Dropbox became a critical tool for daily use this year, having simplified and enhanced the things I had been doing with ftp applications and usb thumbdrives, in an elegant and effortless manner.
Functions and uses
Dropbox is an application which will synchronise the contents of a specific folder on your desktop with a free server. Or as they say, your Dropbox folder files magically appear in your webpage account! This works like an immediate backup!
Hence I insist on Dropbox as a primary document backup for all my research students with GDocs as a secondary backup. They use a thumbdrive or external hardisk for a third backup and for the large-size photo albums. All this effort to avoid tragedy later.
Besides the basic desktop to web synchronisation, the Dropbox folder will ‘magically appear’ on any other laptop, desktop or mobile device you choose to install the app on. And identical Dropbox folders are possible on multiple machines, be they windows, linux, mac, iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry.
I use Dropbox for:
- project files which I work on at both campus and at home,
- files I need to maintain daily backup versions of,
- research pdfs which I download from from several different physical locations and can access from my iPod Touch or laptop,
- receipts for claims which I may have scanned in at the office, the lab, a friend’s scanner or at home and
- data files such as settings of applications (e.g. Typinator shortuts, Bookit’s web bookmarks) and assorted notes in a “scratch bin” folder.
You can also share specific folders with other individual users (e.g. tide-table scans) or make a specific folder public (e.g. event photos). A 30-day history of files allows the recovery of older versions of a document! See a tour of all the features here.
Earning more from referrals – the back to school offer
When you sign up for a free account, you have 2GB of shared space. Sufficient for most research project documents, a user can earn more storage through referrals, 250MB at a time.
And this just got better – Dropbox announced a back to school offer to double the referral storage of .edu accounts from 250MB to 500MB!
I had ignored the offer as since I am signed up for Dropbox with my gmail account and did not intend to setup another account with my edu account which I would not use.
However, Kenneth Pinto suggested at the Mac Meetup earlier that I go ahead and apply, for Dropbox would figure it out. Elated at the news, I submitted my NUS email userid at the Dropbox edu offer page and they emailed me a link. I accessed that and voila! I had doubled my referral storage! Thanks Kenneth!
So if you have an “.edu” account and have referred others who have installed and used Dropbox, head to the edu page to double your bonus storage immediately. I’ll email my students, some might qualify for this by now.
New accounts – get a referral for mutual benefit
If you do not have a Dropbox account and intend to set one up, ask your friends for a referral – this will ensure they earn a storage bonus; it would be a waste not to let them earn the additional space.
Alternatively (I am not in urgent need for space anymore), use my referral link. I earn 500MB for every referral and the person I refer Dropbox to earns 250MB of bonus space (up to a 16 GB limit). Wonderful isn’t it?
How does Dropbox stay afloat?
I would not mind paying for small scale use. Gmail for example, provides us with 7.4GB of free email storage which I bumped up to 20GB for US$5/year. If my usage increases (e.g. by using Picasa for photo storage), 80GB would cost me a reasonable US$20/yr.
Dropbox, however, seems to be targetting the big boys with nothing in between – their paid plans cost US$99/year for 50GB and US$199 for 100GB. Want to persuade them to adopt a pre granular pricing strategy? Well, Dropbox users are encouraged to direct development priorities by voting on suggestions; you get a six votes per month!
Update – It’s not just me who’s raving, John Larkin’s enthusiastic too!