Dropbox is among the best third-party cloud syncing and storage services
WWhat is it? Dropbox is a platform-neutral file syncing and storage system that isn’t tied to any particular hardware. It offers a decent amount of free storage with upgrade options. It’s among the most popular service of its kind. What does it work with? It works on OS X, Windows,Linux, iOS and Android, and there are free apps available for each platform. It also works in a browser and offers useful functionality such as watch folders for automatic uploading and has basic inline editing and viewing tools. e’re not surprised that Steve Jobs once tried to buy Dropbox: it’s slick, easy to use and remarkably powerful in the same way that Apple strives to make its products. It was one of the most important services in driving the average internet user to embrace cloud storage, because it understood that this stuff should seem simple to ordinary users, even if the technology behind it was massively advanced; services that look too complicated tend to scare people off. If you see people using a cloud service to sync to store their files, it’s very often Dropbox that’s sitting in the menu bar.
A free, basic account starts with 2GB of storage space, but it’s possible to increase this by ‘earning’ more (up to 16GB) through inviting others to join up. Dropbox has an excellent selection of different ways to access your storage space. The simplest is through a web browser where you can upload and download files, create and manage folders, send sharing links to others and manage privacy with passwords and link expiration dates, copy and paste stuff and even create photo albums.
If you install the Dropbox app on your Mac or PC, it sits unobtrusively in the menu bar until you need it and lets you jump straight to your online storage space in a browser, as well as creating local copies of the online folders for offline access (unless you choose to switch this feature off ). It creates a ‘watch folder’ that automatically uploads anything you place into it and also installs a contextual menu plugin so you can right-click on anything on your Mac and choose to move it to Dropbox, provided there’s enough space. In the Preferences you can choose to enable automatic uploads of photos and videos from devices that you connect to your computer, and also copy stuff from iPhoto into your Dropbox folder, thus liberating it from Apple’s walled garden. It’s possible to share screenshots to Dropbox and also limit the bandwidth it can use, so it doesn’t use all your data or slow down network traffic.
The iOS apps are equally useful and have a similarly focussed feel to them. As well as letting you upload and download files to and from the cloud, you can also view all major file types such as text, music, pictures, PDFs and movies in the app itself, and it shares the same functionality as the website with the ability to create folders and share links to files. A number of Mac and iOS apps also have the ability to upload files and other data to your Dropbox account directly from their export or file menus, since it’s one of the world’s leading cloud services. Although many apps will now start to incorporate iCloud options in those same menus, it’s unlikely that they’ll forget about Dropbox: the two services are likely to coexist as destinations for your precious files. You can pay to upgrade your storage; you get 1TB of space for £7.99 a month (or £79 a year). There’s also a Business plan available, though it costs significantly more.
Dropbox is a slick cloud syncing and storage system that works across all your devices, and is great for storing smaller amounts of stuff with its 2GB basic account. Although you can view files to a limited extent online, you can’t work with them in the same way you can with iCloud Drive or Google Documents; and although Dropbox integrates into OS X and iOS as far as Apple will presumably allow it, it can’t achieve the same degree of integration that iCloud does with your device, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s not made by Apple. Nonetheless, it’s easy to use and its tools are robust and well designed.