Based on numerous posts I’ve read, there’s a lot of confusion over what DropBox does and how it works. The cloud, remote storage, file synchronization don’t mean a lot to the non-technical. So let’s try plain English so everyone can figure it out.
You have a computer in the office full of work related files. You can’t get at them from home or any other location for that matter. You’ve been emailing files to yourself so you can have copies of the same files on all you devices. What if you could go to a website from home or a client’s office or use an app on your computer, phone or tablet to get at some of your office files? With DropBox, you can.
Once you sign up for a DropBox account, you’ll get storage space (2GB for free) to store the files you want to access from multiple devices/locations. Any type of file can be stored – documents, music, photos, etc…
Like your Gmail or any other webmail account, the files are stored on someone else’s computer (in these cases, the computer is called a server). You access the files stored in DropBox the same way you access the email in your webmail account – from any web browser on any computer anywhere.
If you’re new to this, I’d recommend sticking with web access for now. It’s easy to upload/download files and manage all the other features from the web. But besides web access, DropBox offers apps for PCs, Macs and various mobile devices that you download and install. These work differently depending on the device.
On computers, the app creates what looks like a file folder but it’s actually a representation of what you have stored in DropBox. If you work in an office with a local area network (LAN), it’s like your network drive. The files you see in your network drive are not on your computer – they’re on the office file server. But you can open, delete from and save files to the network drive.
On mobile devices, the app acts best as a viewer allowing you to open and view files on your device. Other mobile apps may also work with DropBox allowing you to open files from DropBox or “send” or save files on your mobile device to your DropBox account.
If you have the DropBox app installed on multiple devices, synching is what keeps everything organized. Any changes you make to files (or deletions!) on one device are synched to your DropBox account. So when you open any DropBox app or sign into your website account, you see the same files everywhere.
A Few Notes on Synching
- If you’re using any of the DropBox apps, the app has to be running to sync. When you first start the app there’s a slight delay while DropBox updates everything.
- Access is not the same as opening a file. If you don’t have a program on the device that “recognizes” the file you are trying to open, you can’t view, see, hear or work with the file. You’ll need to make sure your device has the necessary programs.
- To avoid multiple copies of files, MOVE them to your DropBox folders (or upload to the DropBox website) – don’t COPY. If you COPY instead of MOVE only the files in DropBox – and any changes you make to those files – will be synched. Your original copies will not.
- If you’re concerned about losing files, add the DropBox folder on your computer to your backup routine. But as with your webmail, your files stored in DropBox are backed up online.
Another useful feature of DropBox is the ability to share files and folders via shareable links or invitation. Here’s a rundown on how this works.
- Each DropBox account comes with a Public folder. You can create a link to the entire folder or any file in your Public folder then send it to anyone. They don’t have to have a DropBox account to download or view the file.
- A new feature, which you have to activate, allows sharable links for any folder or any single file within any folder – not just the Public one.
- Once someone has a shareable link, they can send it to anyone to also access the file – so it’s not good for confidential files.
- Once they have access to a file, they can open it (with the necessary software), view or save it to their device.
- If they save the file to their device and make changes to it, the changes are NOT reflected in the original file in DropBox.
- You can use these links on your website or in emails to share files like property photos, marketing documents and so on.
- Instead of emailing large files, send a link instead. The recipient just clicks on the link to view the file.
For more information:
https://www.dropbox.com/help/16 – Using the Public Folder
https://www.dropbox.com/help/167 – Shareable Links for all Folders (link to activate new shareable link feature is on this page)
Sharing Folders by Invitation
- Sharing, or inviting others to any folder allows them to add, change or delete any of the files in the folder.
- People you share a folder with can also invite other people to the share the folder.
- Everyone you have shared the folder with will be able to see the updated files.
- If someone you share with makes changes to the file, if they SAVE it, the file will be saved to the DropBox folder and the original file is over-written.
- DropBox saves several versions of each file in case you need to restore a file to a previous version.
- Someone you share with can also save the file to their device using the SAVE AS command which lets them choose another location outside of DropBox to save the file.
- If they make changes to the file that they have SAVED AS to their device, the changes will NOT appear to the file in DropBox. Essentially, there will be 2 versions of the same file….which may or may not e a problem.
- Since folder sharing gives each user a lot of power, only share with people you trust.
- Collaborating on documents that multiple people need to view and update.
For more information:
https://www.dropbox.com/help/19 – Sharing folders
DropBox automatically creates a special Photo folder that creates slide shows – or galleries – of your photos. Do not share the folder. Instead, get the shareable link for the entire Photo folder (user can see all the subfolders) or for a specific folder within the Photo folder.
- Sharing photos with clients or family.
- Link to a Photo Gallery on your website.
For more details on using DropBox, visit their very good support section on their website.