Newest Review: ... enough for us currently. If in the future I require more I would not hesitate to use one of Dropbox's paid storage options. Documents can b... more
Don't Drop Off, Get Dropbox
Member Name: Nibelung
Date: 02/05/11, updated on 03/05/11 (47 review reads)
Advantages: Once set up with some thought to file locations, back-up becomes automatic
Disadvantages: Free access won't be enough for those with loads of paid-for iTunes
Anyone who hasn't got the message about the backing up of important computer files can't have been being paying attention. Either that or they're yet to suffer a catastrophic loss, either of items they've invested a lot of their time or money in. Give it time, it'll happen.
There are many ways of backing up these files, and many people prefer to have some kind of stand-by drive or USB stick. These however do generally depend on your remembering to use them although some good back-up software often comes with bits of kit like this.
An alternative is to use an on-line means, fast becoming known as a 'cloud solution' as your backed-up files are kept 'somewhere out there' as you flail an arm round generally skywards.
Any amateur like me would do well to search out 'free on-line back-up'
I've tried a few before, but many, promising as much as 50 gigabytes of free storage as long as you don't mind adverts were just what they said they were; somewhere to put copies of precious files, like a hidden USB drive where you have to specify what needs copying, and more crucially, remember to do it!
I was introduced to Dropbox by my friend, 'mattygoves10' via her Facebook page.
Dropbox only offers 2 free gigabytes of storage, after which you have to start paying.
Or do you? Well, yes and no.
Yes, you only get 2 gigabytes initially, but you get an extra 0.25 gigabytes for being signed up via a referral, and subsequently for every friend that you successfully refer to Dropbox up to a maximum of 8 gigabytes.
Almost like a remote file server on your own LAN, it enables your home PCs to share a common repository of files, for example all of my opinions in .doc format. This last sentence was written on my laptop, when the rest is most likely going to be finished on my desktop. All I had to do was remember to save it and let Dropbox do the rest.
Having had a few successful referrals, I've now got 3.0 gigabytes, which, if you're storing your mp3 files or photos still won't cover much these days, especially as cameras sprout more mega-pixels almost by the day.
HOW EASY IS ACCESS?
Having signed up, you can put any kind of file into your new Dropbox directory that gets created when you install their utility. There's a 'public' sub-directory which allows you to send links to guests to view a file at the web-site too. This works seamlessly with Windows, the only visible difference being that files deposited in C:\DROPBOX\ get a tick on them within seconds to confirm that they are 'synced' with your account on the www.dropbox.com website. Thus, for example, any document you write and save will become not only backed up remotely as long as your internet connection is running, but it will also be fed downwards to any other of your PCs running the Dropbox facility. Therefore, it's a little like having a remote server on your home network. Any PCs not running at the time will be updated as soon as they are.
WHAT TO BACK UP?
In my case, I've made some of what I think are good decisions as to what's a sensible thing to store, given the 'ceiling' placed upon this exercise by the simple fact that I'll be buggered if I'll pay for it!
For example, a scan of my passport and driving licence was one of the first candidates, in case of loss whilst abroad. You can then access the Dropbox web-site from any PC with internet access and download any file in your directory structure. In the case of a lost passport, you could go to an internet café and get a printout, which, I'm told speeds up the issue of an emergency replacement quite considerably. Accessing the web-site remotely is of course subject to ID and password check.
I also direct the back-up file of my banking software to the Dropbox directory, not because I need to see it whilst abroad, but for the extra security that having someone else keep a copy gives you.
Your e-mail address book is another likely candidate, and maybe your browser 'favourites' list. There is another way, if using Firefox, to achieve the latter though without using up your precious space at Dropbox.
As a rule, if it's a file that's going to be difficult or laborious to re-create, then backing it up to Dropbox makes a load of sense. Likewise, anything you've spent money on like software downloads (and a text file of their password information) is well-worth the effort of placing it there.
HOW I'VE DONE IT
I've shifted the entire contents of what I'd class my 'Documents', i.e. the output from Microsoft Office into Dropbox.
To make the operation really slick, I've entered the Options menu on Word, Excel, Access and Powerpoint and told it to look for, and to save files in the C:\DROPBOX\ directory, not the more common default of 'My Documents'.
I figure it would take a lot of typical documents to stretch the basic free 2 gigabyte allowance. It's only when you start to give thought to mp3 files and jpegs that you realise just how big these files have become. Of course you could actually take out a proper subscription.
This really applies more to spreadsheets and databases, but bear in mind that back-up is instant after you close a file. If you really want 'incremental' back-ups to retain a history of older versions too, you need to change the file name of the altered copy using 'Save As' rather than just 'Save' in such as MS Excel.
You can, by visitng the web-site, recover over-written files, but it's best to use a bit of discipline to avoid this in the first place.
This would not be a suitable means of allowing multiple users to access a database. It only allows for the same files to be used in different locations, not simultaneously.
If you're using a mixture of operating systems, like I am, with Windows XP on my desktop and Vista in my netbook, then such as spreadsheets with links to other spreadsheets may not work on one machine or the other. For example, when I first decided to put my main documents and spreadsheets into the C:\DROPBOX directory, it took me a while to realise that whilst this was fine for the desktop PC running XP, the links didn't work on the Vista machine as the directory structure had the addition of my name in front of 'Dropbox'. E.g. C:\[yourname]\DROPBOX\, thus I just have to remember not to do any work on spreadsheets once they've arrived at the netbook end (not normally a problem).
It wouldn't take too long to create the extra layer to the structure of my main PC to give me the same directory structure as the netbook, but then I'd have to rework all those links within the spreadsheets all over again.
Dropbox offer the home user two paid-for upgrades.
Pro50 giving 50 gigabytes of storage costs $9.99 per month or $99 a year
Curiously, no-one seems to have heard about bulk discounts at Dropbox as to rent 100 gigagbytes (Pro100) costs pro-rata very slightly more at $19.99 per month or $199 a year.
OK, there's only a cent in it, but you'd have expected the differential to have been in the other direction.
WHO CAN USE IT?
Just about everybody it seems. Not only does it cover Windows, Mac, and Linux users, but there's also a clutch of Mobile 'Apps' covering Apple, Android and Blackberry operating systems
On-line storage that saves you from forgetting to do your back-ups.
Gives a consistency to what's on all of your PCs
Free access limited to 2.25 gigabytes minimum, with up to 8.0 available to those with lots of friends! This will still mean being selective with what you back up.
Back up is instant and 'hands-free' if you re-direct your Office suite to save in the Dropbox directory.
Summary: On-line back-up and file share utility. 2.0 (or 2.25) gigabytes free.
|Variety of features:|