If you haven't heard of Dropbox by now you have probably been living under a rock. Simply put, Dropbox is an online cloud storage where you can store your files and access them anywhere you have an Internet connection (or even offline if you have them synced to your device). It wasn't even ten years when the concept of "cloud storage" was few and far between. It existed, but not compared to the way it does today.
A decade ago the best way to store your digital files and take them with you was by using flash drives, which you were lucky to have a flash drive that held more than 1 GB. I remember one of my friends had a 10 GB flash drive! She called it the "Big H" (her name is Heather).
Until maybe three or four years ago I still carried a flash drive with me almost anywhere I went just in case I needed to download, copy, or transfer files from one device to another. Today, I don't have to carry around yet another thing in my pocket.
Dropbox was introduced in 2007/2008 but many people were not ready to move their files to the cloud. That concept was still new to many people and they were afraid of losing files, security, and overall anxiety of not have a "physical" device their files were stored. I, however, was not like that. I am pretty sure I was one of the first adopters of cloud storage, specifically Dropbox. I don't remember exactly when I first set up my Dropbox account, but my guess it was probably either mid-late 2008 or very early 2009.
When I first set up my Dropbox account, I had the 2 GB free storage. At the time that was more than I needed since I mainly used it as a file transfer service rather than a file storage service. If I downloaded a file from the Internet while at work I would save it into my Dropbox and when I got home I would move the file(s) to another place on my hard drive. It was great. Over the next year or two I told many people about Dropbox and suggested they sign up. Of course I gave them a code/URL to use when they set up their account - this gave me an additional 1 GB of free storage for each referral. Over the years I have referred over 30 people to use Dropbox. Yes, the link above is a referral code - I am sure I am almost at my limit of referrals, but oh well, more than anything I just want others to use Dropbox because it is so great!
Back in 2012 I subscribed to the Dropbox Pro service because I began storing more and more of my computer files in Dropbox. I began to do this for several reasons.
- Dropbox is so simple and easy to use - anyone can do it
- If I have all of my computer files in Dropbox, I can access them anywhere (provided I have Internet access)
- By keeping my files in Dropbox, that is one way I back up my files
- Sharing files and folders with others is much easier and efficient than using a flash drive, CD (which are almost obsolete), or email (which is very restrictive on file size limits)
I love being able to access all my files and folder no matter where I am. I can't tell you how many times I have been at a family member's house, friend's house, work, etc., and I have needed a file or folder "on my computer" and all I have to do is use their computer and go to www.dropbox.com and the files are instantly available. Dropbox has apps for iOS, Android, and Windows phones, so no matter if I am using a web browser on a computer (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) or I'm using one of my mobile devices I can access my files and folders.
I am a total genealogy geek. While others are into sports I am into looking for dead people... The mystery of discovering ancestors and their lives is such a fun hobby. Well, over the last decade I have accumulated thousands of historical documents, photos, stories, etc. The total file size of my "Genealogy" folder in my Dropbox is well over the 32 GB of potential free space I could have with all my referrals. I can't tell you how many times I have been conducting research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and have simply logged into my Dropbox there to save the research documents I have found. Not printing. No flash drives. And the great things is when I get back to my laptop while at the library or back to my desktop at home, the files are automatically there. I don't have to spend extra time getting them off the flash drive and organize them into my genealogy folder. I also can't tell you how many times I have been at my grandparents' home talking to them about the research I have done and we just log into my account on their computers and show them the files.
Almost everyone has had an incident where they have lost computer files due to a hard drive crashing, natural disasters, or accidental deletion. If you haven't, you will! Backing up your computer(s) is so important. Not only do you likely have years of documents such as Word or Keynote, but you also likely have a music library, family photos, and probably dozens of selfies (just admit it, you do...). Since I have every document, photo, song, etc., on my computer located in my Dropbox I am not worried about losing those files. I just calculated my "Genealogy" folder and there are over 9,000 files within that folder. That is a LOT of time spent collecting, organizing, and naming those files. Although it would be tragic for my laptop or desktop to crash, I would easily be able to recover all those files via Dropbox. If my computer crashed tomorrow all I would have to do is sign into my new computer and let all the files stored in Dropbox sync down to the new computer. As I said, Dropbox is just one way I back up my files. I also use an external hard drive and another cloud backup service. I have worked too hard on all my files and folders on my computer (not just the genealogy ones) that I don't want to lose any of them.
Let's say for some reason all my files on my computer got deleted, and my computer was synced with my online Dropbox account. All those files would disappear from the cloud. However, Dropbox stores all your deleted files for up to 30 days so you can recover them if you accidentally delete something. Users can purchase an additional recovery package where they will keep your files for up to one year! Dropbox for Business users have unlimited versions and recovery - that is pretty incredible!
Sharing documents and folders with others is one of my favorite features. I use this all the time! There are times where I go on vacation and at the end of the vacation everyone wants copies of everyone's photos, so I simply create a folder for that vacation and share it with all the individuals. They can go look at and download my photos as well as add their photos that I can view and download. If you want to share files with people, but only give them read-only access you can also do that.
I have been using Dropbox for well over six year now and even though other cloud services have popped up, I don't see myself switching to one of the other services any time soon!