Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dropbox for File Synchronization and Evergreen Backup

Technique Tuesday

January is traditionally the time we pay at least lip service to things we ought to do. Since the advent of personal computers, one of the perennial guilty topics is backups. Elsa Neal at The Blood-Red Pencil, for example, discusses some quick and easy techniques for backing up your work, among which her favorite is to email your files to another account.

Backup is one of the few areas where more really is better, both in terms of frequency and techniques. As Elsa mentions, you can back up to another folder on your hard drive, to an external hard drive, to a thumb drive, to a shared location on a local network, and to a web service. If you want a more permanent record, back up to write-once media like CD/DVD ROM. The best practice is to use several different devices and methods instead of relying on a single kind of backup.

So far, so good. There's nothing revolutionary here. It's good advice that we'll likely honor more in the breach than the observance.

But all of that was simply to pave the way to telling you about a web service with which I'm quite taken called DropBox.

You see, I have a problem. I like to write on several different computers. I've dealt with this problem by using a thumb drive to move files among the various computers. That works well when I'm in the middle of drafting a manuscript and have only a few files to manage. But it becomes burdensome when I'm working with a larger number of files.

Enter DropBox. It's a folder that stays synchronized across a set of computers and a password-protected web service. Change a file on one system and you'll find the same version of the file ready for you on the second system.

DropBox is primarily a synchronization service, not a strict backup. It does offer a 30-day history of file changes, but it won't help if you need to keep older versions of the files for the long term. That said, if you chronically fail to keep your resolution to backup your work, DropBox is a good way to guarantee you have the latest copy of your files in more than one place.

Oh, and best of all, DropBox is free for the first 2 GB.


Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net