Indispensable Mac App: Dropbox

If this is the first time you’ve visited this site, welcome! You’ll want to check out this post first. For everyone else, you already know how I feel about backing up your data, and you hopefully have a good backup strategy in place. If not, do it today. If you aren’t sure how, contact me now.

I use several different devices and services to ensure that my data is safely and securely backed up in several locations. One of those services happens to be a service that I discovered many years ago, and I still us it heavily today. Technically, it’s not a backup service, but it does have great cloud-based access, which makes it great for everything from accessing live data to archival. In today’s post, I want to spotlight “Dropbox”.

Dropbox is easy to use on any device. Think of Dropbox as a hard drive that you can use to store your documents, photos, videos… anything you want. One of the benefits to using Dropbox is the fact that your data lives in the cloud, and is actually on multiple servers that are distributed around the world. Even if one Dropbox server were to suffer catastrophic failure, your data would still be accessible from other Dropbox servers. This is all seamless to you, of course.

One of the downsides to using Dropbox is capacity. Even with paid accounts (more on that later), you still won’t have as much storage on Dropbox that you can have at a fraction of the cost using a local hard drive. That’s ok, though, because you wouldn’t necessarily use Dropbox to store everything. In my case, I store everything except my iTunes library, my iPhoto library and archived photos and videos (those libraries alone are several terabytes in size). What’s left are my important documents. Dropbox is a perfect fit for this.

You can start using Dropbox by visiting dropbox.com and signing up for a free account. The free account is not limited in functionality, but is limited in capacity. The free Dropbox account will give you a minimum of 2 GB of storage to use anyway you want. If you want or need more storage than that, you can purchase more. A Pro account, for example, will give you a minimum of 100 GB of storage to use. Why is it a “minimum” and not a fixed amount? Dropbox has a really cool referral program. If you refer others to Dropbox using a special referral link that you can create after you’ve signed up, you can gain extra space at no charge. If you’re an enterprise-grade user, there are also options for you.

Not only is Dropbox great because it’s cloud-storage and accessible on all my devices (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, etc) via their free app, but the service also has “versioning” built-in. What is versioning? When you create and save a new document, that is considered version 1. If you were to make changes to that document then save it, that would be considered version 2. Make more changes then save, and that would be considered version 3. You get the idea. With Dropbox, you have the ability to roll your documents back to a previous version.

Dropbox also keeps a history of all your files, even the ones that have been deleted. If you deleted a file and you need to restore it, simply log in to Dropbox.com, choose the icon that will show you all files (including deleted files), right-click on the deleted file that you want to restore, then choose “Restore”. It’s that simple.

One last feature that I love about Dropbox… sharing. This is an ideal tool to use for group collaboration. All you have to do is create a new folder (we’ll call it “Project 123”) then populate it with the files you want to share with others. When you’re ready, go to Dropbox.com, highlight the new folder, then choose to share it with others. This will require others in your group to have their own free Dropbox account, but once they do, they will have access to the same shared folder and files that you are sharing. When updates are made, others in that group are notified of those changes via pop-up notifications.

Dropbox is a must have for everyone, which is why I consider it an indispensable Mac app. I highly recommend it!

Posted on April 10, 2014 and filed under iOS, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Opinion.