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Dropbox – Keeping files in sync across computers, and across the Internet – Linux, Windows and Mac OSX

Dropbox provides a folder on your computer, which can be shared across multiple computers, across multiple operating systems, across the Internet or a LAN.
If you ever need to access your files across multiple PCs then you need

I was a little sceptical when I first heard of Dropbox. My first thought was that there are already open source tools that will do that already, but life is not that simple. If it was then my PCs would have been synced together a long time ago. Dropbox doesn’t add anything that isn’t possible using other software, but it does it in a way that is just so simple and easy to use. It has single handedly made my life much easier, saved me time and just recently saved me from my own silly mistake. Quite impressive.

After installing and registereing Dropbox creates a folder on your computer. This is called “My Dropbox” on Windows or “Dropbox” on Linux. Anything stored into that folder will be copied across all computers registered to the same account and is also made available online for access from a different PC or even a smartphone.

Installing on Windows is a normal Windows executable installer. On Linux, binaries are available for Ubuntu and Fedora, or available as partial sourcecode for other distributions. Once the initial software is installed it downloads further proprietary code from the Internet and is configured to automatically sync. I was not able to get it to install on Mandriva, but I had similar problems compiling other software on that distribution as well, so this is not neccessarily a DropBox issue, although it would be useful if there was a genetic tar.gz binary installer.

I initially put about 500MB of files into my Dropbox folder and it took a long time for the first syncs to be performed, but once it had been uploaded on one computer and downloaded to the next response time is now excellant. Files are copied to the server the moment that I’ve finished editing them. A good feature is that if you are on a local network with another computer on the same Dropbox account then the files will be transferred directly using LANsync without having to sync over the Internet.

Finally the Dropbox website keeps backup copies of the files as they are created. I’m not sure how many / often they are backed up, but it saved me when I accdentally overwrote a file on my laptop which had taken a couple of hours to create. I went to the website, found the last snapshot from a few minutes ago and then saved it down to my PC. Great!

The basic offering is for 2GB which is enough for what I use it for. If you want to increase the storage (which would be useful) then it costs about $10 per month for 50GB, which is quite expensive for a home user, but is very reasonable for businesses.

If you regularly use more than one computer then I’d definately recommend Dropbox.

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2 Responses to “Dropbox – Keeping files in sync across computers, and across the Internet – Linux, Windows and Mac OSX”

  1. nik Says:

    what about security? ie you wouldn’t want to use this for personal information in case of a) hacking into your account or b) privacy from some rogue at DropBox ? Can see the appeal tho’

  2. Stewart Says:

    True, but that is the case for any kind of managed service, hosted service or cloud computing.

    How safe is the privacy of your email account – do you trust the privacy of your emails with the staff at Google, at Microsoft at BT or whoever supports your emails? How about any online backup service?

    I’m not saying that any of these are any less secure than any other, but any service is only as secure as their setup and employees. You can either take a leap of faith or not.

    There is one more alternative – just use it for data that doesn’t matter if someone else accesses it. I mainly use my Dropbox folder for holding a copy of my websites as I edit them. All the data that is in those folders is due to go online and be available to download anyway.

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