One huge benefit of Web-based tools is the ability to better communicate and share information with colleagues. However, most sites are designed to only offer the ability to exchange messages, photos, or videos. And many sites encourage it all to be done in a public, online setting. While this usually fits well when we only have a short amount of time to reach out to one another, occasionally we need something that allows us to collaborate on a project and share documents in a more robust, private manner. This is where cloud storage services like Dropbox.com can help.
Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi after they got tired of emailing files back and forth when working together on one document. To solve their problem, they created a site where they could upload their files and work together out of the same storage location. Dropbox launched to the public in September 2008, and by 2013 more than 200 million people and 2 million businesses were using the site to share and collaborate on files.
To use Dropbox
Visit http://www.dropbox.com/ and create an account. After doing so, a Dropbox file will begin downloading and you'll find yourself on a page that looks like the screenshot below:
The instructions on this page lead you through installing Dropbox on your computer. This setup places a Dropbox folder on your computer that shows up in your Windows Explorer as a file folder. What you place here will end up syncing with the folders in your online Dropbox account. (Notice under the instructions there are also links to a help center and a short tour.)
In the the upper right corner, you will see your account name. By clicking your name, you can get access to a drop-down menu to change the settings for your account. In the other corner, there is a blue box; if you click this, you’ll be taken to a page similar to the one shown below right. There will be a list of tasks you can complete to get better acquainted with the site. Now, on the left side of the page, you should also see a menu to take you to where you can upload and manage your files. If you click the word “Files” in the menu, you’ll see your storage area where you should at this time only have one file: “Getting Started.” Dropbox has placed this in your storage area to offer additional help and guidance.
Uploading files is easy
When you are on the page with your folder and file list, you can just drag and drop files from your computer onto the screen. If you want to create a folder to place files and share with others, click “Sharing” from the left menu, and Dropbox will set up a new folder that allows access to those who you invite to share your folder. These same functions are also available through the icons located above the listing of files.
As I mentioned above, because your Dropbox folders on your computer sync with the online folders, you can also just directly place files in the Dropbox folders on your computer, and they will show up in the online list of files. This regular syncing of files also ensures you have access to your files even when offline, since they will always be in the Dropbox folder on your computer. And if you need to manage files on the go, Dropbox also has apps available for mobile devices.
To get access to other commands such as delete, copy, download, and a few others, just click in the white space in the line of a file. This brings up another menu across the top of the list of files. Keep in mind that if a file or folder is deleted online, the next time it syncs with your computer the files will also be deleted there. So to ensure you have backups, it’s a good idea to regularly backup your files on another storage device that cannot be accessed by Dropbox.
So you might be wondering how Dropbox can offer this service to everyone for free. The deal is that all free accounts start out with only 2 GB of storage. Extra storage, up to 16 GB, can be earned for referring friends. And if you really need more storage, it is always available through paid plans that also allow for account access by more than one user.
Dropbox currently offers a Pro plan with up to 100 GB of storage for an annual fee of $99 per user. There is also a Dropbox Business plan that offers “as much as needed” storage for an annual fee of $795 for five users. On this plan, if you have more users, they can be added for an additional yearly fee of $125.
If you want to check out other online storage services, you can also look into Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. Microsoft also has a site that compares their service with Dropbox and Google Drive. You can access that here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/skydrive/compare.