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When you install the Dropbox application, it creates a special folder under your user folder – this is your ‘Dropbox’. Any files you put in this folder are automatically uploaded to your online storage area. These files are also accessible through the Dropbox website on any computer that has an internet connection. All you have to do is login with your username and password.

The point of Dropbox is that when you install it on a second computer, the contents of your Dropbox are synchronized on both computers. Make a change to a file in your Dropbox on one computer and those changes appear on the other computer. Install it on a third and the same files are synchronized on all three. Install it on your iPhone and … well, you get the idea.

Dropbox is clean, simple and easy to understand. In fact, it’s so simple it doesn’t even have a user interface, beyond a small set of preferences. It works automatically and seamlessly, on Mac OS, Windows and Linux.

I’ve installed Dropbox for three clients and they are all very satisfied. Two have both a desktop computer and a laptop, with files they want to maintain and backup on both. Instead of going nuts trying to keep both machines in sync by copying or emailing files back and forth, they just work inside their Dropbox and their files remain synchronized and backed up offsite. They get the bonus of a local backup by having their important files stored on both computers. Both clients have less than 2GB of data that needs to be backed up, which means they get their offsite backup free.

The third client uses Dropbox to keep specific files synchronized between two desktop PCs. One PC runs his CAD program, the other controls his CNC milling machine. He told me having Dropbox is saving him an hour of file sharing chores every day, while also preventing multiple version confusion.

Here’s why Dropbox isn’t a solution to our offsite backup needs:

  1. We have a couple of hundred GB of data to backup and Dropbox gets expensive at that level.
  2. We don’t want the hundreds of GB of data we’re backing up to be duplicated across all our computers.
  3. We don’t want to move the hundreds of thousands of files we’re backing up into the Dropbox folder.

Nevertheless, I will continue to use Dropbox for what it does so well and to recommend it whenever it makes sense.

For a free trial of Dropbox, click here and we’ll both get an extra 250MB of online storage for free!

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