If you’re new to cloud computing, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Cloud computing puts the human aspect back into computers. Communication and collaboration push companies to the top. We’re not just talking about how companies might communicate with clients, but also internally within their own four walls of business.
Enter online synchronization. Upload your files Dropbox, then download them later…from any computer, tablet, or phone connected to the internet. Edit the file on your computer at home, save it to Dropbox, and open the same file at work, with all the edits saved. No more printing to get a file from one place to another. No more carrying flash drives on your key chain or worse, risk losing them.
Dropbox is one of several cloud computing platforms that allows for this kind of synchronization. There are others, but the strength of Dropbox lies with its simplicity and scalability. Files in your Dropbox are automatically synchronized across all systems and platforms with the same account. Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud are a few that offer similar services, but they are not always easy. These are powerful features, and will supplement anyone’s move to an online life.
Two MIT students, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, saw a need for easier file sharing between devices for users. While it was possible to share files with flash drives, they envisioned an easier way share files online. Dropbox was born, using cloud storage to edit and synchronize files.
Dropbox quickly became one of the most popular cloud storage solutions. A free account will get you 2GB of data you can access anywhere. Download the mobile or desktop app from their website to get started.
The Desktop App
The desktop app for Windows® will allow you to share folders on your hard drive and set permissions for those you share it with. It comes equipped with a context menu change ~ right click on a folder and navigate to the new Dropbox menu. You can drag and drop to the website if you don’t wish to install anything. When you share a folder, its contents will be available from your account on the Dropbox website
The Mobile App
There are two versions of this app, each one suited to the two major mobile operating systems; Android and Apple iOS. Unlike the desktop version where you navigate to the file location to share or upload a folder, the mobile app requires you to navigate to the app itself. There are options that allow you to add files or videos from within the app.
Dropbox doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. You drag and drop files. Users take advantage of this in a variety of ways, keeping one or two files on there to keeping an entire team in collaboration. Multiple people signed into the same account can access the files, and each one is updated in real time. Other than the ability to share files and have an online storage space, Dropbox doesn’t have all the extras. They like to keep it that way.
I noticed that Dropbox support took after the major tech companies, namely Microsoft and Apple, to develop their support system. These two giants aren’t the only ones that use this system, and Dropbox didn’t copy them. They use a knowledge base article system rather than a simple list of frequently asked questions. Each article aims to answer a common question using step-by-step instructions that a customer might ask if they called in for phone support. Each one is detailed, with relevant graphics to show you in the easiest way possible how to use Dropbox.
How Dropbox Works
Dropbox is a cloud storage service. It is not a personal backup solution. While it is possible to upload entire folders, and business accounts can purchase up to 1TB of storage space, it is more of a file transfer service.
The first step is obvious, like any service you sign up for online, you create an account. Once you’re signed in, play around with it. Drop files here and there. Download and install the desktop application. The service doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Google Drive, but that’s okay because that’s what their aim was: simplicity. By making things as simple as possible, they have won themselves a loyal following.
Dropbox shines when you want to share a file. When you share a file, you set permissions on what they can do with the file, like read only or full editing permissions. Files are shared with links you can email to others. They click on the link you send them (Dropbox creates the link), and they are taken to the file’s location on Dropbox.
The mobile app works in a similar manner. You can access the files you have on Dropbox with your phone and tablet. Optimized for tablet and phone use, you can find them in their respective marketplaces. When you edit a file in one location, Dropbox updates the files in all your locations where ever you might be signed into Dropbox..
Just because Dropbox is simple to use doesn’t mean your data isn’t secure. Dropbox boasts the highest online security technologies in use with AES-256 bit encryption. This is the same level encryption banks use. No file is shared unless it is intentionally shared by the owner.
What if you delete a file? Dropbox keeps earlier versions of files on their server for 30 days to cover this. If your computer crashes, don’t sweat it. Every file you have on Dropbox can be retrieved even if you’re signed into Dropbox on the computer that gets damaged. Computers can be replaced and upgraded; data cannot. Every file on Dropbox remains safe.
The Mighty Dropbox
Dropbox is simple and powerful. It does one thing and does it well. Dropbox has its limitations, but that’s why people like it. Most people do not know cryptic computer languages. They deal in English and Dropbox recognizes that. It doesn’t get much easier than a simple drag and drop. Because it doesn’t have any of the features of the other providers, I give Dropbox 8 out of 10 stars. It is an excellent service.