There are very few applications that impress me and DropBox is one of them. DropBox allows you 2GB of storage on the web which is synchronized with a folder on your local drive. It works on Windows, Mac, Linux and host of Smartphones too. I have been using DropBox on my Mac earlier and hadn’t paid much attention to it earlier. I, like most people would, thought of it only as a place you drop your files IF you wanted to share it with Windows, Linux or share it with other people. Maybe the name of the product promotes that kind of thinking. When I switched back to Windows and started using DropBox again, it struck me that my thinking was wrong. Its not some kind of application to take online back up (which it is) on a virtual drive (which it is not). I have used other applications like this before.. like SkyDrive and GDrive (GMail account mapped as virtual drive) and was always weary of them as copying/moving files into them seems to put explorer into a slowdown as it handles the virtual drive.
Not a Virtual Folder
DropBox creates a folder which is a real folder and not some virtual mapped drive. A service monitors file changes in the local folder as well as in your website account and silently synchronizes both ways. This means you can access files even when you are not connected to the internet and even add files into the folder and modify then, which will then by synced next time you are online. This is very different from other situation where you have to be online to access your files. Neat!
While there are similar products in the market (e.g. Live Mesh, Live Sync, Box.net), none of them work on a wide variety of platforms and devices. DropBox works on Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone, Android, iPad and Blackberry support coming soon. So when you decide to share your files with other users, you don't have to worry about which platform they are using. I use Dropbox to sync regularly across my Mac and Windows and for those times that I am not on one of my own computers, I simply access the site to download the file I need.
Its meant to be your new My Documents
When I started using it as first, I used it like an online backup, storing critical files in in. But soon I realized that its not meant as a safe vault, in fact, I would get more out of it if I started using it as “My Documents” folder, storing every new files that I created into the DropBox. Why? Because, first of all its not a virtual mapped drive which will immediately put explorer into a tizzy. Second of all, I don’t know which file I might delete by mistake or commit changes to which I might want to rollback. Thirdly, I don't have to bother whether I am online or offline and don't have to go online just to store files in it.
DropBox as Super Recycle Bin and Version Control
Yes, that’s right.. One of the biggest advantage of making DropBox as your My Document is that even if you delete a file (including shift-delete bypassing the recycle bin), the deleted file is retained on the site for 30 days and this does not count towards your storage limit. Of course, you can go to the site and permanently delete the “deleted” files whenever you want. Another cool thing is that it maintains a multiple versions of every file you store in the dropbox and that does not apply to products which support version control (like MS Office). In fact you can get previous versions of text files, executables and office documents from the site whenever you want.
Not a waste of bandwidth
It would appear that having an app like this all the time would consume a lot of bandwidth but the fact is the DropBox transmits only the changes and not the entire file. Which means if you have 1MB file and you modify 10 bytes, it would transmit just those 10 bytes and not the entire file. If you a still worried about frequent bandwidth utilization, you can make changes offline and then go online to sync everything in one go. Even then, you can set the upload/download limits for DropBox so that it does not hog the bandwidth.
What about Privacy?
Most people are rightly worried about online privacy. DropBox uses secure connection to the site when synchronizing by utilizing SSL connection so that data cannot be viewed in transit. On the site the data is kept in secured environment where even DropBox staff does not have access to the data. Still, if you want to be doubly sure for certain files, I would recommend using a free utility called TrueCrypt which allows you to create a virtual drive anywhere (including directly inside DropBox). You can continue to work normally with files inside this virtual drive but to rest of the world it will appear to be merely a file and that too encrypted.
My Document –> My DropBox
Go on! Make your DropBox as you new My Document folder and never miss a file or version ever again!