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Dropbox: A new way to sync, store, and share your files online

Dropbox is a free online facility that allows you to share files across a number of computers. This is useful where a number of people need to be able to access the files. It also creates a form of backup which when combined with something such as Apple’s Time Machine is quite robust.

The free facility is quite useful although you are able to upgrade if you run out of space.

I’ve just had a great example of why I think Dropbox is so great. I needed the logo that sits beside this text but it was on my laptop rather than the iMac that I am working on so, I dropped the file into my Dropbox and hey presto the file is available to this Mac and all the other computers that I have Dropbox synced to.

Many years ago I used to email myself files from one Mac to the one sat next to it, there were reasons for this but basically the computers weren’t always networked, at the time they didn’t need to be and to be honest it wasn’t as easy to network Macs as it is now. For the record ⌘K allows you connect to other Macs on your network, this will generally mean those hooked up to your Wi-Fi network. You will be invited to browse for available computers and then supply name and password to hook up. But simple as this is sometimes it’s easier to chuck it in the Dropbox.

Other ad hoc ways of transferring files include dropping them onto a Flash drive or again in the past something like a Zip Drive; remember those?

Where Dropbox is good is that it syncs the files across a range of computers. We use it for some of the day to day business aspect of our work. I can generate an invoice, PDF it to my customer but also make the invoice file available for someone else to do my accounts. In truth there is no real reason why I couldn’t make the same folder available to my accountants in London, in time I will. And in that picture there is another aspect of the strength of Dropbox, it doesn’t really matter what platform is using Dropbox, whether it’s Mac or PC the files will be synced across the computers.

Backup and Retrieve

I have previously written about backups and am pleased to note that there is clearly a fair amount of interest in the subject. There is a lot to be said for having a remote online backup facility as part of your strategy and Dropbox can be particularly useful here.

Case study: Website backups

I’ve recently been working for a customer who was having problems with their existing website provider. The company had designed a site that my customer wasn’t too happy with, I had already tidied up the site a bit and, as a precaution, I took a complete copy of the site and backed it up to my Dropbox along with the other sites that we have created ourselves.

Sure enough, the worst happened, the web company ‘went to the wall’ and the site disappeared. Now fortunately the customer had managed her own domain which meant I could transfer a copy of her site to my own space via FTP and get the site up and running within a couple of hours.

Now the good thing is that with something like fireftp combined with Dropbox I could do this from anywhere, I would just need to borrow a computer. How good is that?

I recently posted some comments about Dropbox on Twitter and was impressed by the strength of support for it. This probably seems like a sales pitch, and to be honest if you sign up here I get a bit more space. But it’s not a sales pitch, it’s just utterly refreshing to come across something that is a neat idea, works, and makes my life easier for free.

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