Dropbox – changing the way I work

May 15, 2009

dropbox_logoThis is possibly the best online tool, application, thingy since sliced-bread!  OK, so sliced-bread didn’t work very well online but hey!  I’ve been using it for only a month or so, but it just keeps impressing me and is revolutionizing the way I do many things.  It is ideal for keeping current files that you might want access to, anything which takes collaboration between multiple users or means working on different machines.

The simplest description of dropbox is software that creates a folder on your machine (PC or MAC) which automatically syncs with an online version of that folder whenever the computer is online. This means that it…
1 – Creates a backup of your files online, and
2 – you can access those files using a web browser when away from your computer.

Next, you can install the dropbox software on multiple machines.  So I have installed it on my home mac and two PCs I am currently using at work.  This means that anything I’m currently working on (in either work-life or life-life) I can keep in “dropbox” and it syncs in the background so that wherever I am the files are there I don’t have to fiddle with memory sticks or remote logon to grab them…
3 – seamlessly stores and syncs these files on all your machines.

Collaboration!  I can create a folder within my dropbox and share it with another user.  So, time for an example: I am in a team getting ready for an event in the summer,  we have started to put everything in a shared folder on dropbox which means that we can all see running orders, scripts, images, videos…  so we can all see what’s going on as dropbox gives you notification of any changes which tells you what others had added or removed.  It also makes working on documents much easier than email attachments.  But lastly for this example of collaboration – when we get to the actual event we will all have exactly the same files on all our machines so if anything goes wrong with one machine, someone forgets their machine or just needs to check something without booting up their machine… all good, no swapping around USB devices and trying to find the most up to date version of a file (I hope).  This gives me number four…
4 – can share folders and collaborate with other users.

OK, that’s all very good but now it gets a bit more useful.  There is a special functional folder called the Public Folder.  This is fantastic!  Frequently I need to send someone large video files, presentations or high quality images, that are too big to attach to emails.  I have used sites like www.yousendit.com www.sendspace.com or depositfiles.com to do this and would still recommend them.  However if I put a file in my dropbox Public folder, once it syncs up online I can get a “public link” which I can then email to anyone – they click on the link to download the file without having to join dropbox themselves.  Much more friendly and straight forward than the swapping web sites mentioned. So…
5 – can make files available for others to download by putting it in the Public folder

In a similar way you can create and share photos very quickly, easily and ‘privately’.  All you need to do is create a folder within the special Photo folder and again you can get a URL to send to those you want to share the photos with.  I already use FLICKR fairly heavily, so I haven’t used this much but I put up this little example (this link will die in a few weeks when I take the example down so if it is broken don’t bother telling me)…. which brings us to…
6 – create and share photo galleries

Lastly, it does it all ‘properly’!  It works!  It works really, really well!!!  There is version control, you can roll back to previous revisions of the file, see who worked on it, when and even which machine, etc. this includes deleted files whether removed by you or someone who shared. Dropbox handles conflicting edits correctly (so, if two people work on the same file at the same time, then which version becomes the ‘real’ one) – I’m not going to explain because you would understand it better if you tried it to find out for yourself.  In other words….
7 – It works really, really well!!

Of course, it is worth mentioning that for 2GB of space it doesn’t cost a penny, yes….
8 – It’s free  !

2GB free – not good enough?  You can get others to sign up and for each one who does you both get an additional 250MB up to a maximum of 3GB….
9 – Max 3GB free space!

Lastly, in case you missed it.
10 – It’s free  !

That’s my 10 reasons for using this.

( One problem I’m having with it is the time taken to upload large files, I’m getting under 20kb/sec upload rate at the moment and I’m not sure whether the bottleneck is my broadbans speed or dropbox. )