Dropbox. It Just Works. Here is How.
With a funding round of US $250 million in 2011, which included investments by both Bono and The Edge, and more than 50 million users worldwide, Dropbox is a company that regularly makes news. According to Dropbox, the company “was founded in 2007, by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, two MIT students tired of emailing files to themselves to work from more than one computer.”This article looks at the functions and benefits of Dropbox and why, in the company’s own words, “it just works”.
Managing Your files with Dropbox
Most people work on their files using multiple devices. This can make access to your files, when and where you need them, tricky. With so many devices to work upon, how can you find the latest version of the file you want? Working on laptops, desktops, phones and maybe even a tablet, makes it all too easy to lose track of our files. Have you ever saved a presentation in a hurry onto a memory stick, only to realise when you get to your destination that you left the stick behind, still plugged into your desktop? Or emailed yourself a document just so you can access it from your laptop later? Well the “big idea” behind Dropbox is that all your files saved on one computer can be available on all your computers and phones automatically.
How Dropbox Works
Dropbox is a website that you can save your files to automatically. When you download Dropbox onto your computer, phone or tablet, a new “Dropbox” folder is created on your device. It makes version control easy. No matter where you are working, when you save a file into the Dropbox folder on one device, it is now automatically available on all your devices and on the Dropbox website.
Some practical examples
Here are some of the ways I personally use Dropbox, which is not an exhaustive list of the possibilities,but will give you an idea of how useful it can be:
- I sometimes work on a presentation on my desktop during the day and complete it on my laptop at night. I always save presentations to Dropbox, as I need to access them remotely. At night, I just open Dropbox on my laptop, and I can continue working with it from where I left off on the desktop during the day.
- You can send people links to the files in your Dropbox, and they can then download your document. This means no more blocking of your presentations by email spam filters, just because your presentation is bigger than average. The Dropbox phone app allows you to email links to a specific file in your Dropbox to someone. It’s just takes a simple click to share your file with a colleague. It’s easier than email!
- I have a PA who works remotely and is only in my office for a few hours per week. We share a folder on Dropbox. If I want her to work on my documents, I save them to our shared folder and then we can both collaborate on the files. The beauty of this is that it’s always the latest version of a file that we are both working on.
- I use “SortMyBooks” for my accounts, and it integrates with Dropbox. This means that I can click through from the ledgers to see my purchases invoices, which are stored in Dropbox, (usually in PDF or picture format). I can also access saved accounts reports in Dropbox, either from within the accounting package or from my Dropbox folder on any of my devices or on the internet.
- I use the free “CloudOn” app on my iPad to create and edit Microsoft Office files. The “CloudOn” app is integrated with Dropbox, so that all files are shared there. It means that I can bring an iPad to most meetings instead of the bulkier laptop. It’s excellent to be able to view and edit any spreadsheet or presentation when out of the office, without having to have expensive infrastructure in place or incurring any additional cost. You can now automatically upload all of your photos to Dropbox, from iPhone, Android, camera or tablet, and they give you an extra 500GB of free space the first time you do it.
- You can share folders with clients or work colleagues while working on a project, so that all your documents are accessible. **
- If thinking about buying a new server, consider using DropBox for Teams instead of upgrading your server**
How much does it cost?
You can have a free account up to 2GB of data storage. A paid account starts at $9.99 per month for 100GB of data storage. That’s a lot of storage. Dropbox give you 0.20GB of free storage for every referral of yours that signs up with them. You also get bonus space for telling them why you like it, tweeting about it, and/or other little tasks, up to a maximum of 18GB. Every little helps!
Dropbox maintain; “files are actually safer while stored in your Dropbox than on your computer in some cases. We use the same secure methods as banks.” However, it is difficult to make any computer system entirely secure. There are encryption tools available that work well with Dropbox, but if you are concerned about security, you should seek professional advice.
Benefits of Dropbox*
- Your files are available on all your devices automatically
- Your files are available on the web
- Version control is now automated, as the latest version is automatically available to you on every device
- Your files can be shared with others
- It provides an automatic backup of your files, as they are now also available on the web
Disadvantages of Dropbox*
- Your computer may sometimes “freeze” if you are editing a document which is stored on Dropbox. A way around this is to store the document to your desktop while you are editing and just put it back into Dropbox when you are finished.*
- You need to be extra vigilant if you share folders with your clients, to ensure that you don’t misfile a document in the wrong folder.*
- Security needs to be considered* – see above.
This article first appeared in the August 2012 issue of Talking Technology, published by Chartered Accountants Ireland. I have edited it slightly*, taking account of feedback** and want to thank the LinkedIn Technology Group at Chartered Accountants Ireland for their input.
What ways do you use Dropbox? Do you use other cloud storage services? Please let me know in the comments below!