It’s 3:00 pm. Things are looking good.
It’s funny how transferring files – especially the large media files we typically work with in the elearning biz – can cause even the most Zen like of us to go apoplectic. Talk about a productivity buzz kill.
Back in the stone ages, we used to upload our media files to Jazz or Zip drives and then send them to our clients by courier. The drives were kind of expensive and the notes we included to return them usually went unheeded. Then there was FTP which saved us from using the physical drives, but came with a new set of annoyances. With FTP, came connection issues, frustrating timeout errors, slow transfer times and unfriendly interfaces too difficult for non-techies to use.
Well after years of banging our heads against the proverbial firewall, we’ve discovered a tool that actually makes file synchronization and sharing simple. It’s called Dropbox.
Dropbox? Sounds like a Kickboxing term – so what is it exactly?
Dropbox is an application that enables users to store and sync files online and between computers.
When you install Dropbox, the application places a folder in your Documents folder named “My Dropbox”. Catchy eh! You can create folders and invite other users to share it. If another user invites you to share a folder (and you accept of course), the folder will appear in your root Dropbox folder. All you have to do to share a file is put it in the folder. Any changes made to the file from then on will automatically update on the all the computers that share the folder.
Dropbox runs on Windows and Mac and Linux clients. It even has an iphone app if you are into that. I haven’t used it yet, but have an iphone on my wish list so here’s hoping. We like this because we have clients and service providers who run all different types of systems and we can all still share.
Just in – Rick’s son says the iphone app is phenomenal. Apparently, you can view files you would not be able to with just the iphone.
Dropbox is secure – it uses SSL transfers with AES-256 encryption, and it supports revision history.
What’s so great about the revision history?
We like it because it keeps track of who made changes to a file and when – this way we always know who to blame when something screws up – just kidding. More importantly, Dropbox stores the revisions on a secure web server so when the monkeys mistakenly delete or overwrite a file, we can restore it. We are on the one month recovery option, but for a small added fee you can have Dropbox keep your old files forever.
More than just file sharing
We also think it’s great for collaboration. Although it does not allow more than one person to work in a file at the same time – Dropbox updates changes as soon they are saved so that everyone has immediate access to the latest and greatest version.
No monkey business here
The Dropbox account comes with 2GB of free space that you can use for as long as you like. This is smart because it allows people to use the service for free. We have no qualms about inviting clients or service providers to use it because it costs them nothing, is secure and is really easy to use. When users get hooked on the service, like we did, it costs very little to upgrade to 50 MB of space.
What would make it better?
Dropbox was designed for personal use so there is no concept of a business account or any way to administer access for a block of users. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the implications of this, but as a business owner who uses the occasional contractor, it would be great if I could buy some sort of group license and then assign or remove access as people come and go.
So how do the Monkeys rate Dropbox?
Ten again. Hmm. I would have given it an eleven.