Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cool Tool #5 Dropbox

Posted by Andy

Dropbox has been around for some time and I've been meaning to set it up on my PC for much of that time. The main reason for not using it was that I wasn't too sure that it actually offered any thing more than from what I'd been using for the past few years with the likes of Mediafire, Divshare and Rapidshare to name but a few. Oh how I was wrong...

In the days of mobile and home working, it's essential that you have the ability to move and share files easily. Not so long ago we would have been moving our tiny word files about the country on floppy discs, then burning CDs, which initially was very expensive and eventually using USB sticks. All of these are open to a few common 'human' flaws, that we can leave them on the train, lose them in our homes and offices, or even have too many that we cannot remember what is on each one. Even with encrypted memory sticks, we still run the risk of losing them from our key rings, or even forgetting our password. Saying that, there is still a strong need to use these, especially when moving sensitive data, how many stories have we read in the media about sensitive files getting lost? There's also the issue of memory sticks corrupting. I remember last semester when one of our Masters students lost his dissertation and other files when his stick corrupted, luckily he had a version two weeks younger on his home PC.

How Dropbox works differently is that it installs a tiny program on your PC and creates a folder, in which you drag any files you want to share or transfer. Then you simply install the program on any PC you wish to access the files, easy-peasy. In fact I was that impressed that I dragged two mp3 files, about 18 mb into my Dropbox folder at home and turned my PC off a minute or two later. When I arrived at work the next day, the two files were sitting in my folder at work and were totally playable.

In terms of situations where you may benefit from using Dropbox, I would suggest PowerPoint presentations, large documents, non sensitive data, in fact anything you're working on or wish to share across PCs.
Remember to apply common sense when using these tools when applied to sensitive data.

If you want to learn more, watch their video and read about the features below.

Dropbox Features

File Sync

Dropbox allows you to sync your files online and across your computers automatically.

  • 2GB of online storage for free, with up to 100GB available to paying customers.
  • Sync files of any size or type.
  • Sync Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
  • Automatically syncs when new files or changes are detected.
  • Work on files in your Dropbox even if you're offline. Your changes sync once your computer has an Internet connection again.
  • Dropbox transfers will correctly resume where they left off if the connection drops.
  • Efficient sync - only the pieces of a file that changed (not the whole file) are synced. This saves you time.
  • Doesn't hog your Internet connection. You can manually set bandwidth limits.

File Sharing

Sharing files is simple and can be done with only a few clicks.

  • Shared folders allow several people to collaborate on a set of files.
  • You can see other people's changes instantly.
  • A "Public" folder that lets you link directly to files in your Dropbox.
  • Control who is able to access shared folders (including ability to kick people out and remove the shared files from their computers).
  • Automatically create shareable online photo galleries from folders of photos in your Dropbox.

Online Backup

Dropbox backs up your files online without you having to think about it.

  • Automatic backup of your files.
  • Undelete files and folders.
  • Restore previous versions of your files.
  • 30 days of undo history, with unlimited undo available as a paid option.

Web Access

A copy of your files are stored on Dropbox's secure servers. This lets you access them from any computer or mobile device.

  • Manipulate files as you would on your desktop - add, edit, delete, rename etc.
  • Search your entire Dropbox for files.
  • A "Recent Events" feed that shows you a summary of activity in your Dropbox.
  • Create shared folders and invite people to them.
  • Recover previous versions of any file or undelete deleted files.
  • View photo galleries created automatically from photos in your Dropbox.

Security & Privacy

Dropbox takes the security and privacy of your files very seriously.

  • Shared folders are viewable only by people you invite.
  • All transmission of file data and metadata occurs over an encrypted channel (SSL).
  • All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) and are inaccessible without your account password.
  • Dropbox website and client software have been hardened against attacks from hackers.
  • Dropbox employees are not able to view any user's files.
  • Online access to your files requires your username and password.
  • Public files are only viewable by people who have a link to the file(s). Public folders are not browsable or searchable.

Mobile Device Access

The free Dropbox iPhone app lets you:

  • Access your Dropbox on the go.
  • View your files on your iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • Download files for offline viewing.
  • Take photos and videos and sync them to your Dropbox.
  • Share links to files in your Dropbox.
  • View interactive photo galleries.
  • Sync downloaded files so they're up-to-date.

A mobile-optimized version of the website is available for owners of Blackberry phones and other Internet-capable mobile devices.

Find out about the system requirements to run Dropbox.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I'm Spencer. I work for a company named Syncables, and after reading through this, I think you might want to check us out. We make a localized syncing software that I've found makes a great compliment to dropbox. Our client is cross-platform, and it lets you keep your files, contacts and email synced between your computers over your home or office network, which is great for when you can't get an internet connection but still need to transfer things between your machines. Additionally, Syncables includes a media component, which allows you to upload your media to any phone or usb drive.

Anyway, come check us out sometime at!