Free Online File Sharing With Dropbox
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 8 Jul 2011
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