Posted by Tim on November 27th, 2011
Continuing our series introducing you to technological solutions, this month I’d like to show you Dropbox. This is a method of storing files online so that they can be easily shared and accessed from more than one computer (and your mobile phone) as long as you have an internet connection. If you don’t have a reliable internet connection where you live, don’t stop reading, as it may be useful to you for sharing files. If you’re a Mac user, you’ll already have access to iCloud, but you might find Dropbox helpful as well.
What is it? Dropbox is a very simple online storage facility which adds a new folder to your documents folders. Into this you can drag any existing document, which is stored by dropbox independently of your computer.
How does it work? Whenever you update a file in your dropbox, the online master will automatically be updated. When you log on with another computer, the copy on that one will be updated automatically by the one held on dropbox. If you’re sharing files with someone else, the copy on their computer will automatically be updated almost instantaneously.
Why do you need it? Dropbox means that all your files are kept in one place, not on your computer. So if your computer breaks down or is stolen, your documents are still safe. You also never need to back them up again, as Dropbox takes care of this for you. If you use more than one computer (for example, one at home and one at work) you no longer have the hassle of transferring files between them. It also makes it easy to share files with colleagues. You do this by inviting another person to share a folder with you. They can then see, and amend, anything in your computer. So in future there are no more problems copying files to one another, and being uncertain who has the latest version.
What are the drawbacks? If you don’t have reliable internet access, you may not have access to the cloud copies of your files. You can still work on the copies stored on your computer, but if you have previously made changes to the dropbox copies, you will have to reconcile the two files. This could become a significant problem if people sharing files are frequently offline, but if two modified files clash, dropbox informs you so that you can sort it out between you.
How do I share files? Create a folder and drag the files you want to share into it. Then using my computer, right click on dropbox, and select ‘share this folder’. Enter the email address of whoever you want to share this with, and hit send. When they respond to an email they’re sent, they will be able to see (WARNING: and amend!) all the files in this folder. They will, however, have no access to your other folders on dropbox.
Is it safe? Adam tells me that the data encryption is of good standard and the risk of your documents being hacked is a low as it can be.
What do I do now? Go to www.dropbox.com and join up! It’s simple and they’ll talk you through it. WARNING: if you drag and drop all the files on your computer into dropbox, it can take a very long time to upload them, particularly if they’re photos.
If you have any problems, email email@example.com for support!