Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dropbox: Reliable storage in the cloud

I'm still not convinced that the cloud is totally reliable. Some regional power failure episodes have made the news because they have caused some cloud services to go offline — not a good thing if your business depends on cloud-based data storage or applications.

For that reason alone, I have been cautious about using cloud services at all. But for about a year, I have been using Dropbox as a cloud storage solution. Consider this an unsolicited testimonial: I have been satisfied, pleased, even gruntled, with Dropbox's performance.

I have been using Dropbox three different ways:

1. Instead of a USB memory stick. It's a simple thing to access Dropbox, either directly or through a browser window, to transfer files from one of my computers to another. I can even upload a PDF file to Dropbox from my PC, and view it on my iPad/iPod/iPhone/Android device. And if I'm on a machine without Dropbox installed, I can still upload or download files using any Web browser.

2. With friends, family, and co-workers. I think this is the strongest use of Dropbox. I have swapped photos and documents with family and friends; and I have shared important files with co-workers and colleagues while working on collaborative projects.

3. With multiple operating systems on one computer. My work computer is a Windows box, but I also have several virtual Linux boxes running on it. Dropbox lets me share files seamlessly between Windows and Linux. It's cleaner and easier to use than any of the usual file-sharing solutions.

A basic Dropbox account is free, and gives you 2 GB of cloud-based storage space. Dropbox has an incentive program whereby you can increase the size of your storage space (up to 16 GB) through referrals and other means. If you want, you can also buy more storage space: 100 GB will cost you $10 per month, for starters.

Dropbox is fast, robust, and simple. It doesn't require a lot of space on your computer. If it's not installed on a computer you're using, you can still get to your files using a Web browser. If you really  want to (heavy sigh), you can integrate it with your Twitter or Facebook account. 

And (nerd alert!) if you want to build it seamlessly into your next software project, Dropbox has a versatile API, and SDKs for all the operating systems that it supports.

Dropbox doesn't know I'm posting this, and they're not going to reward or recompense me in any way. I like my reviews to be honest, unbiased, and independent. See my article, "Blogging for Dollars," for more information.

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