Simple File Storage and Sharing on Dropbox.com

What is Dropbox?USB flash drives are soooo 2002. Today it’s all about using “the cloud.” One popular cloud solution for storing and sharing documents is Dropbox.com. With Dropbox, you always have your documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, images, photos, and other files with you, and you don’t have to keep track of a separate plug-in device.

Setting up Dropbox

It’s easy to get started with Dropbox. Set up an account on their site and then download Dropbox software to any device where you might want to access your Dropbox files. Dropbox works across most operating systems, including Mac, Windows and Linux as well as the iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry mobile platforms. Even if you don’t have Dropbox downloaded to a computer, you can always use a web browser and log in to the site for access to your saved files.

Keeping Files Synced

Downloading Dropbox to your computer or mobile platform makes it very simple to save and update files. A special Dropbox folder will appear on your desktop so you can easily drag and drop files there. Within moments, the uploaded file is accessible from all of your devices.

When you open a file that’s already saved to Dropbox, you can edit it and save it at any time. The new version is almost instantly available on any device and to anyone with whom you’re sharing the file.

Organizing Files

Dropbox folders and subfolders look very similar to what you’re used to using on your computer. In fact, once you’ve downloaded Dropbox to a computer or device, Dropbox appears as a drive option, right next to your local disk (usually your C: drive), desktop folder and other common storage spots.

Dropbox folder

Sharing Folders

As you save files to Dropbox, you can set up as many folders and subfolders as you want. Organize them in a way that makes it easy for you to separate (and later find) information for your next trip versus last year’s tax return files. When setting up your folders and subfolders, think about with whom, if anyone, you’ll want to share the contents. When you choose to share a folder, all its subfolders get shared too. This also adds the folder to the “Sharing” section of Dropbox, however the folder will still appear on your Dropbox home page.

Providing Access to Documents

Another option is to move a folder or a single file to the “Public” folder. Dropbox automatically provides a Public folder when you set up your account. For each file saved to the Public folder, you can access a URL. Share the URL with whomever your want, however you want, and then they can see the file-even if they don’t normally use Dropbox.

Deleting and Controlling Versions

If space is getting tight, go ahead and delete some files. Deleting files will free up storage space, but Dropbox doesn’t actually purge your files for 30 days.

For any file you’ve uploaded or deleted, you can right click on the file name and select “Previous versions.” (This works from file names on your computer’s Dropbox folder as well as on the Dropbox.com website.) See when the file was added, edited, deleted or otherwise changed. If it’s a shared file, see who made the changes. Dropbox keeps a copy of each file version, so at any time you can view and/or restore earlier iterations.

Maximizing Storage Space

Dropbox offers a limited amount of storage space for free, but you can upgrade at any time. Personal plans range from $10-$20 a month, and there are other options for teams of people who want to use Dropbox for collaboration.

Dropbox has built in ways to help you get the most out of your storage space. When you upload a file, Dropbox looks to see if it already has the file. If it does, Dropbox only uploads changes to the doc rather than the whole doc. This results in faster syncing, too.

The default “Photos” folder on Dropbox has some nice features like a viewing gallery. However, photo files can eat up a lot of storage space. Since there are many other photo storage options available (most for free), you may want to save your photos somewhere else. Check out Flickr.com , Shutterfly.com or Picasa.com as photo saving, and space saving, alternatives.