Dropbox

DropBoxSeriously, if you don’t know of this program once you learn about it you will probably use it and love it.  What makes Dropbox special?  Well, it’s a combination of things.  First off, Dropbox is not a “new” kind of program, there have been countless similar sync and backup programs before but Dropbox is the first time one has seemlessly combined so many aspects in a platform that is simple; oh and the first 2 – 8 gigs are free!

Basic Functionality:

All Dropbox really does is it takes a folder in your My Documents; generally called My Dropbox, and everything put into that folder is automatically synced with all the other computers that you have installed Dropbox in.  Meaning, if I want to access a file from work that I have at home; no more emailing it to myself.  I just put it in the dropbox folder.  Once I make changes at work and re-save it back into the dropbox folder, my version at home is automatically updated to the new version.  Seemless and is done in seconds.

Online Access and Backups:

But with that basic functionality, they’ve added on heaps of features.  Recent versions of every file is saved online; meaning that if I wanted to go back to the original file once I get back home, all I’d have to do is go online and grab the original.  Shoot, with the online features I don’t even have to have dropbox installed on a computer in order to access all my files.  If I’m on a friends computer and want to access a few files from my Dropbox, I just log on to www.dropbox.com and viola!  There are all my files.  At the link, there is a video to watch that explains the uses of dropbox as well.  Check it out.

Friends/Coworkers Access:

I haven’t used these features as much but I have used them to share small files.  However, if you are a student this could be incredibly useful.  You can make public folders and files.  Meaning, if I’m at home and I want to share a picture or document with a fellow student or my mother; all I have to do is put that file in one of the public folders (defaults are Photos folder and Public folder; they behave slightly different from eachother) and once in there you can share the pictures with whomever; or grab the private, public link and send that link.  For example, here are the instructions on how to use the Public Folder, that I pulled from my own Public Folder just as I would pull any file from there: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5979074/How%20to%20use%20the%20Public%20folder.rtf

Passwords with KeePass & Security with TrueCrypt:

While dropbox itself is relatively secure in it’s cloud format, combine it with other programs and it’s security can go through the roof while maintaining convenience.  I haven’t discussed either of these programs yet but I shall.  They are both fantastic.  KeePass for creating and maintaining complex and hard to crack passwords and TrueCrypt for secure file storage.  Check out a brief review on KeePass & Dropbox from one of the masters of Privacy; Bill Rounds.  I will elaborate on DropBox with KeePass and TrueCrypt in the future once I discuss the programs themselves.  Look ahead for that.  However, the quick basics of it is that KeePass keeps all your passwords together and encrypted by a master password.  Combining that with Dropbox allows you to access your password database from anywhere in the world while making it difficult for anyone else to hack it.  With TrueCrypt it is a similar thing but instead of passwords it can be any file whatsoever.  It is encrypted on dropbox so not even a rogue dropbox administrator can access the unencrypted file as the file is only unencrypted outside of DropBox.

Closing:

Dropbox has become one of my vital programs.  I not only use it everyday but it is open in my computer every day all day.  I use it for backups, for accessing files from home and work.  For uploading files to my wife’s computer occasionally.  For sharing files with friends and family.  I keep my unread ebooks in there so I can access them from home/work.  I keep my budget file and stock spreadsheet on there so that is accessible from work/home without me worrying about syncing.  Much of the above files are also encrypted using TrueCrypt as mentioned above for greatly increased security.  I use it everyday and I think you will find great use out of it.

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