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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The world of the cloud backup - DropBox et al

Slightly different topic for this post. My background is very technology based and so I thought I'd write something today that might be of interest even to you, my readers.

How many of you know what 'backing up to the cloud' is? No, it's nothing to do with the weather or dancing!

Let's approach this a different way. How many of you have music, photos or movies on your computer? Huge show of hands! Now, how many of you keep copies of them somewhere else in case your computer dies or is stolen? Oh dear, a very small show of hands.

So what do the rest of you do? Nothing? Just pray or rely on sorting it out one day?

Me? Oh, didn't I say? I have a system. Like most people I have a lot of music and photos stored electronically (I'm not really a movie downloader - I use Hulu and Netflix). I also ensure I have multiple copies of my 'stuff.' At home I have a couple of local backup systems in place. I run a Windows Home Server system that backs me up daily, and I also have an external 1 TB Hard Drive that has copies of important stuff. Then from time to time I burn it all to a DVD and store it in the bank safe box.

And that system works fine for my music and photos which don't really change that much and I only need access to when I'm at home (apart from those that are also synced to my phone and iPad). But what about documents, spreadsheets, drawings, presentations, and all those other files that keep changing and I'd like access to from wherever I am? For that I use a free service called DropBox. The principle is simple. You sign up for an account (You get 2 GB for free  - which is A LOT for non-music files - you can buy more storage for a small monthly fee) and then create directories where you want to store your files. Then you load a small program on your PC and it automatically syncs those files to the cloud (aka DropBox). Now whenever you change any of those files or put another in one of those designated directories, those files will get synced behind the scenes by DropBox. There is also a DropBox app available for smartphones and iPads. This means I can literally take my files with me anywhere. Don't have a smartphone but need your files on vacation? No problem. Just find an Internet connected PC and log in to your DropBox account. You can access your files online from anywhere in the word and make changes to them as necessary. Then when you get home those changes will be automatically synced up there too. Amazing!

So there we have it. Tip for the day. There's no excuse to be worried over losing important information ever again. Use DropBox  - it may save your digital life!


  1. Great tip. I just might start using this too. I have hard copies on most things, but for more temporary stuff I usually e-mail myself attachments.. not the safest or most organized way though.

    On a side note, I thought this was going to refer to cloud computing... I wrote a recent post on my blog about clouds... feel free to check it out.

  2. We use dropbox to send music ideas back and forth as part of an album project. We also use it to get scoring ideas to a few filmmakers we are working with. An excellent service. Nice report on it. Thanks.

  3. Great Post, I am a filmmaker @deveaudunn and I know this stuff, but you are reminding me to do it ALL the time! Nice tweet that led to your blog, by the way.

  4. Before I had Dropbox, I had printed out hard copies. Oh, and a few CDs with a version of my opus---about two versions ago. Then I got the blue screen of death on my iMac.

    There is no sound quite so hauntingly sad as the wail of regret emanating from the chest cavity of a writer who just lost the most recent versions of the masterpiece. It's not fun to go back two versions ago and try to recreate the brilliance one didn't save to a disc or some kind of backup. Indeed, one would be quite right to self-flagellate with the repetitive keening lashes of "I don't deserve to be a writer," for at least a day or two. Luckily,no one, including oneself, ever takes that sort of drama seriously.

    Great post. Get Dropbox. Do it now. NO---DO IT NOW!

    Thanks Paul.

  5. I just started using this yesterday! Haven't done much with it just yet, but my husband swears its fabulous. We're also installing shared folders so we can work on docs together. Great tip!

  6. By the way, my husband works for sales, cloud company! So we're already up there ;-)

  7. And of course, Dropbox is great for sharing files that are too big to email. You just create a folder in your Dropbox, and share it with another person's email address. They can only see (and download) what you put in that folder, of course.

  8. I use DropBox. And actually, my favorite feature is being able to share items publicly. If I need to make sure someone gets a file and it's bigger than the ten meg maximum a lot of email apps require, I put that file in the Public folder, select it, click Control (or right mouse button for PCs, I'd guess) and then select, copy Public link. It then copies the url that the file now has on DropBox and I can send that url to the people that need to download what I want them to have. It works beautifully!

  9. I love(d) Dropbox when I lived in one place with great bandwidth. But since I have been travelling long term Dropbox has become redundant as uploading on a slow connection crashes the laptop!
    It is such a shame as it is such a great tool - for sharing as well as back up.

  10. I use Dropbox. Wouldn't have known about it but for my eformatter, RT this tip so others can get wise.