In the spirit of Twitter’s #ff (Follow Fridays), I’d like to introduce you to Catholic Tech Talk’s $FF or free finds. A $FF is our acronym (yes, us techies and the Catholic Church love our acronyms) for a recommendation on a technical tool or service that is free or nearly free that can help our readers get a job done.
Our first $FF, is one of my favorite online cloud services, Dropbox. Dropbox is an online storage service that allows you to store your files online and access it anywhere you go. It provides you a place to backup your files, share files with friends and collegues, and thanks to the Dropbox iPad App allows you gain access to your files on your iPad. The beauty of Dropbox isn’t just accessing your files in the cloud, its how they designed the integration with your computer’s operating system. From the Dropbox website you install a small application on your PC or Mac. Dropbox now appears as either another folder or drive on your computer. On my Mac, I ended up dragging my entire Documents folder into Dropbox. This action keeps my files on my Mac, but behind the scenes sync’s them up to the Dropbox cloud storage. As I add or edit files, Dropbox automatically syncs them up. Honestly, after a week or two, you kind of forgot its there.
I forgot Dropbox was there until I needed a file that is. With Dropbox, I can log into may account anywhere on the web and access my files from any machine. I also sync my files to my home computer as well. You can install Dropbox with the same account on as many machines as you want. Your Dropbox folder is then sync’d down to the other machines as well.
Within your Dropbox, you can share all of your files or just specific folders with others. Need to send a 100 meg file to someone or a whole bunch of pictures but they won’t fit in an email? No problem with Dropbox, you just share a folder in your Dropbox and send an invite to your friend to connect in to your Dropbox.
I really liked Dropbox until I discovered its iPad application. Then I fell in love with it. One of my few complaints about the iPad is its lacks of a file system. You can’t store a file on your iPad. Yes, you can store a file within email or within another application, but there isn’t a filesystem in your iPad only applications and their containers. Dropbox solves this problem by in effect becoming a shared filesystem application for your iPad. Now, you can access all of your files from your iPad, anytime, and anywhere you want to take it.
The cost? Dropbox is free for the first 2 Gig of storage. If I stay away from my music and photos, 2 Gig is more than enough space for me. If you want to store more on Dropbox the price is $9.99 / month for 50 Gig of storage and then double for 100 Gig of storage. In true social sharing, you can refer a friend to Dropbox and earn another 250 Meg of storage for free.
Dropbox uses Amazon’s S3 Storage Service. Its a about as safe and secure as you can get in the cloud. Can you trust someone else with your data? That’s one of the mental hurdles you need to overcome with any cloud service, however, as more and more services move the cloud this concern seems to be fading rapidly. Dropbox has a good privacy and security policy on their website and if you’re concerned I suggest you review it first.
If you’re looking for away to share files, access them remotely whether it be on a PC, Mac, or iPad, I strongly suggest you take a look at Dropbox.