Posted: January 24, 2012
I have been using Dropbox for the better part of a year now and have found it an effective service in my everyday business activities. I started by using the free 2GB account for the first few months but as I got used to the service, I found myself using it more and more and upgraded to a larger account. Here are the 5 reasons why Dropbox has become an essential tool for my work:
Since Dropbox is software you install on your computer, it is simple to use and doesn’t require the extra hassle of having to go through a browser to transfer files. I am easily able to copy files to the Dropbox folder on any of my computers and it all syncs with other computers in my office and other locations. This allows me to have access to important files wherever I am, as long as I am connected to the Internet.
With the ease of use, I have found it has changed some of my computing habbits. For example, when I travel, I dump all my photos and video from the camera into a Dropbox folder and leave the laptop on all night at the hotel, uploading all the content to Dropbox. This gives me the confidence knowing I have a backup. Plus, when I get home, all the photos are downloaded and available on my desktop computer for processing.
Dropbox allows you to easily share folders with another person (by email address). Sharing a folder can be done by right-clicking on the folder to share and choosing “Share” from the Dropbox menu. A page will open in your browser where you will be able to add the email address of the person(s) you who will have access to this folder.
I have found this has changed some of my working processes as colleagues that I work closely with will share files with me and we will edit and save those files straight to Dropbox, which will then upload and sync the updated files to everyone’s computer immediately. The down side is you have to be careful not to have more than one person working in the file at once as Dropbox does not provide a service for file checkins / checkouts.
Dropbox includes “Public” and “Photos” folders where you can upload content and make it accessible to anyone. The Public folder is used to send files via a link to people without Dropbox. By simply placing a file in this folder, right-clicking, and choosing Dropbox -> Copy Public Link, you will have a link that you can paste into an email where others can download this file. The Photos folder works in a similar way but also generates a photo gallery. Create a folder in the Photos folder, copy some photos to it and once they have uploaded, right-click -> Dropbox -> Copy Public Gallery Link will give you a link to a photo gallery that you can share with others.
These features are rudimentary in comparison to services like Flickr but the point is sending a large file or creating a simple photo gallery can be done very quickly with Dropbox.
Dropbox includes an Undo feature where your file is saved for up to 30-days and you can access it if you realize that you did not want to delete it. Some other built-in intelligence includes a function where copying a file from one Dropbox folder to another will not require the file to be uploaded again, saving lots of time when managing your files. This type of functionality improves the speed of your work flow and is far less cumbersome than with a browser based cloud system.
Like many of the popular web services, Dropbox offers developers an API to tap into their service and build their own custom apps. The API is still being developed, however a useful tool that I came across recently was the Dropbox Uploader developed by Amit Banerjee where users can upload files through a form on your website and the files will be placed directly into your Dropbox account. This type of application can be handy for businesses like Printers or Copy Centers, where their clients can upload files to be printed through their website and the files will appear on Dropbox on the company’s computers, removing the added step for staff to have to download files from an FTP service. This is only one example of the usefulness of the Dropbox API as there will be many more as more features are added in future versions.
To summarize, Dropbox is a great tool for those needing access to files in multiple locations, anyone who works between an office and home office, or collaboration on projects with others. There service is free for up to 2GB and reasonably priced for larger amounts of storage or business services.