How to easily share, back up, and sync your documents across devices

Scenario: One of my clients in Canada, let’s call him Al, just got himself a fancy schmancy smart phone (Samsung Galaxy IIX, an Android phone). Al has a PC in his home office (Sony Vaio) and acquired a 13″ Macbook laptop for travel. Now he needs to figure out how to easily transfer files between devices and make sure he’s only dealing with one version for each file. What’s the easiest solution?

Dropbox, a web-based file hosting service!!

There are many web-based services available to you to share, back up, and sync your files. After using Dropbox personally over 18 months, it’s quickly become my go to, and only,  file management provider. You need to sign up for a free account which will give you 2 GB of free storage in your Dropbox web-based account. If you like Dropbox and recommend it to friends, Dropbox will give you another 250 mb free of storage up to a max of 8 GB of free storage (at the time of writing this posting).

OK, so why is it so good?

  1. Dropbox encrypts your documents on the web using the same security measures that banks use for their online banking.
  2. Dropbox works behind the scenes when you have an Internet connection to transfer any updated or new documents that live in the folder(s) that you have told Dropbox to monitor. This means that you can still access your files when you don’t have an Internet connection (something that other web-based file hosting services don’t permit you to do). Plus if you open and modify a file when you’re offline, the next time you establish Internet connectivity, Dropbox updates your information automatically. Sweet!
  3. AND Dropbox easily lets you share specific folders with others.

Imagine this –  you are collaborating with a few others on an upcoming conference workshop and you need to finalize the outline. You set up a Dropbox folder called “conference workshop”. You share this folder with your colleagues (who also need a Dropbox account – again, it’s free to get). You create a new document called Outline and you put it in the “conference workshop” folder. Almost immediately your colleagues are notified of a new document. Amazing! One of your colleagues opens up the new document, reads the content, makes a small change, and resaves the document. Now you, along with everyone else who shares this folder, are notified of the modified document. Again, amazing! Dropbox makes file sharing so easy! And fun to use!!

Now back to Al. How does Dropbox help him with his situation of multiple devices? By installing Dropbox on his smart phone, on his PC, and on his Mac laptop, whatever documents or photos he puts into his Dropbox folders get immediately synced to his other devices. There’s no need to burn a CD, or save content to a USB stick. Simple and sweet! If Al accidentally loses one of these devices, or heaven forbid, he loses all three in one go, Al can still get access to all the information he put into his Dropbox folders by going to his web-based account on Dropbox. Whew!

Personally I use Dropbox to share, collaborate, and back up important information that I can’t afford to lose. That being said I do not use Dropbox for critical, sensitive information (like banking information, etc) nor do I use it to back up my photos (due to storage limit).  There was a minor breach of Dropbox earlier this year and the company fixed the security breach as soon as they found out about it. But it’s better to be safe and use the file hosting service to your own comfort level. I hope you like it as much as I do and now as much as Al does.