These days, a lot of people tend to use more than one computer, or even more than one operating system for that matter. Sometimes it can be hard to have the files you want on one system available on the other. Most people (including myself) solve this problem by having a thumbdrive or an external hard disk drive, which is all good until you reach a point where you need to work with both files on both systems almost simultaneously. Then it can be a pain to have to transfer from one drive to another.
That’s where Dropbox comes in. If you have ever heard or used Windows Live Sync, it’s something like that. Except in this case, Dropbox synchronises a single folder on your computer for up to 2GB in total with 350MB limit on any single file. While this is a show stopper for many people, it is easier to think of Dropbox as a thumbdrive that stored online.
You can access a folder’s worth of information wherever you’re connected to the net, even if you don’t have Dropbox installed on a computer. In that aspect, I don’t really to have to synchronise 20,000 files everywhere I go. Just the ones that I need, like my resume or certain programs or pictures. Which is also good because it works on Windows, OSX AND Linux operating systems, which means it’s pretty much ubiquitous to where you can take your files.
To make the deal even more sweeter, Dropbox does give you the ability to restore previous revisions of a file, so in case you’ve overwritten them, you can restore the file to the revision you want. If that is not enough, you can also restore files that you have deleted as well. I’m not sure how long they last until they are automatically purged from the system but apparently I still can restore the files that I deleted over a year ago, when I first started using Dropbox. Handy when suddenly realise you might need something you deleted a while back.
The true beauty of Dropbox though is the ability share your files with your friends. If they have a Dropbox account (which is free), all you have to do is create a shared folder between the both of you and just drop whatever file you want into it and have it sync between both folders. It’s that simple. However, if you want to send something to someone or to people in general, Dropbox also acts as a public file server. There is a folder in your Dropbox specifically for public use. All you have to do is drop the file you want in there and then copy the public url after it syncs with the online server. It’s faster and easier this way than to send files via email. The later part of my thesis was sent to my supervisors this way as the severs couldn’t handle a file larger than 5MB and my thesis was more than 10MB big.
If you’re more the geek, it wouldn’t take you long to realise that Dropbox synchronises symlinks as well. This means that you can synchronise data files between systems that need them. People have synchronised their browser bookmarks, configuration settings for various programs, even host a wiki or a website. Despite being able to synchronise a single folder, the limits to what Dropbox can do are still quite high. Some of the many things you can do with Dropbox can be found at their wiki (which may or may not have been created by someone’s Dropbox account. Probably not).
Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to make sure they can access their files anywhere on the go or to anyone who often finds themselves sharing tonnes of files between friends from a great distance. All I know is, Dropbox has make my personal and professional life a little easier ever since I started using it, which is what good programs should be about.