File sharing on the cloud has become the rage lately, thanks to much talked about services like Google Drive and iCloud. People claim that one service is better than the other but most of them will agree on one thing: that Dropbox is the most usable and the simplest of all these.
Let’s see what makes Dropbox so special, even after 4 years of existence.
What is Dropbox?
Let’s face it. File sharing is, or rather, was, a mess, especially on PCs until recently. Most of the old age apps we used heavily relied on e-mail, and were pretty boring.
Many a times, especially whilst traveling, I found myself at a loss without my important files when I require them. Of course, all that was before Dropbox. Now I have access to all the relevant data, across all my devices, without having to worry about anything else.
For those of us who don’t know, Dropbox is a cloud-based file synchronization service that lets you access your files securely from anywhere. To quote Dropbox’s website,
Dropbox is the easiest way to store, sync, and, share files online.
Let’s see if there is any truth to that claim.
It’d be unfair to say Dropbox is a Windows app in its entirety. It’s essentially a web service at its heart but it relies heavily on a desktop client. This is a guide that focuses on the Windows part of it.
Getting started with Dropbox is really simple. All you have to do is to sign up for your free account, and download their desktop client to your device. Once the installation is done, it’ll create a Dropbox folder in your computer. This is not your ordinary, run of the mill folder, mind you. Whatever you place inside this folder is magically synced with your Dropbox account online. Since all these are stored in the cloud, we can access these files from anywhere on the world with an Internet connection.
What use is a file sync service without the ability to share the data with your friends and family? Dropbox allows you to do so and with amazing simplicity. As always, right click and select ‘Get link’ under Dropbox context menu. You can enter the email address of the people with whom you wish to share or use any of the social networks available for the whole world to see. There are a lot of security concerns mounting around Dropbox, but we’ll be seeing that in a bit.
One interesting feature which makes Dropbox an important tool in my tool kit is the inbuilt versioning control it provides. Though not as versatile as git or svn would be, it is helpful enough especially while penning an article. Just right click on your file, and you’ll see a ‘View previous versions’ under the Dropbox option in the context menu.
But this will take you to their web interface, and not within Windows itself. It is possible to use Dropbox as a collaborative platform, as many companies are already doing. Perhaps, this post should guide you in the right direction, if you’re at all interested.
Dropbox is released as a freemium product. Infact, they’re the kings of this business model. All users get a 2GB free account initially, which can be topped up to 18gigs by following simple steps and referring your friends. Of course, should you need more space you can always go ahead and buy more. Home users can buff up their space up to 500 gigs with plans starting from $10/m.o. The offer gets more lucrative for larger teams with upto 1000GB in storage and multiple users.
iPad.Appstorm, our sister site, has a wonderful post on how freemium works!
Dropbox web comes packed with a wide array of features, but their desktop client lacks several key features from a Windows user’s perspective. For instance, you cannot sync multiple folders in multiple locations. This is a deal breaker especially for pro users where the account sizes are usually greater than 100 gigs and it’d be hard to allocate that kind of space in your hard drive.
Another feature that I miss terribly is managing the versions right from Windows, rather than having to go to their website. And lastly, this may not be applicable for most of you, but as a Windows fan by heart, and a heavy Windows Phone user, I do miss the Dropbox integration with my favourite mobile platform. I can only hope that they come up with it soon.
Dropbox was not the first file management service to be written, but it was the one that made sense. It won over us with its simplicity. It has its share of issues, but it is definitely above its peers. Many other competitors, Google included, tried to copy it but just failed (Google Drive is just Dropbox with a Google logo plus Google docs).
Microsoft’s own SkyDrive is another strong player in this niche. It’s much more powerful than Dropbox in terms of its native integration and higher storage, but never really managed to takeoff in the market thanks to Dropbox’s simplicity. I’d strongly recommend you to try out Dropbox, if you haven’t done so already.
What’s your take on Dropbox? Have you used any other File sync services? Do join us in the discussion below, and let us know your thoughts. Thank you for reading.