Beginner Builder series 75% done! will probably never be finished. :(

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dropbox: Backup + Sync = Sigh of relief

Dropbox is a free program that backs up your data, and syncronizes it across your PCs. You have to sign up for an account, but that's a good thing, trust me (and I'll explain why later on). Since the two main functions are so different, I'll explain one, then the other.

Online backup: Dropbox works by creating a "My Dropbox" folder, inside which everything is watched for changes (new files, changed files, or removed files). When a change is sensed, Dropbox will automatically upload that changed file to your account on the Dropbox website. But also, on the converse, if you go onto your account on the Dropbox website and delete a file from there, it will be deleted on your computer too. So it's a kind of "Web Syncronization", as I call it.

File Syncronization: On top of a FREE 2GB of online backup storage, Dropbox also syncronizes files between whatever computers you have Dropbox set up on for your account. (Didn't I say having an account would be a good thing?) So that means that you can have Dropbox installed on as many computers as you want, as long as they are linked to the same account. If you create a file in Computer A, Dropbox will not only upload that file to your account, but it will also download that file to Computer B. It's basically like having all your files in multiple computers, so much so that you may forget that each computer actually has a different drive.

So those are the major functions. But what makes Dropbox also nice is the web support. You can log onto your account online and view every file and folder in your My Dropbox folder. Not only that, you can also download any file in your dropbox, anywhere, on any computer, right from the web. Maybe you're at a friend's house, and you want to show them a new game (freeware game, of course) you found, but you forgot your laptop. No problem. Log onto your Dropbox account, download the game, and amaze your friend.

On top of that, you can also share folders, such that you can "invite" people to be able to view a folder, so that you can collaborate with that person. Your fellow colaborators don't even have to have Dropbox installed, or even a Dropbox account. There's also the feature of the Public Folder, which is viewable by EVERYONE who knows the URL, but I don't exactly understand the point, just because Dropbox is not exactly a filehosting site....

The web interface is also nice because you can see "Recent events", which will show you a detailed list of what files you edited, created, deleted, moved, etc. You can also even "View Deleted files", which will show files that you have deleted from your computer, which you can then restore. That's right, let me say that again in bold, just to get my point across:

Dropbox not only backs up your files, it also keeps track of your deleted files.
If that is not a reason to have relief, I really don't know what is.

The last thing I want to mention is the web feature of "Photo galleries". You can create public photo albums by making folders in a special "Photos" folder in the root directory of your "My Dropbox". Each folder becaomes its own "Album" online, which you can then give the link to your friends, who can view your album online, without even having to download the photos (even though they can, if they want.)

The web interface is wonderful, but even without it, dropbox is a great program. Being able to sync your files across computers and have them backed up online is stupendous. (You may be thinking "Yes, but you have to go on the web interface to access your files." Not so. If your computer crashes, install Dropbox on your new working machine, link it to your account, and all your files will be downloaded, web-interfaceless.)

Dropbox also has a few things I'd like to mention:
-"Binary diff": Instead of uploading the entire file every time it changes (which could be very annoying if you're editing something large), Dropbox tries to upload only the "binary difference", or the new data, making it very efficient.
-Upload/Download rate: If you feel Dropbox is stealing your bandwidth, you can set it yourself.
-Tray notifications: If files are edited on one computer, Dropbox will popup a tray icon on all other computers stating "[This File] has been updated to the newest version."
-Speeeeeedy: I had two computers sitting right next to each other, one with Dropbox, the other on the Dropbox website. I uploaded a file, and the Dropbox computer pretty much instantly started downloading the file.
-Cross platform: If Dropbox wasn't amazing enough, it's available on Windows, Mac, AND Linux. And, of course, you can have them all linked to the same account.

There are two things I have to say negatively about Dropbox, the first is having to place files in that folder for them to sync. But there is an easy workaround discussed at My Digital Life and many other places that tells how to get around that.

The second not-so-amazing thing is the resources it requires. Obviously, monitoring up to 2gigs of data is quite the hefty task, and Dropbox shows it. When it runs Idly, it uses aroun 60-70mb of RAM, which is definitely on the heavier side, for a program that runs "in the background". When it's uploading massive amounts of data (I mean gigs worth), it ran at (I believe) 110mb of RAM, consuming most of the CPU as well. So the initial setup might be a little sticky, but once you get it set up and if your comptuer can handle it, you'll love the feeling of knowing your files are safe, and able to be downloaded anywhere, anytime.

If you are thinking of making a Dropbox account, please use this link, because if you do, I get 250MB more space! Although that doesn't help FreewareWire directly, it does help it's founder, and that's a way of saying "Thankyou for showing me this great program!"

1 comment:

  1. I've tried one workaround for linking to files and folders outside of the Dropbox folder. It works quite well.

    See Hardlinks

    Best wishes to you.