UPDATE: As of April 6th, 2012, Dropbox is now offering 500 MB of extra space for every friend who you refer to Dropbox (if they signup), with 16GB being the new cap for the most free storage you can receive.
Dropbox is dead easy to use. It is so easy, that you can forget it is there, which is, of course, what makes it so useful and so powerful.
Started in 2007, Dropbox works on a freemium model, meaning that you can have access to 2GB of free storage, but you can also increase that to 8GB if you invite friends (who actually sign up).
What is the point of Dropbox?
How is it any different than my hard drive on my computer? Or, why can’t I just email files to people?
For starters, Dropbox builds in ease of use. There are clients for Windows (Win XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 and 64 bit) and Windows 2003), Mac (Mac OS X 10.4 and up) and Linux (Ubuntu and Fedora Core). There are apps for iOS devices, Android, and Blackberry.
When you open a Dropbox account you receive 2GB of storage. As I have pointed out in an earlier post on the need for storage, you know that 2GB can be used up really quickly. Luckily, Dropbox makes it super easy to get extra space.
The Dropbox Referral program gives you 250MB each time someone you refer signs up for Dropbox. You can add referral related extra storage up to a total of 8GB. It is easy to invite friends to join via email, Facebook or Twitter. (That link includes my referral code, so show me some luv by signing up!)
The sweet thing about Dropbox is the ease of use (I said that already, right?). It’s true. Once you have installed the client on your computer, it is super easy to sync files across devices.
Think about that.
Add the file in one location, and it is available on all your systems. In one sense it is like sharing your files with yourself. You can access them on any mobile device or computer that you have (assuming you have an application to open the file). But, it gets better.
You can also access files via a web browser, so if you are, say, at work or a friends house and need to access to a file, fire up the browser, head to Dropbox.com, log in, and there it is.
There is even more power, though, in sharing with friends or business contacts. For instance, in my case, I am a member of the board of directors for a non-profit in our area called Partners in Hope, Lake Travis. The board members have a shared folder that is our repository for digital copies of our organization’s documents. When the chairman or the executive director drops a file in that folder, I am notified on my MacBook Pro. Similarly, when I do work for the organization, I leave files in the shared folder, and the other members can have access to them.
However, that is only part of the power of Dropbox. Some of you are probably saying, “Big deal. I can do the same thing with email.” And you are right, because many people do share files via email, but they almost always battle the issue of file size, and when one change is made, others who have received the file don’t have the most recent version.
With Dropbox, however, file versions stay in sync across all systems of those with access to the shared folder. This improves collaboration. And should someone delete a file? Well, Dropbox has you covered! They maintain copies of previous versions of a document.
Dropbox is built on a freemium model, meaning they give you 2GB of storage for free (up to 8GB if you refer people), but they have premium solutions as well. There is a $9.99/mo version for up to 50GB of storage, a $19.99/mo version for up to 100GB of storage, as well as a business or teams version starting at 5 users for $795/year.
Is it Safe?
The question of “Is it safe?” almost always comes up when discussing a cloud based service. Dropbox uses the same security that banks use for their websites (SSL encryption for in transit data with 256 bit AES encryption). Additionally, the service is hosted on Amazon Web Services which has passed SAS70 Type II audits (industry standard). In other words, as long as you use secure passwords, your files are safe.
In many ways Dropbox is safer than your local hard drive on your computer. They have built in redundancy (if your hard drive crashes, do you have backups?). There is the security of running in a hardened data center. Viruses are not usually a feature of data centers. Why? Because they are constantly maintained and monitored.
I hope this brief review of Dropbox has been helpful for you. If you haven’t used Dropbox, I encourage you to check it out.
As a home user or small biz person, have you thought about using a cloud service for file sharing? Have you used Dropbox? Share with us in the comments!