Dropbox – Initial Review

Outside of Evernote, one of my other favourite apps today is Dropbox. The Dropbox concept is rather simple; it allows you to store information in the cloud but it’s implementation is extremely effective. Ever since I started working, I’ve always had portable storage. Traditionally it’s come in the means of a Compact Flash memory card seated in a PCMCIA adapter that is always plugged in to my notebooks. If I ever decided to leave my laptop at work, all I would have to do is to eject my PCMCIA card and take it home with me and I’d still be able to hace access to my core information wherever I went. PCMCIA cards are no longer the norm; ExpressCards are. More importantly though this same requirement can be solved by web services like Dropbox.

I do my work on multiple devices. I have a Macbook as my primary work laptop, a Vista machine for when I’m home and a Ubuntu Linux box that I rely on to do system admin type tasks. I love the fact that Dropbox works on all 3 operating systems. For all 3, you install a client which then creates a local directory on that machine. Any time you make a change to a document in the dropbox directory, it will synchronize it to all the other machines. In that scenario, it works really well. For my mobile devices, Dropbox has a mobile friendly web site that makes these folders easily accessible. I often put cab files that I need to install on my Windows Mobile there as often times sites don’t make it easy to download apps from their site.

One of the really nice things that I like about Dropbox is the ability to share folders. This is most useful when you are collaborating with others and need to have information flow to multiple people. Instead of sending multiple files to multiple people, you can always have the latest copy accessible through a shared folder in Dropbox. One word of caution though, it doesn’t support the concept of file locking. If two people are editing the same document, the file that is retained is most likely going to be the last one. The good news though is that it does support some rudimentary file versioning which is accessible on the web.

The free account comes with 2GB of storage. It may not sound like a lot especially when USB keys are so cheap these days and when Yahoo and Gmail both offer storage sizes that is much larger than that. It all boils down to how you use your cloud storage. For me, it’s a very simple and cheap way to synchronize and cache the most critical files that I need quick and instant access to such as my work documents. For the laptops that I access to perform work related tasks, I default my local Dropbox directory as my Documents directory. That way any work I do gets saved that quickly. The nice benefit from this process is that I get file versions out of this by default. Just in case I do something stupid, I can always log on to the web to restore an older version. Since it’s cached locally, it means that I can still have access to a copy of the file. One risk though is that if it wasn’t synchronized before you took your computer offline, you might not have the latest copy.

Should you find that 2GB is not enough for your needs, you can upgrade your plan to a 50 GB or 100 GB plan for a fee. You could also get small upgrades to your account by referring friends. Each referral will get you an extra 250 MB added to your account. If you did find this review useful and would like to try Dropbox, please use my referral link.