dropbox account. Not only did it automatically sync to our home computers, but I was instantly able to view the photos on my iPad, simply by accessing the Dropbox app on the iPad.
My wife came home and found the photos she wanted on our home computer, and uploaded a couple of them to her Facebook page. Easy.
Once you start using it, you’ll discover more and more uses, and (like me) you may get roped into shelling out the $99/year for the 50 GB of storage. The combination of greater storage space, together with the app functionality, dramatically expands the functional storage capacity of your mobile device. For example, if you have 50 GB of information in the Dropbox, you can access any of that information on your 16GB iPhone without cluttering up the iPhone’s storage.
To take another concrete example: like many lawyers, I collect case citations that are useful to my practice. Many people print out cases, or make card catalogs of relevant citations. I have tended to keep those citations in a folder on my computer. But with the Dropbox, I can access them from my phone. Having those handy in court is obviously a useful thing. When the judge says: “You can’t ask that question, Mr. Frey! That’s hearsay!” it is obviously a great benefit to be able to give the judge a case citation without making a sojourn back to the office.
I haven’t had occasion to test it yet, but apparently you can recover previous versions of word processing documents. If you accidentally deleted hours of work, but your file was in the Dropbox, you should be able to recover the previous version (but check their site for the details). [UPDATE: From the Dropbox web site: "Dropbox keeps snapshots of every saved change in your Dropbox folder over the last 30 days (or more with the Pack-Rat feature). So if your pet accidentally pressed the delete key and erased your memoirs or you simply saved a bad change, you can restore the file with a few clicks." Man, this feature could have saved me hours of work on at least two occasions I can remember!]
I can’t say that I have priced out every data storage plan out there, but here is what I like about Dropbox. With some cloud storage services, you’re limited to one computer. Carbonite, for example, backs up portions of one hard drive for $55/year. But you can’t add files from a second computer without paying another $55. With Dropbox, there is one “box” and you can put files into it from any computer.
Dropbox is no substitute for a full backup of your computer’s hard drive with an external hard drive, which is cheaper than cloud storage for multiple computers and has far greater capacity (2 TB for around $125 in many cases). But I find new uses for it every day.
The coolest part is that they give you 2 GB for free — with no obligation to buy. Like I say, if you like it as much as I did, you may get roped into buying more, but if you don’t, just use the 2 GB.
Here is an even cooler deal: if you sign up for Dropbox using this link, and download their desktop app (which is the easiest way to use it), you will get an extra 250MB — for a total of 2.25 GB free. (I will get 500 MB of extra space for every person referred in this way.) As I understand it, the extra space is available even if you never pay them a cent, as long as you use the desktop app.
When you click the link, you can watch a quick video tour that I wish I could embed here. You can set up a free account with nothing more than a first and last name, an e-mail address, and a password.
So try it and let me know what you think.
UPDATE 10:42 p.m.: We already have three takers! Thanks!
Lee Stranahan mentions another way he uses it: a grocery list. You can add to it whenever, and so can your spouse — and then, when you’re in the grocery store, you can access it on your phone.
Your potential uses are limited only by your imagination. OK, enough with the update; now I feel compelled to give you the link again so you can try it for yourself.