Dropbox Online Data Storage, Backup, Sharing, Synchronization

by Mike McEvoy on August 17, 2011

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Dropbox online data storage is a powerful, budget-friendly solution for individuals and businesses who need secure off site data storage combined with easy accessibility to the data from multiple locations. Using a Cloud-based system where data is stored in a remote online repository yet securely accessible via the Internet, Dropbox users can backup, store and access their data from different computers, devices and locations with minimal limitations on secure data access.

The Dropbox service also allows a user to share specific files by creating individual, secure folders and providing access to specific friends, family, coworkers or business contacts without the need to send large e-mails attachments or use transfer tools for large files. Users are also able to synchronize data between multiple computers and devices.

The Dropbox online data storage service launched in 2008 and has grown dramatically. Dropbox currently boasts over 25 million customers and users are currently uploading over 200 million files daily. In the rapidly changing world of cloud computing Dropbox has carved out a secure and expanding niche.

How Dropbox Works

The Dropbox service is used by uploading files to the Dropbox data repository in the Cloud by either using the Dropbox client (a piece of software you will need to download and install on your computer) or by going to the Dropbox website, logging in and using the upload link available. You can install the Dropbox client on multiple computers and devices and take advantage of the ability to synchronize specific files and folders automatically between different computers and devices.

The synchronization feature of the Dropbox service provides the capability to keep specific files and folders consistent across multiple systems, such as between your desktop and laptop computer or between your laptop computer and your tablet computer or even between your iPhone or Android phone and your desktop computer. Installing and configuring the synchronization process of multiple computers or devices will allow files to appear on each computer/device without needing to download them immediately.

Dropbox provides 2GB of storage space at no charge. When you need more storage space than this, you will pay a rate of $10 per month for 50GB of online storage (Pro 50 plan), or $19.95 per month for 100GB of storage (Pro100). Larger blocks of storage are also available for business users and this option also includes advanced management features (Teams plan). All are reasonable rate in today’s storage market.

Dropbox Features

Dropbox online data storage provides a range of useful features for storing, synchronizing and sharing data. One of the main benefits of this service is peace of mind with you knowing that your important files are stored in a secure location, no matter what may happen to your computer. The main features of the Dropbox service include:

  1.  Data Backup – the Dropbox client software provides for the backup of specific files and folders via a secure connection to a secure off site data repository.
  2.  Data Synchronization – Dropbox allows for the synchronization of data between multiple computers using the Dropbox client software.
  3.  File Sharing – This service allows you to have family, friends, coworkers or clients selectively view and download specific folders or individual files in your Dropbox repository that you give them access to. You can create individual password protected folders and include the files you want to share.
  4.  Compatibility – it works with all leading operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux. Users can also access their data and folders via iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or Android mobile devices.
  5.  Ease of Use – Dropbox is a powerful yet easy to use service. You can start with a small number of files or folders and expand your use of the service as your needs and requirements change.
  6. Lightweight – When a file is modified Dropbox only transfers the portions of the file that have been changed which can significantly lessen the amount of data being transferred as well as the time required.
  7. Configurable – Users can set bandwidth limits for data transfers so that their Internet connection won’t be adversely slowed by large amounts of data transfers.
  8. Deleted File Recovery – The Dropbox database stores a full month of file history. This means that if you accidentally delete a file on your computer you can retrieve it from the Cloud.
  9.  Version Protection – As part of the historical storage process any changes made to documents stored on Dropbox can be undone if necessary.
  10.  Secure Data Transfers – All data transmissions to and from Dropbox use secure sockets layer (SSL), protecting your data from malicious eavesdropping and tampering.
  11.  File History – Dropbox provides the capability of registering the history of a file – if more than one person edits a file that is stored with Dropbox the service keeps both the old version of the file and the new one.
  12.  User Community – There is a Dropbox Online Data Storage community – people who, on top of using the service, are dedicated to improving it by creating add-ons that can be used to increase the number of functions the service can perform.

In the big picture the Dropbox service offers peace of mind. You can effortlessly recover valuable files stored on Dropbox if your computer becomes lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed. When you connect to the Internet, all files added or changed since your last login will automatically be transferred (downloaded) to your computer. After that takes place you have full access to these files both on your computer and online.

How People Use Dropbox Online Data Storage

Personal Dropbox Use

Basic uses for Dropbox include convenient file sharing between family members. Share your Dropbox folder with Mom and Dad. Upload videos and photos to show what’s going on in your life.

College students can type an essay on their home computer and easily access that paper on a campus computer. This occurs automatically and helps save time and hassles. Students can save all of their class work and research in one convenient location. There is no need to email the data or carry a USB drive. If they need the information on the spur of the moment, they can access it from any computer.

If you have an iTunes library or MP3s stored on Dropbox you can listen to them on your iPhone or other mobile device without any upload hassle.

Professional Dropbox Use

Professionals and small business owners can use Dropbox online data storage to work from home. All of their research and information seamlessly appears on their home computers via the synchronization process. They can easily share it with other team members. Reliable data backup also gives peace of mind.

Creative minds use Dropbox online data storage to innovate new ways of organizing otherwise complex and often chaotic information.

For example, Dropbox was employed extensively during the Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster. Disaster relief committees coordinated efforts through shared folders. One industrious user aggregated information about transportation issues. This was widely shared with commuters who had little other ways of finding out about those notifications. Another user compiled news reports. This was helpful to many Japanese citizens who still had Internet but no television.

Potential Drawbacks of Dropbox

Despite so many practical uses, Dropbox is not without faults. Its database security has been called into question at times. They experienced a brief period earlier this year when a faulty upgrade set the system to not require passwords to log on. The upgrade was quickly taken offline (and the old version restored) until that problem was solved.

One feature that has not been implemented yet is “read-only permission.” Currently, when users share folders, that information can be altered by anyone able to view the folders. This can be a concern when sharing with many people. Fortunately, changed files can be restored. As mentioned previously, Dropbox keeps a one month history of document changes. It allows you revert to any previous document version.

Future of Dropbox Online Data Storage Service

The company continually upgrades its software. The latest version, released earlier this year, implemented speed and performance improvements when working with large folders and files. Considerable memory optimization code was also added.

In the future, Dropbox says that commercially available devices (sold at Best Buy and other electronic stores) will automatically handle data synchronization with the service. Company programmers are building an API to allow software developers to interface their own applications with Dropbox. This is guaranteed to substantially increase the future functionality of Dropbox. Stay tuned, the world of online data services continues to evolve rapidly.

If you have used Dropbox or another similar service leave a comment below and share your thoughts and experiences. Thanks.

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