In praise of Dropbox

Every couple of years, a new technology has a big impact on how I work. Gmail was one. My iPhone was another. And I rank Dropbox in the same category.

I get three huge benefits in using Dropbox:

  1. All my files are backed up online. The house can burn down and I know I can still get my files. Also, if I’m away from my desktop or laptop, I can still access my files on my iPhone. Online backup is the only sensible backup strategy.
  2. My two main computers are kept in sync. When I finish work in my uni office, I can go home knowing that everything I’ve done during the day will be already on my home PC when I arrive home. And when I go to my uni office, everything I’ve done on my home PC will already be on my uni PC when I get to work. I never have to think about what files I will need; they will all be there.
  3. Dropbox provides a simple version control system. Other people use services like github and bazaar, but I find them far more complicated than I need. When I edit or delete files, Dropbox keeps previous versions in case I wish to restore them (up to 30 days normally, but forever if you pay a bit more). With a couple of clicks I can rollback to a previous version, or download a previous version and use a file comparison tool to see the changes made since that version.

The best thing is that I get those benefits without any work! Once installed, Dropbox just does its stuff seamlessly in the background.

For up to 2Gb, it is free. I pay $99 per year for 50Gb. If you sign up as a result of this post, you get an additional 250Mb free (and I get another 500Mb — although I’d say all of the above regardless). Available for Windows, Mac or Linux.

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  • I couldn’t agree more

  • Kian

    I agree. A month ago, I have tried Dropbox and found that the backup is faster than Syncplicity. I have since moved all my files from the latter to Dropbox.

  • Agreed.
    I’ve been using the free version, now almost reaching the max 8GB. + I use Mercurial inside for my LaTeX file commit

  • rgm

    ditto, its great. And with selective sync you don’t have to have everything on each computer.

  • Few applications for iPad can sync with Dropbox too: GoodReader (pdf viewer), PaintText (text editor), Textastic (code editor).

    Which is very convenient – I can read papers/books, update notes or even code in the train while commuting.

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  • Patrick

    I don’t agree. I find that git together with Github works best when run *inside* Dropbox. Upload snapshots of your code to a private repository (you get a few free ones for educational accounts) and you get the benefit of scrolling through **the whole** history of your project. It also provides another layer of data redundancy and security. The most important thing is the commit message you attach. It makes sure you know what you did in any particular version. I found the transition hard, but absolutely worthwhile and I’ve become much more productive as a result.