Free Online File Sharing With Dropbox

Category: File-Sharing

Dropbox is a Web-based file storage and sharing service that debuted in 2008. It had over 25 million users as of April, 2011, making Dropbox the leader in file sharing services. Here are some reasons why Dropbox has become so popular, and a few words of caution as well...

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is more than just an extra hard drive "in the cloud." It is a simple way to keep all of your files synchronized on multiple devices, your own or other people's. When you set up a Dropbox account, you can add up to ten different devices to it. Devices might include your desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, and other mobile devices. The Dropox client must be installed on each registered device. Dropbox clients are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Windows 7 Phone, iPhone and iPad clients.

Files dropped into the Dropbox folder on your PC are automatically uploaded to the service. You can share batches of files by simply dropping an entire folder into your Dropbox folder. The files in your Dropbox folder are replicated to all of your registered devices automatically. You can also access your Dropbox file folder via a Web browser, if you happen to be without a device that has the client installed. So all of the stuff that you never want to be without is on whichever device you happen to be using, wherever you are.
Dropbox File Sharing

This of course eliminates the hassle of emailing files to yourself, carrying around a USB thumbdrive, and the embarrassment of telling a client "I forgot the presentation on my desktop computer back at the office."

You can also allow other people to share your Dropbox files. Batches of photos, work documents, media files, and more can be shared with family, friends, co-workers, or the general public. Files and folders on Dropbox can be password protected, or there is a "public" folder that anyone can browse. Your Dropbox folder provides a unique URL for each file and folder in it that you can email to others by way of an invitation.

Cost, Capacity and Competition

Dropbox gives all users 2 GB of free storage. Additional storage space up to 100 GB is available by subscription. Free users can earn an additional 250 MB of storage for ever new Dropbox user they refer, up to a total of 8 GB.

In addition to the ability to access your files from almost anywhere, Dropbox also makes sure you always have the most up-to-date copy. When a shared file is altered, the changes are replicated in your Dropbox folder and on all registered devices. This synchronization allows groups of people to edit files together. To conserve bandwidth, Dropbox transmits only the parts of files that have changed. You can also set a limit on the amount of bandwidth that Dropbox will use, to avoid hindering your other Internet activities.

Dropbox has been successful up to until now, attaining $100 million in annual revenue and a market valuation of a billion dollars. However, Dropbox's future does not look entirely bright.

The file sharing market is getting crowded with competition. Google Docs is morphing into a general file sharing service. Windows Live Mesh and its companion service, SkyDrive, offer 25 GB of free storage. Other competitors include RapidShare, Sharefile, Box.net, and quite a few others.

Making matters worse, Dropbox has gotten some bad press several times in 2011. First, it was discovered that certain Dropbox employees are able to decrypt users' files. Dropbox claims they have strict controls that prohibit this, except in rare circumstances where law enforcement requires it. See the Dropbox Security page for details. Then there was a change in Dropbox's Terms of Service that some critics interpreted as a claim to "own" users' data. But just a few days ago, Dropbox clarified this issue, saying "You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don't claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property..."

Personally, either of those issues matters much to me. But most recently, a software update somehow left all users' account unprotected by passwords for a period of five minutes. A class action lawsuit has been filed over that incident, and a number of Dropbox users have defected to other file sharing/synchronization services. Of course Dropbox, says they have put in place new safeguards to prevent this from happening again.

Many of my friends and professional contacts rave about Dropbox, and take these glitches in stride. Do you use Dropbox, or a similar file sharing service? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Free Online File Sharing With Dropbox"

Posted by:

Dee
08 Jul 2011

I use Box.net and Google Documents but Dropbox sounds even better for the files I use and update fairly often on either of my 2 PCs (one is a desktop and one is a notebook).


Posted by:

DBob5678
08 Jul 2011

Am considering adding dropbox to my Blackberry (it's available at appworld), but am concerned that it
needs - according to, at least one reply at appworld, access to data, location, etc. I can understand why it needs the contact email, but... why the other info?


Posted by:

Paul
08 Jul 2011

I recently started using Dropbox to keep some files synced between my laptop and desktop computers and it works great for this. I also have used it for sharing product photos with a business associate in a different city and it has proved to be a great time saver. With the amount of photos and not wanting to reduce resolution, I was preparing to copy to CD's and snail mail, when I realized I could just share a Dropbox folder! He had the photos instantly (well, he had to register with Dropbox first) and was very happy.


Posted by:

darlene
08 Jul 2011

Love, love, love dropbox! I'm willing to stay with dropbox for now amidst all this brouhaha


Posted by:

jim
08 Jul 2011

Great service and easy to use for sharing. However, my employer has blocked access to it now as well as all other cloud file services when it was discovered that employees were using them to maintain work files so they could do work at home instead of emailing file to themselves. A lot of our information is sensitive and of course, some people didn't realize they should not put it there - so POOF! I have yet to get Google Docs to work correctly with my Android and it does not handle all types of files, so I may try and sync my phone with it and use that instead.


Posted by:

John
08 Jul 2011

I use Sugarsync and really like it. It does everything dropbox and I have had no issues with it. It runs silently in the background and doesn't slow my computers down at all.


Posted by:

Jorge (Chile)
09 Jul 2011

I've found that DB is very useful solution to my universe of computers (notebook at office, notebook at home, my wife's netbook, Linux desktop at home).
I am not sure to understand the new term of service, but my data is no sensitive, so I don't worry about it.


Posted by:

Charlie
09 Jul 2011

Started using Dropbox when I was putting together a program of abstracts and other information for a scientific meeting. I worked from 4 different computers and don't know how I would have done the job without Dropbox. It worked flawlessly. I was able to work on a file and know that the correct file would be accessible on all of my computers. If, by chance, I was working on someone elses computer, I could still access the files by logging on to the Dropbox websites and signing in with my password. It is a great tool.


Posted by:

Derek
09 Jul 2011

I have nothing to hide so I could care less if someone at Dropbox ever looked at my files. If I was a famous author or something like that I wouldn't store my files in the cloud anyway. Regardless if I'm famous or not.. I never store credit card info, wt2s, or anything sensitive like that.


Posted by:

Doug
09 Jul 2011

Dropbox just sent me their terms of service which says they can open all files and review them. I immediately cancelled my use of this service. So much for privacy!


Posted by:

Marty
10 Jul 2011

I have used Dropbox for about as long as they've been around and don't know how I'd live without it. Has made life very simple and I think I'm using it to the maximum that anyone can. I have to take these issues in stride as the thought of switching to something else sounds awful. I love this service.


Posted by:

Marc de Piolenc
14 Jul 2011

I don't worry much about file security because I have no intention of putting anything into the Cloud that I wouldn't be willing to have my worst enemy get access to. I am more concerned with Dropbox's effect on my local hard drive's file system. It may simply be coincidence, but shortly after using Dropbox for the first time my nearly-new hard drive failed - physical damage to certain sectors (amounting to less than 1% of disk capacity) making the file system inoperable. A computer shop was able to recover and copy off my D: partition, but not the C: partition where the Dropbox folders were. Again, possibly coincidental, but until I can have an expert forensic appraisal of my defunct HD performed I am not planning to reinstall Dropbox. I will be experimenting with less powerful and convenient, but also less invasive, filesharing systems.


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