Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted an easy way to work with the same files on multiple computers. I started my computer training center in 1983 with 12 Apple 2e computers. I didn’t have a computer that was my own – they were all designated for the classroom. So, I kept my files on the 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, and carried the disks with me from computer to computer. In the early 90s, we used a Novell network. That was great! All the work files were on the network server … it didn’t matter which computer I used, I just connected to the files on the server. I could even connect remotely from home and, they were the same files that anyone else in the business would access as well, so collaborating was a piece of cake.
Then came laptops, and traveling. Jim and I now have 6 laptops in our motorhome! They have become dedicated purpose computers. One is just for seminar demonstrations, one is just for video editing, one is for hooking up to the TV for watching computer-based programming on the big TV in the living room – etc. etc. And that doesn’t even count the iPad Jim just got, or the 2 Droid smart phones! We tried turning one computer into a kind of network server, but that just doesn’t work in our mobile, always un-hooking and re-hooking up equipment, lifestyle. We’ve taken to wearing a USB thumb drive on a lanyard around our necks so we can always have the files we need and copy them for each other. Not much different from carrying those floppy disks so many years ago! This is a system we call ‘SneakerNet.’
When I first heard of Dropbox I was skeptical, I thought it was a way to work with your files directly on the Web – something that just isn’t practical in our world with flaky Internet connections as we travel. But no … what it actually does is to upload a file to the web, then download it to your other computers. Any time anyone makes a change, it re-uploads and downloads that same file. It Synchronizes! So, I can work on a file on my computer, in the specified Dropbox folder; when I’m done and I save it, it automatically uploads to our secure account area on the Dropbox website, *and* downloads to Jim’s Dropbox folder. Hurray!! No more emailing him files, or copying to a thumb drive and creating multiple duplicates. Or, worse yet, no more of Jim printing 100 copies of an outdated version of something I worked so hard to update!
How it Works
Both Jim and I had to download the Dropbox software to our computers. You get it from www.dropbox.com and it’s free. You now have a Dropbox folder on your computer. I created a \Dropbox\Geeks folder and ‘shared’ that folder with Jim. Now, let’s say I’m working on a Geeks on Tour Brochure and I want Jim to look at it and make any changes he wants. As long as we both work on the file located in our \Dropbox\Geeks folder, it will automatically be synchronized and we will both have the most recent file! So now, any computer file that we both need to have is kept in the Dropbox\Geeks folder. It’s wonderful! And, even if our motorhome with all 6 computers gets destroyed – those important files are on our secure account area on the Dropbox website. Just get another computer, download Dropbox, and we’re back in business! If we go over our 2GB free account limit, we can upgrade to a bigger account for a monthly fee.
Using Dropbox you can:
- Start working on a file at home, continue working on the same file on the road
- Share a folder for a team of people to collaborate on project files, even when those people are spread all over the country
- Work on a file locally when you have no Internet connection, and it automatically synchronizes to the web and other shared team members when you do get online.
- Create a group photo album where everyone automatically gets a copy of the pictures on their computer – not just a shared web album.
- Start working on a file on your laptop, continue working on the same file on your iPad or Android smartphone.
If this might be of interest to you, read more, and view the Dropbox Tour.