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13 How and Why I Use Dropbox

I’ve been covering a number of tools I depend on in this “how and why” format and people seem to be enjoying this so I’ll do it as a regular feature for a bit.

File storage with Dropbox

Image: redjar via Flickr

Today’s subject is the tool Dropbox. Dropbox is not a new kid on the block and lots of folks speak lovingly about this online file storage service. There’s a free version that may be robust and large enough for most, but I’ve chosen the full meal deal because I use Dropbox so completely.

There are other tools that can do all of what I’m going to describe, but from a file handling standpoint, ease of use, and set-up the way I work, Dropbox is killer.

Here’s why

  • I have a small staff and Dropbox is our internal server. We store everything and exchange and collaborate on files just like you would in any server environment. The main difference, of course, is that our Dropbox server is in the cloud and we can easily access all files (even those being worked on by folks back at the ranch) when I travel or someone works from home. (If you elect to Kick Out a team member they will no longer have access to the folders and the files will be permanently deleted from their hard drives.)
  • Dropbox uses a technology that only needs to upload changes so you can make tiny edit to a huge file and it syncs in seconds.
  • I have business partners in other countries and I can share and collaborate on specific files and folders and know that we are all working from and using the right document.
  • I speak to groups in seminars and workshops almost weekly at times and Dropbox allows me to work on a PPT presentation save it and then share a public branded link with groups that need to approve my presentations or as a way for me to share my slides without have to transfer or upload anything – I just save the file as I work and then share the public link on my last slide (I wrote about setting up my own branded link shortener here and I love to create custom links to my presentations like ducttape.me/sxsw for example)
  • All of our files are automatically backed up and synced in multiple places at all times.
  • I have iPhone and iPad Dropbox apps that allow me access all files on these devices as well. I’ve made more than one presentation on my iPad and I love the remarkable intimacy of that tool.

How I use it

As I said in the beginning of this post, there are free and low cost options that most people can use and get tremendous value. Because I depend on this tool so much I’ve opted for the Team Version and we pay an annual fee that may seem pretty steep, but the no hassle factor is worth it.

With Team we get to share the giant storage quota, Rewind to any version of a file, and encrypted transfer and storage.

  • We create and organize folders just like you would on any server for all of our most important work categories and then everyone works from those folders and saves the work directly to them. The feature that makes this work so well is that the Dropbox app loads on all of our staff’s hard drives and then all files show up on their computer just like they would on a hard drive. There’s no need to go to the web, the files are just there.
  • We also create personal folders for each team member to act like their MyDocuments folder for work in progress.
  • I backup all my websites and blog databases routinely to Dropbox.
  • I store a portable version of Firefox on Dropbox so that if I get stuck and need to use a loner computer I have all my extensions and bookmarks
  • I back up my entire music library to Dropbox and can access it from any computer

So, have you found any other great uses for Dropbox that I may not have considered?