Before you start reading this Tech Tip, ask yourself whether you could travel to each of your friends and back in a single day? I can’t. But I’ve found that there are times I want to share files with them that are too big to email. Sure, you could snail mail them or leave them in the PCV lounge for them to pick up the next time they’re in the office, but what if it’s time sensitive? What then?
Have you heard about Dropbox? It’s a great that allows you to upload your files into the cloud (a simple way of saying your files are stored on computers somewhere else on the internet so you can use them when you have internet access). Once they’re in the cloud, you can use them from any computer and more importantly you can share them with anyone. Anyone with access to the shared files can update them and the changes are instantly available to everyone else.
The service initially gives you 2GB of space, but there are ways to earn more (for example, I earned an extra 250MB of storage by referring a friend to the service). If you’re working with small files, that’s a lot of real-estate. The best part? It’s free.
So, how do you sign up? First, go to http://www.dropbox.com and click the big, blue button that says “Download Dropbox”. Follow the steps to install the program on your computer. You need to install to use it. The program sets up a folder on your machine which it monitors and uploads new and recently modified files to the cloud. I have mine setup so this folder is completely away from my personal files. After it’s installed, you’ll need to link your email address to it. Then, simply login to Dropbox.com.
To start sharing your files, copy the ones you’d like to share into the new Dropbox folder on your computer. The service will recognize the new files and once they’re uploaded, you’ll see them online. In the online portal, you can organize, delete, rename, and view earlier versions of the files. But most importantly you can share specific folders with people (at this time, it’s not possible to share specific files, only folders).
To share a folder, begin by pressing the “Share a folder” button at the top of the page. You will be given the option to create a new folder or to share an existing folder. Choose which you’d prefer and press next. From here, you can either invite new members by putting their email addresses in the box or, if you already have friends on Dropbox, you can select their names to have the folder shared with them. All you have to do from there is press the blue “Share folder” button. Those people will be invited to Dropbox to view the files you’ve shared with them.
I want to emphasize a part of the Terms and Conditions. Do not use this service to share copyright materials. There is no way of knowing how secure your data is on the network and who might be watching what you’re uploading and downloading. Other than that, enjoy the service.