DropboxI can be a bit of a nerd when it comes to computers… I use quite a few on a regular basis.

There is my main PC, the PC I have at work, the media centre PC next to the TV in the front room, then there is the laptop and even my iPhone. That’s not including Shirley’s computer or the 2 servers I own running various virtual operating systems and the handful of fix-me-up jobs in the garage.

Anyway the point of all this is that there are certain files that I occasionally need to have access to from something other than my main PC.

As an example I am currently reading a couple of eBooks. It would be great if I could just open the eBook from any of the computers I use when I have a spare 20 minutes. Then when I have finished reading I could find a new book to download and it would instantly be available from every computer I use.

I think I have found the answer to my problems with Dropbox.

My Old Method

Up until recently I have manually synchronised certain files to one of my servers that I leave on. That allows me to get access to those files anywhere in the house, i.e. on my local LAN.

For anything I might need access to from work I have tried copying the files up to my web host using FTP and then downloading them when required at the other end. The other option is a USB key, which I used for this purpose for quite a while.

These processes basically worked but with all of these methods there was too much manual intervention required and so there would be times when the files I required were either not available or not up to date.

The Dropbox Method

With Dropbox you simply install a small program which sets up a folder on your local machine. Any file put in that folder is automatically synced to the internet. You can then get access to that file via a web browser on any machine.

Once you install the software on another machine, and enter you login details, all of your files will be pulled down into the new folder. Then any changes made to any files will automatically be synced to all other machines that are set up to point to your Dropbox.

So the only habit required is to put any new files into this folder and then watch them get synced to everywhere else you may need them. This becomes second nature in no time and your files become available whenever and wherever you require them…

You can get 2GB space for free when you sign up. If you click this Dropbox referral we will both get an extra 250MB, which can’t hurt.

Depending on your desired use you can get more space if required, 50GB for $9.99/month or even 100GB for $19.99/month. This seems a bit steep for a full backup and I am not even sure 100GB is enough space if I were to backup all my photos, video, music etc.

Other Uses

There are some other possible benefits. You can share a folder between friends to give them access to some of your photos for example. This will only give them access to a certain folder and it’s contents so the rest of your Dropbox will still be safe and secure.

Something I find very useful is the ability to share my password database between multiple machines. I use KeePass to store all my passwords in an encrypted database which is now stored in my Dropbox folder. I can get access to all of my passwords from everywhere I need to, using just my master password.

I recently came across this and a few more uses over on Lifehacker. Anyway here are the articles:

Image: Creative Commons License credit: Johan Larsson

3 comments

Michael J. Ludgate

Company bosses are only just waking up to USB as a potential threat to data security, Dropbox is almost impossible to police. Hopefully education will take precedence to locking-down. Used as suggested with KeePass or TrueCrypt (external link), with good passcode strength, data is adequately secure.

I prefer not having to go around updating multiple devices software, knowing that my USB flash drive is the only place to update to. Being available when the internet is not, such as tools for poorly computers, is also a factor.

I’d be interested in your views of Evernote; Utilising a similar approach, but focused on information. It’s great for copy & paste of recipe ingredients and shopping lists, then retrieving at the supermarket via mobile.

    Pete O'Shea

    Michael,

    I can understand that it must be hard to keep up with technology like this from a businesses point of view, especially when sensitive data is involved.

    As for keeping data and programs on your USB key then there is a version of Dropbox that you can install on a memory stick and it will sync if the internet is available otherwise the files are still available as they are. I must confess I haven’t tried it yet but sounds interesting, Dropbox Portable I think it’s called.

    I haven’t used Evernote. I have seen lots of advertising/recommendations for it but haven’t got around to trying it yet. Not sure if I have a use for it?

    I currently use Instapaper for articles I come across that I want to read when I have a bit more time, then Delicious for a more permanent, location independent, bookmark along with Ta-Da List for things like shopping lists. As for recipes then I tend to just print to pdf and stick in my Dropbox.

    Anyway nice to hear a bit of feedback.

    Cheers
    Pete

      Pete O'Shea

      I forgot to mention that I can access Instapaper, Delicious on my iPhone with dedicated applications and I can easily access Ta-Da Lists via the browser for when I am out and about.

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