Throughout the duration of my course I have found that I have had to use several different computers in different locations to work on assignments. Sometimes I would use my computers at home, other times when I am at work or, when we go away, using the computer at my in-laws’ place. Usually this has meant remembering to carry a USB stick (or some other portable device) around with me…not an easy task at the best of times…particularly when it means remembering to pack it on holiday with you! Up until a few months back, my preferred option was to use Google Docs to make my documents accessible from any computer, as well as for handy back-up purposes. That was until I discovered Dropbox.
Much like Google Docs, Dropbox allows you to store documents online, enabling you to access them from any computer with an internet connection. Once you sign up for an account, you are given 2GB of free space (with an option to upgrade to 100GB for a fee) which can be topped up to a limit of 8GB by sending invitations.
The real bonus with Dropbox, however, is that you can add a folder to your main computer’s hard drive and then just simply ‘drop’ files into it. Once ‘dropped’ into the folder, it is then synced with both to the web and to any other PC on which you have installed Dropbox….pretty neat eh? Of course, you can still access your documents via the web interface, but the ability to just access them via a folder on your hard drive is quite a handy little bonus.
Once your documents are uploaded and stored on Dropbox‘s servers, you can manipulate them in a variety of ways. You can rename them, sort them into a variety of folders or share whole folders with other Dropbox users. The last feature is particularly useful if you are into collaborative working – making it easy to work on a shared document without having to email around vast files.
There is, of course, an iPhone app for Dropbox too which enables you to access your documents, photos etc on the move. Whilst it is not possible to edit text on the iPhone app, I find it useful for reading documents I’ve saved on the servers. Other than simply accessing your files, the app also allows you to mark favourites and upload photos from your iPhone into your Dropbox. Again, not the most complex of tools, but it does pretty much what I would want from a mobile device (I’m really not that bothered about being able to edit my assignment on my phone).
Overall, I think Dropbox is an excellent alternative file storage option, particularly as a student who cannot always work from his own computer and doesn’t want to carry a storage device around all the time. Like all the best web tools, it is hassle free and simple to use, with a clean web interface. Will it kill off the USB stick? Probably not, but you do have to ask yourself, why bother buying one when this is a far better option? Especially if, like me, you tend to lose USB sticks like socks (especially those teeny tiny ones). Of course there are issues around storing data on somebody else’s servers (and I don’t want to underplay that issue, it is a major concern with any cloud computing application), but as long as you are happy with that I would definitely recommend giving Dropbox a whirl.
There’s a list of Dropbox‘s features on their website….and if you want to sign up, drop me an email (my Yahoo! ID is in my sidebar) and I’ll send an invite whilst increasing my own storage capacity!