If you work on projects, chances are your hard drive is packed with project documents. At least one of spreadsheets, project plans, reports, procedures, extracts, powerpoint and drawings files will cross your path in a typical work day, either incoming from someone or maybe outgoing from yourself.
Sharing, collaborating and delivering those documents would be easy if everyone we needed to share with sat next to us in the office. But’s that’s not the case is it? Your client’s office is in another city. Your coworkers are at site. The cost engineer is at head office and you work remotely from home 7-10 days a month. So sharing, collaborating and delivering files starts to get tricky when everyone is on a different network. Even emailing attachments doesn’t work consistently as large file tend to get bounced by email servers with size restrictions
It’s time for different approach.
Enter popular file syncing service Dropbox.
What is Dropbox?
Dropbox is a file syncing utility that uses the internet to synchronize and share files between computers. With Dropbox, you can share files with your coworkers without the hassle. Simply save your document to a folder on your pc, share that folder with your coworker through Dropbox and now that folder becomes synchronized between your computers. If your coworker adds a file to the share, it shows up on your pc. Share the same folder with others on your team to keep all of your project files synced across many computers. It works across offices, cities and countries. It’s powerful and easy to setup.
So how does Dropbox work?
Dropbox uploads and maintains a copy of your important project files or folders to the cloud. The Dropbox background client runs on your pc and monitors those folders on your pc. Anytime you edit/add/delete a file, Dropbox re-syncs those changes over the internet to your Dropbox files in the cloud, keeping everything in sync.
Sharing folders with others works the same way. When you share a folder with your coworker, he/she will have those cloud files downloaded to his/her pc. Dropbox will keep the files in sync between the two computers now and the cloud.
How will Dropbox make my life easier?
- Since Dropbox syncs your files to the cloud, you’ve got yourself an excellent backup solution for important project files. Many users use Dropbox as an automated data backup solution for their must-have files. Files are stored using AES-256 data encryption and transfers use Secure-Socket-Layer (SSL) to ensure your files are kept and transfered safely.
- Waiting for your subcontractor to send you their Primavera .xer file? Share a Dropbox folder with them. You can get notifications in the windows system tray when someone drops a files into your shared folder.
- Need to access work files from home? Login to your Dropbox account from their website. View and download files with ease.
- Dropbox takes the hassle out of sharing files with coworkers on your project. Create a folder for your project and share it on Dropbox with your coworkers.
- Smartphone user? Download the Dropbox mobile app for iPhone or Android. Your files are handy anytime, anywhere.
What do I need to make Dropbox work?
Dropbox runs on Windows, Linux and Mac. You’ll need an internet connection – the faster your connection, the faster your files will sync. Dropbox works well with most broadband internet connections. But if you’re out at site in some remote location with only satellite or dial-up internet, be prepared to be patient for your files to sync. Dropbox works best if your upload speed is more than 768kbps and your download speed is 5mbps or more.
Can my colleague and I work collaborativesly on documents, at the same time?
Dropbox doesn’t support collaboration yet. So it does it’s best to keep file update conflicts under check. If you and a coworker both choose to edit a shared spreadsheet at the same time, Dropbox will keep track of each of your changes by creating separate files. You could then manually combine the two separate files to merge all updates into one file only.
Dropbox saves versions of your files, so if someone accidentally deletes a file you can generally restore it easily through the web site. They also have a pack rat add-on (for purchase) that will save an unlimited number of versions of the file, rather than just the last one.
How to set up a free dropbox account
A free Dropbox account will give you 2GB of free cloud storage. There are ways you can increase this without paying, but you’ll have to work for it. Purchasing a paid account can up your storage to 50 or 100 GB for $10/mo and $20/mo. And recently Dropbox launched their Teams account aimed at businesses which gives you up to 1 Terabyte of cloud storage.
Getting a Dropbox account working for you will take only minutes. Here’s how:
- Goto www.dropbox.com. Download the and install the Dropbox client on your pc. During the installation, ensure you click “yes” to the User Account Control settings dialog.
- After the installation, follow the steps to create your personal account.
- Once the installation is complete, you’ll see a Dropbox folder on your harddrive. Simply drag and drop files or folders to your Dropbox folder to get them ready for syncing.
- To share a file or folder, right-click and choose “Share This Folder” from the Dropbox menu. Enter an email address to have an invitation emailed off immediately.
We want to hear from you!
Do you use Dropbox already? How does it help you at work or play? Are you using Dropbox in some innovative way? Tell us about it! What other tools do you use to collaborate on projects? What’s your opinion on collaboration tools?