Not so long ago, we had to carry around piles of discs, DVDs, or even our laptop in order to get access to all the files that we needed while on the go. If you were working on a team project and you had to share information with a colleague that was in a different location, the only option was to send an email with the files attached. The problem was that if the files were too heavy, you would spend a lot of time and effort trying to make sure that the information got to its destination and if the data exceeded the allowed space, your sending attempts would fail miserably again and again. USB devices were (and still are) another option to carry your files around, but if they got damaged or lost, your data would be gone too.
We used to think that physical storage options and email messages were the only way to keep and share our files and while they are way more practical than carrying folders full of paper sheets, or sending documents by post, they still are a flawed way to manage our data. However, it was all we knew and for a while, we had to do with it. As time went by and our appetite for information increased, it was clear that we needed a more convenient way to store, access and share our files. That is when cloud storage services made their way into the mainstream and became a widely-used option.
Dropbox is a leading provider in the online storage services industry and it is considered as the company that popularized cloud-based file hosting and sharing services. Dropbox was founded in 2007 with the aim of allowing users to access their files anytime and anywhere. The company is known for offering a convenient way to store and transfer data without USB devices, or email attachments. Dropbox may be the most recognized file syncing and storage solution, but does that also mean that it is the best one? We will find out as we take a closer look at this popular service.
Dropbox is compatible with a wide selection of platforms and it gives you the possibility of accessing your photos, music, documents and more from any device. Using Dropbox is simple and it would be an effective way to share a photo album with your friends and family, or to collaborate in the same project with work colleagues or classmates, no matter where they are. You can download the software from their website, or get the app for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Kindle Fire in their respective online stores.
Dropbox offers useful guides with detailed information to help you to install and to use the application. You will need to create a Dropbox account, or sign into an existing one. Once the software client has ben downloaded and installed, a folder called Dropbox will be created on your computer and its location will be established by default. Alternatively, you can select the advanced setup to choose a different location for the folder and to get a greater control over the file syncing process.
Once the installation is completed, a shortcut icon will appear on your computer and you can click it in order to open your Dropbox folder. Clicking the Dropbox icon also allows you to access the preference settings, where you can manage the folder’s location and configure upload/download speeds. Dropbox is designed to make things simple for you and as such, it offers basic customization options. You can enable LAN sync, display desktop notifications, limit bandwidth (it is set to automatic limiting by default) or set up proxies.
How does it work
To use Dropbox, all you have to do is to save your files in the Dropbox folder and the tool will take care of the rest automatically. Dropbox syncs your files in every location, making sure that you can access them from any internet-enabled device. Dropbox doesn’t have to be installed on the device, because you also have the option to log into your online Dropbox account using a Web browser. It is possible to access your files through Dropbox from your home or work computer, from school, from your tablet or smartphone.
Sharing your files with others is easy thanks to Dropbox. You can use the web interface, or right click on a file on your computer to create an access link. You can provide this link to your friends, family, or work colleagues and they will be able to access the file from a web browser. Dropbox is a practical option to share your photos and videos. It creates thumbnails automatically, resizes, compresses and organizes the files, allowing you to view them without any issues. Files can be downloaded in their original format, or in a compressed ZIP file
Keep in mind that if you delete files from the Dropbox folder on your computer, they will not be available from any other device where Dropbox is installed, or from your Dropbox account. This is because Dropbox works as a file-syncing solution, not as a backup service. However, Dropbox allows you to recover file versions up to 30 days old. You can retrieve deleted files and cancel changes to documents and photos within 30 days. After that time, Dropbox will delete older file versions permanently.
Dropbox offers a good level of security for your files, but it is not the most suitable option for highly confidential data. Files are transferred over SSL and stored using AES-256 but encryption, which means that your information is protected from eavesdropping, even if you access it from public connections. This would be enough to secure the files from fraudsters and other third-parties, but since Dropbox holds the encryption key to access the data, the information could be potentially be viewed by the company, or monitored by the government.
However, this would not be a concern for most users and since Dropbox uses two-factor authentication (apart from your password, in order to access your files, you will need to enter a code that is sent to your phone), your files will be safe. Dropbox also offers good upload, download and transfer speeds.
Plans and Customer support
You can download Dropbox for free and enjoy a personal account that offers 2GB of space and it is possible to increase the space up to16GB through referrals. You will get 500MB for every friend who joins and as a reward for other actions such as connecting your social media accounts to Dropbox. If you require additional storage space, you can upgrade to the Pro Plan, which costs $9.99 per month for 1TB. They also offer a Business plan that starts at $15 per month, per user and that offers as much space as needed.
As previously mentioned, by default Dropbox only keeps old file versions for up to 30 days. However, there is a feature called Packrat, which offers unlimited file recovery. This means that you can retrieve a file, even if it was deleted months, or even years ago. This price for this option is $39 USD per year with the Pro Plan, but it is available without additional cost for Business plan users.
When it comes to support, free users can find useful information on the Help Center and on forums. It is also possible to contact the support team via email, although it is likely that Pro customers will get priority over users of the free plan. Business customers can expect dedicated support via email and phone.
Dropbox is focused on providing a service that is easy to use and convenient. The downside of this simple approach is that some advanced features like the option to sync folders on your hard drive, or to use a private encryption key to access your folders, are missing. Still, Dropbox is an efficient solution for many cases and it would suit the majority of users, who are only looking for a practical and secure way to access and share their files whenever they need them.