A digital tragedy fell upon one of my Social Work colleagues today and it broke my heart. I have been absent from this blog because I was working diligently on a process recording, community project paper, and first draft of my final-year research paper – the latter assignment being a casualty of my friend’s digital tragedy due to losing their USB thumb drive. From what I gathered, the word processing files on the drive were not backed up anywhere else!
This doesn’t have to be you!
Read more about how to protect yourself from this nightmare, after the break!
Now that my assignment load has lightened, I come with the intention of encouraging every undergraduate and graduate student to do themselves a favor and sign up for a FREE Dropbox account.This exercise is self-empowering and is a very simple solution to cover your anterior from the inevitable calamity of hard disk failure or loss of your portible USB drive. Did I mention that Dropbox is Free? Well, it is!
Why You Need It
I strongly encourage you to get a Dropboxaccount if you have not done so yet! [We both benefit by getting a little extra space if you use my referral link 🙂 ]
- Dropbox backs up your data into the cloud. Once you designate your “Dropbox Folder” (see: How It Works, below), any files you put into the folder are uploaded to Dropbox’s servers.
- Dropbox backs up your data into the cloud, instantly! If you are working on a file on your home computer and click save, changes you make to that folder are automatically uploaded to Dropbox’s servers. If your computer suddenly crashes, your file continues to be backed up on Dropbox’s servers.
- Your files are accessible from any computer that has an internet connection! That’s right! Just like you log onto e-mail, you log on to your account when visiting the Dropbox website. After logging in successfully, you can access your files and download them to the computer you are using. OMG, how cool is that? When you upload files to your Dropbox account while logged in on a different computer, the files will automatically sync (i.e. download) to your main computer.
- Dropbox is the equivalent of a digital USB thumbdrive, except that you do not have to worry about losing it, misplacing it, or the inconvenience you feel when you left it plugged in at your home computer. Thumbdrives still have their use (i.e. quickly transferring big files in a short amount of time), but in my digital lifestyle, they are antiquated for aforementioned reasons.
- Dropbox eliminates the need to email files to yourself. The reason that we often do this is to have the file accessible on a server. If we email it to ourselves on our Gmail account, we can log in from any computer and retrieve the file from the email’s attachment list. What results can be a confusing clutter of messages in your inbox.
How it Works
- Sign Up For An Account: You can sign up on the website and get 2 GBs free or you can use my referral link and get 2 GBs PLUS another .25 GBs for a total of 2.25!
- Install: Dropbox needs to install itself onto your computer. This simple software has not slowed my computer down at all – It just makes sure that everything is synced or backed-up into the cloud.
- Designate a Folder: I have a folder on my desktop that is simply called “Dropbox”. It it, I have my Social Work Tool Box, as well as my academic assignments, job hunting, photos, and public transportation (i.e. bus and train schedules) folders. When anything changes in a folder (i.e. you update a file by saving it, moving files into the folder, etc.), it automatically and instantaneously syncs to Dropbox.
Dropbox works on a Freemium model, which means that the 2 GBs of service you receive is free, but if you need any more than that, you will have to pay for a premium subscription. [Also, by using my referral link, you get an additional .25 GBs of space!]
How I Use My Dropbox Account
Over the past two semesters, I have used Dropbox consistently to upload files that I want to take with me. This saves me the hassle of having to drag my laptop around with me or relying on a USB thumb/flash drive. Dropbox has apps for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android devices and I am able to download most of these files (or view them) on my iPhone. Most recently, I have been working on my final-year thesis.
On my home computer, I am able to go into my Dropbox folder and work on the assignment. As I continously click “Save”, the Dropbox icon at the top of my computer starts to show a small animated stopwatch – this tells me that my file is syncing. When the timer turns into a green check-mark, this tells me that all my Dropbox folders are up to date. After field placement, I can go to the University library (my internship is at a different University than the one I am currently enrolled in), log into my Dropbox and download my file to the desktop. I usually download the files to the USB key I carry (just in case I somehow forget to save my work back onto Dropbox).
Most recently, I have been using SPSS to analyze my data, so I save any files I want like charts, output, statistical analyses conducted to the thumb drive. I can then go back to my internet browser (still open with Dropbox) and navigate to the folder I want to upload these files to. Even though I don’t have SPSS on my home computer, these files will still sync to my Dropbox folder at home when I turn the computer on. If my files are in .PDF or .html format, I can easily access them when I get home because I uploaded them to my Dropbox. After I finish with whatever work I have completed on my main document, I then upload the file back to my Dropbox, which syncs with my computer at home. Dropbox has not once failed me and it has the official Iggy-Seal-of-Approval!
Integrated into Several iOS Device Apps
Many apps have the option of utilizing Dropbox access to your files:
- JotNot Scanner Pro is a very good app that can “scan” very good quality PDFs for upload to your Dropbox folder.
- iThoughts for iPhone and iPad is a very good mind-mapping app that can export your creative ideas in PDF format to your Dropbox so that you can print it out or do what you’d like with it.
- Quickoffice Pro for iPhone and iPad is similar to Microsoft Office (i.e. word processing, charts, powerpoint) that can access compatible files in your Dropbox so that you can work on them.
- iTalk Pro (which is a way better recording app than the default one Apple developed) has syncing ability to your Dropbox account so that you can transfer your recently recorded audio files to your home computer.
- Other notetaking apps such as Plaintext and Nebulous allow you to save and sync plain-text notes to your Dropbox folder.