Oftentimes, you find yourself needing to keep, access and update files from workstations at the office as well as from a computer back home. These files can be work related, a password keeper, or maybe media files like photos you want to share with officemates or friends.
One solution is to bring with you a portable device like a usb flash drive to dump the files into for further access and edit. However, bringing a flash drive around can prove to be a hassle with the inconvenience of plugging and safely removing the device from the computer. Unless you hang this thing around your neck all the time (i.e., if you find it a good fashion accessory), you’ll oftentimes find yourself looking around for it and racking your brains trying to remember where you last left it, in your pocket, in your bag, in your cabinet, or maybe the trash can.
Thankfully, now there’s dropbox.
Dropbox is an online service that enables you to synchronize files from different computers, even in different platforms. It supports Windows (XP/Vista), Mac, and Linux (big plus!). Once you have registered for an acount, you can download an installer applicable to your current platform. During installation, it will create a folder (in Windows it’s under ‘My Documents’ in XP and ‘Documents’ in Vista) called ‘My Dropbox’ where you can dump your files ready for sync.
Your files are encrypted (according to the FAQ, but you can always encrypt your files first before moving to the dropbox folder, if you have doubts) and stored in an external server. The same files are saved and magically synchronized to the next computer you install dropbox into and associate with your account. Your files are also accessible (using your username and password, of course) through a web interface, in case you don’t have any of your own computers with you or when you’re using a public computer or when you’re just temporarily using another computer.
The service is currently in beta stage and available to free users for up to 2GB of disk space. There’s an upgrade plan, but for my own use, I don’t think I’ll reach the limit anytime soon. Even the bandwidth mentioned in the FAQ I think is more than enough for my personal use.
There are more great features this service has to offer, like photo albums and public folders for sharing with other people. Visit the homepage and take a quick tour to learn more. A video is available also as a presentation as to how this service works.
My Own Experience
I have tried the service for more than two months now and let this post be a testament that it just works, and it really worked wonders. One thing I was worried about when I first installed it was the speed of synchronization.
The service doesn’t require java running in the background that oftentimes holds up the system. Synchronization is fast and done only to files that were recently updated. Think of it this way, in a standard broadband connection of 512 kbps, a 400kb excel file (which can already be considered quite a large file for an excel spreadsheet and should already contain a large amount of data) can be finished synchronizing in 10 to 15 seconds. A 4Mb mp3 audio file can be done synchronizing in around a minute. That’s how fast it is.
Enjoy the convenience of having your files synchronized between the different computers you work on using Dropbox. The service is free so register for an account now.