Dropbox | Free (or paid) Online Storage and File Sharing

UPDATE 1/12/2011: I have a much more detailed and newer Dropbox review on The Bui Brothers site. Although pretty much all of my recent clients know about Dropbox (because I pretty much force them to use it so they can get their deliverables) I feel as though there are still tons of people I know who do not... and this post is for them. Or perhaps I should say it is for you, reader, if that suits you better.

Dropbox is a file sharing service that's also an online backup service that's also an online gallery/proofing service that's also... well it's pretty much whatever you want it to be.

It works on Mac and Windows (which is perfect since I run Windows 7 on my netbook and Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro and Leopard on my G5) and has a web interface as well as a desktop component... and they recently just released their extremely useful iPhone app. All of these elements are important in their own way and I use them all. I'll try to sum up how in a short-ish post.

How I Abandoned Mobile Me

Mobile Me is awesome. Mobile Me sucks. As a place to safely store files online, available anywhere... it's great. Upload/download speeds are always great, I have access to files anywhere... and I can even upload files and send out links that will expire in a certain amount of time.

The thing I used most is the gallery feature... their galleries are the BEST for delivering client proofs where you're not trying to get print sales from the photos. They look good, are easy to navigate, and allow people to easily look at large numbers of photos in a variety of ways.

There is also the Find My iPhone feature... cool and sometimes really useful, especially if your phone is stolen.

The rest of the service isn't so great for me. I don't use the email... the syncing is replaced by the free (and so far more reliable and open) Google Sync (computer to computer to iPhone)... the web interface is ALWAYS ridiculously slow... and it costs $99/year for all that greatness.

Enter DropBox

Dropbox logo

DropBox offers 2GB of storage on your account for free. It shows up as a folder in Finder (or Explorer) and you can create subfolders just as any other folder.

Store and Sync

The main feature of Dropbox is the automatic sync of all the files and folders in your dropbox with any other computers which you have dropbox installed. Drop a file in dropbox and in the amount of time it takes to upload to the server then back down to your other computers... it's there. (ok that sentence actually made it sound like a long time, but it's not)

What I use it for, however, is mostly for collaboration and for delivering client files. Every folder in your dropbox has sharing rights... and you can right click (ctrl+click) the folder and choose to share... it will open the web interface and allow you to send invites to whoever you want to share it with. This means when you drop files into the shared folder they will automatically download to the folders of everyone that folder is shared with, and they receive a notification on their screen.

Keep in mind, everything you are currently sharing in your folders AND your clients or colleagues count towards your total usage. You get 2GB for free and can get additional 3GB by referring other users (hint hint, yes that was part of my motivation for this post, 250MB additional for each person you sign up). Or if you need lots of storage you can pay $9.99/mo for 50GB or $19.99/mo for 100GB.

Versions

Another great feature of Dropbox is that it saves each version of each file you upload. So if you are collaborating on a file with someone and editing straight out of the folder... if you make any mistakes you can just go back into history and pull the version you want. These versions are stored for a month! Which means you also have...

Backup

Not only are you able to back up important files (2GB worth or more, depending) but even once you've deleted them from Dropbox, they remain in backup for 30 days. It's like an online Time Machine (the Apple kind, not the HG Wells kind).

iPhone app

The iPhone app for Dropbox was recently released, and is pretty darn awesome. Multiple times I've dropped a huge file in Dropbox but needed to leave right away... and wanted to be able to send a link to the file once it was uploaded. When on the road I was able to check the status and then send a sharing link once it was up. Nice.

You can also view content and mark files as favorites for frequent reference (pricing lists, contracts, etc...), and there's an upload button that allows you to upload photos and videos directly from the iPhone.

Viewing photos is also made super simple from the app... just open a photo and you can easily navigate from photo to photo using the navigation at the bottom of the screen... or by the standard swipe gesture.

Dropbox Review Photo

Send a link to any item via email... and Dropbox automatically creates the link and sets it to expire in a month.

Galleries

If you create folders in your photos folder that comes pre-created in Dropbox and fill them with photos... you get instant galleries that you can share. They galleries aren't quite as cool as Mobile Me galleries... but they are fast and easy to navigate. They work great for proofing and easy image sharing.

Dropbox gallery view

Gallery photo view

Download Dropbox

So... like I said... download Dropbox... and get your friends to join... and your clients... and your mom. Share files with ease.

These are the ways I use Dropbox, do you have any to add?