We begin this post with three possible nightmare scenarios:
1. You’ve just arrived at a conference and realize that you’ve left your laptop or flash drive at home along with your presentation files.
2. Your laptop is damaged or—worse still—stolen.
3. You delete a substantial section of a manuscript, and plan to paste it elsewhere in the document in a moment. The phone rings, you are momentarily distracted, and by the time you get back to your document you have forgotten about the temporarily deleted section. You save and close your manuscript. Your deleted section is gone, perhaps forever.
Dropbox and other similar cloud-based file storage solutions (like Google Drive or Box) can help avert the likely damages from those three scenarios. Dropbox is an online file syncing service which you can use to store files and access them from any computer with an Internet connection. Here’s the Dropbox antidote to those three nightmare scenarios:
1. If you sync your documents with Dropbox, all you need is an Internet connection to access your files. You upload files to your online account from your laptop at home, then later on download them to a classroom PC, to a laptop at a conference podium, or to wherever. You can also install Dropbox software on your various computers (iMac at home, PC at the office), and drag files to and from the desktop folder. And as if that weren’t enough, you can install Dropbox software on mobile devices (Android or iOS), so you can have access to your files anywhere, any time.
2. Documents in your Dropbox folder are automatically synced as you work on them, as long as you’re working with an Internet connection. So if you break or lose your hard drive, your hard work is online, without your having to think to back it up.
3. Dropbox keeps archival copies of your documents, so if you need to retrieve an earlier version of a document (e.g., the document with the section you inadvertently deleted), it will be there. (Login to Dropbox.com, find the file you’re looking to recover in its earlier form, right click, and select “Previous versions”.)
Dropbox is also a great collaborative tool. From your online account, invite one or more email contacts to share specific files or folders with them.
To get started, go to Dropbox.com to sign up. Then download and install the Dropbox application. A folder will be created on your drive to which you can drag files.
You can watch a video introduction to Dropbox at Ed Tech Moments.
Some additional advice:
If you’re going to be using Dropbox to store documents that need to be secure, you will want to read the available documentation carefully to determine whether the Dropbox security protocols (which include a new two-step verification option) are sufficient for your needs.
Also bear in mind that files shared with you by someone else will eat up space in your account. An overstuffed Dropbox will interfere with the syncing process, so move the files from the Dropbox folder to another location on your hard drive. Sharers should make sure they place copies in the Dropbox and keep the originals in another location.
We concentrated on Dropbox in this post, but maybe you have a better tool for avoiding those nightmare scenarios. If so, tell us in the comments.