Review: File Sharing Made Easy with Dropbox

Web development often requires collaboration among people in various locations. Having the ability to easily share large files is important.

There are an incredible number of file sharing services available, and many online sites offering free storage. The drawback, for me, has always been the hassle of having to upload and download files every time I want to use a “shared” file. I often end up changing the file locally, then forgetting to upload the latest version to the site, which defeats the purpose of “sharing” these files.

I often use Microsoft Groove and I love it. I have been using this excellent peer-to-peer software since before Microsoft purchased Groove … after which, they removed some really nice features, and then basically just sat on it, with essentially no further innovations. The two problems I’ve always had with Groove are that it’s not cheap and I work with a lot of folks on Linux systems who hate all things Microsoft.

So now… along comes Dropbox (www.dropbox.com). Like Groove, I can easily synchronize local files among my various computers. Even better, I can also share a folder within dropbox with my associates, including those running Mac and Linux. When my graphic designer makes a change to a file, my local version gets synchronized and we both always have the latest version without any uploading/downloading or emailing large files. You can even synch files to your iPhone. Unlike Groove, once your files have synched to the dropbox online server, you don’t have to be online for the other computers to synch the latest files (in other words, I don’t have to be online at the same time as my graphic designer to get her latest revisions once they have been synched to the server).

As if all this wasn’t sweet enough… Dropbox is also an online backup. All the files in your dropbox folder are stored on a secure server and can be restored at any time….but that’s not even the best part… Dropbox also saves a version history of all your files (for 30 days), so you can actually undo mistakes or undelete files. Genius.

So what’s the bad news? Well, it’s not entirely free. The basic plan IS free and offers 2GB of storage… which, if you’re like me, you will probably use up pretty quickly. There are also 50GB and 100GB plans currently for $9.99 and $19.99/month respectively.

Maybe someday they’ll offer full system backups… right now it seems you can only synch files within your main dropbox folder which, on windows, sits under your “my documents” folder. It would also be nice if their pricing would come down a bit for their larger plans.

For now, if you need a quick, free application to share up to 2GB of files among your various computers & platforms and with customers, associates or friends… Dropbox basic is the way to go.