Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dropbox for File Synchronization and Evergreen Backup

by Deren Hansen

Since the advent of personal computers, one of the perennial issues is backups. Elsa Neal at The Blood-Red Pencil, for example, discusses some quick and easy techniques for backing up your work, among which her favorite is to email your files to another account.

Backup is one of the few areas where more really is better, both in terms of frequency and techniques. As Elsa mentions, you can back up to another folder on your hard drive, to an external hard drive, to a thumb drive, to a shared location on a local network, and to a web service. If you want a more permanent record, back up to write-once media like CD/DVD ROM. The best practice is to use several different devices and methods instead of relying on a single kind of backup.

So far, so good. There's nothing revolutionary here. It's good advice that we'll likely honor more in the breach than the observance.

But all of that was simply to pave the way to telling you about a web service with which I'm quite taken called DropBox.

You see, I have a problem. I like to write on several different computers. I've dealt with this problem by using a thumb drive to move files among the various computers. That works well when I'm in the middle of drafting a manuscript and have only a few files to manage. But it becomes burdensome when I'm working with a larger number of files.

Enter DropBox. It's a folder that stays synchronized across a set of computers and a password-protected web service. Change a file on one system and you'll find the new version of the file ready for you on the second system.

DropBox is primarily a synchronization service, not a strict backup. It does offer a 30-day history of file changes, but it won't help if you need to keep older versions of the files for the long term. That said, if you chronically fail to keep your resolution to backup your work, DropBox is a good way to guarantee you have the latest copy of your files in more than one place.

Oh, and best of all, DropBox is free for the first 2 GB.

Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.


Julie Daines said...

Yes! I have DropBox too and I love it. It's so convenient and easy to use.

Scott said...

I use Syncplicity, which is similar, plus you start with 2 GB and can get up to 3 more by referring people. You can never have too much backup, though, so I've been meaning to open a DropBox. Thanks for the reminder!

Paul West said...

I have dropbox but it only holds 2gigs unless I want to buy more for a monthly fee.

For a small price I bought a 500 gig external drive. I can use it indefinitely for no additional cost.

Scott said...

I back up to an external drive too. But the cool thing about Sycplicity and DropBox is the syncing between multiple computers. Unlike DropBox, my Syncplicity account only syncs between two computers, but it also has a web interface I can access from anywhere. Offsite storage like that is also a good idea in case something awful happensto my house and damages my computer and external drive. Of course, if that happened, I'd have much bigger concerns than my files.