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Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 5 years ago

Resident Techie: Four reasons I love Dropbox, and you should too.

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If you've known me for longer than a couple weeks you're bound to hear me gush. It's not about my wife or kids (although I do). It's not even about my car (unless its in an upset tone). Nope, I'm super passionate, over the moon, head over heels for an ethereal technology called Dropbox.

If you've known me for longer than a couple weeks you're bound to hear me gush. It's not about my wife or kids (although I do). It's not even about my car (unless its in an upset tone). Nope, I'm super passionate, over the moon, head over heels for an ethereal technology called Dropbox.

If you don't know what Dropbox is, go to dropbox.com and install it right now, because words don't do justice to the simplicity of actually using it.

Dropbox is best thought of in two parts. First there's an application that you can install on virtually everything: Macs and PCs and mobile devices of all stripes — even the quickly fading Blackberries. It creates a folder on the device. The second and more important part, is Dropbox is a cloud service that ties the content in those apps all together and does some nice backing up of the content. Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage with options to increase that storage through tasks, such getting your friends to use it, or by paying a monthly or annual fee.

Anything you put in that magic Dropbox folder appears automatically on any other device you have connected to your Dropbox account. Better yet, make a change in that same file and that change is pushed out nearly immediately to all those other folders as well. Sound simple? It is, and that's why I love it. Here are four more reasons I consider myself a Dropbox evangelist.

1. Synchronizing made easy. How many times have you used an application, where you had to hit a button to make it pull in the latest updates or push out your changes? That's old technology and Dropbox eschews it in its computer applications in favor of non-stop synching. Make a change and bop, it's synched. You don't have to go to the app or wait longer than a couple seconds. It's just easy and consistent. I've been using it since early 2010 and it has worked nearly flawlessly that entire time. At worst, on the handful of occasion when Dropbox's synch gets confused between two versions of a file, it offers both possible options so nothing is lost.

Backups, backups and more backups. Dropbox offers incredible security for the files you store in it. Having your current file in more than one place is the epitome of physical security. Lose your work computer and all your Dropbox files are still available on all your other devices. Have a house fire that destroys your external hard drives, iPhone, iPad, android tablet, all your computers and even your kitchen sink and you can still feel confident that all your files are still protected in Dropbox and easily available, including from the Dropbox website. (The sink won't be there, unfortunately.)'¨
Unlike most other cloud services, Dropbox allows virtually any file type on its service, including multi-gig video files. As long as you have the storage space to hold it, Dropbox can back it up.

Plus, Dropbox saves 30 days' worth of incremental changes to all your files for free. That save you did two seconds ago is as easy to recover as the one you did 29 days ago just by right clicking on the file itself or visiting the Dropbox website. I've used it and it's painless. Go to the website, sign in with your credentials and navigate to the file you want. Click on it and you're presented with all the saves available. Choose one and it downloads directly to your computer.

For mobile devices, Dropbox can also automatically backup photos or videos over a cellular or WiFi connection. So losing your phone no longer means losing all your shots.

Sharing is caring. Dropbox allows users to side step email quotes and share giant files with relative ease. Just right click on a file or folder in Dropbox and select “Share a Dropbox Link.” Paste that link into an email and the person who receives it can either download it independently or have it appear magically in their own Dropbox folder.

You can also configure folders you share automatically with others. This is particularly nice for people with distant family. If you want to share that new house picture with Grandma hundreds of miles away, you can just by dropping it in the folder you share with her. The synching will happen in the background and within seconds it just appears in that same folder on Grandma's computer or mobile device. Grandma doesn't see the rest of your Dropbox folders — just the folder you share with her. It also works for collaboration. Share a folder with several people and all of them can add, subtract and edit the files included in it. '¨
Application friendly. Unlike a lot of other cloud providers, Dropbox works consistently — iCloud we're all looking at you — with application developers. The service allows most settings and tools to synch across the devices. I use this for a password manager, a backup program and the mobile file editor Quickoffice. In practice this means you can continually refine the way these applications act and know that those changes are on every device you want them to be. For example, if I add a password at work, I know that when I get home that new password will be there waiting for me. In addition, because Dropbox is software agnostic, it allows developers to share application data across to Macs and PCs, iOS, Android and Windows Mobile versions of their software.

That said Dropbox does have some limitations that I would love for the company to address:

Come on Dropbox, quit penny-pinching. Although pricing changes all the time, as of this article, Dropbox's upgraded storage pricing is near the highest of the cloud competition. At $8.25 a month, paid annually, upgrading your Dropbox account with 100GB its expensive when compared to just $4.16 for SkyDrive or $4.99 for Google Drive. That said, Apple charges the same price for just 50GB of extra space. Dropbox's professional version is more expensive, but includes the promise of unlimited storage.

Its pricing would be fine, but with just 2GB of free storage, it is also the stingiest to its nonpaying customers of the major cloud providers. For example, Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage, SkyDrive offers 7GB and iCloud gives you 5GB.

Access levels. Allow me to lock a file, so someone can download it but not remove, delete or edit my version. Access control is available on the administrative side of the professional product, but so far not for the consumer version. Sharing with others is the biggest battleground for all the cloud providers and some extra tools could easily make Dropbox continue to rise to the top.

Minor nitpicks aside, Dropbox is a must-have for any computer user.

Sean Roth is a self-professed geek. When he's not following real estate and businesses for the Business Observer, he's musing about the latest doohickey.

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