Dropbox is one of those new web services that seems to have been around forever but that clings on to its 'beta' status. Only recently has Dropbox come out of beta and furnished us with a final first stab at a finished product.
Dropbox 1.0 is an online storage service and by that definition there's nothing special about it at all. In fact, it seems strange that the service has become so popular given that iDisk exists, not to mention the other similar tools out there.
However, Dropbox has become a vital tool for some despite its beta status. The basic version gives you 2GB of online storage and you can pay to upgrade this should you need to.
Currently there are 50GB and 100GB options available at $9.99 (£6) a month and $20 (£13) a month.
Download the Dropbox tool and you get a new folder on your hard disk and an icon in the toolbar. It's not ground-shaking revolutionary stuff, that's for sure. However, the fact it acts almost invisibly is part of the application's power.
Once you've got a Dropbox account you simply start to use the storage area as you would any folder on your Mac. The stuff you copy to it is synced with the remote servers and that's it.
Now put a copy of Dropbox on your laptop or PC and within a few moments you now have local copies of that stuff. Edit or change any of those files or folders on one machine and the rest are synced to match.
Obviously if you go for one of the larger capacity options you'll be hammering your broadband connection pretty hard when it comes to data transfer, but Dropbox does include some basic bandwidth management.
The service uses AES-256 bit encryption and all transfers are over an SSL connection for increased protection of your data. You can easily share your data publicly, meaning Dropbox is a great way of sharing large documents with others. Not only that, you can give users access to a folder for collaborative work.
Meanwhile the enclosing Dropbox folder is automatically backed up and you can undelete files or folders as well as restore previous versions of a file. So if you do accidentally overwrite a document it's quite easy to get it back again.
Dropbox works best if you have multiple Macs or, for that matter, PCs; if you have an iPhone or iPad there's also an app for that.
Having your documents synced and shared across multiple machines is really useful if that's part of your working scenario. You don't have to be worried about an internet connection as you can work on a document locally and simply sync it to all your other machines when you get back within Wi-Fi range.
There's a Dropbox web interface, so you don't have to download the client software to make changes to or access your stuff.
We've been testing Dropbox for many months in its beta incarnation and found it to be an invaluable space for storing and sharing documents. The 1.0 version of Dropbox is an excellent tool and deserves high praise. The seamless way it integrates into the workflow and its almost invisible nature makes it a great addition to any Mac, iOS device or, in fact, any computer you can get near.
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