Why Dropbox is the most important tool for an academic

When it comes to backing up our computer files, we all know we should be doing it.  But let’s be honest, many of us don’t.  For several years now, I have been using Dropbox and it is the most important tool on my computer.  I use it for saving all my documents and files.  There are many reasons why you should too.

Photo credit: Flickr Marc Smith

If you aren’t familiar with Dropbox, it is an online (in the cloud) file storage system.  You can save documents, photos, videos, or any file to your account.  You can access the files on a Mac, PC, or through their online portal.  Of all of the features that Dropbox offers, there are at least four that I believe you will find most useful. 

1.  Saves on online copy and a local copy.  Dropbox saves a copy of your files and it also saves a copy on your local computer.  As a result, you have a copy on your computer as well as an online backup.  As a result, you don’t have to think about backing up your files because Dropbox has already done this.  By saving a copy on your computer, Dropbox enables you to access your files if you’re offline or traveling.

2. Syncs across all computers and devices.  I can access my files from my office or home computer or my iPhone or iPad.  No matter where I am, my files are always accessible.  When you turn on your computer for the day or access the files on a mobile device, Dropbox automatically syncs the files.  This way you always have the most updated version.  I used to live an hour from campus and if I forgot my thumb drive it would ruin my entire day.  This never happens with Dropbox.  Having all my files in Dropbox also makes it easy to move to a new computer.  When I bought a new laptop, I downloaded the Dropbox app and logged in.  The app downloaded all my files and organized them exactly as I had them on my last machine.  This saves hours of moving files between computers.

3.  Sync/share folder with colleagues.  Dropbox has the ability to share folders between people.  I use this with my graduate students and research colleagues.  We can save files for one another without having to send everything by email.  This is one of the simplest but most useful features that Dropbox offers.

4.  Cost.  Perhaps the best part of Dropbox is that it is FREE!  I do pay to upgrade for additional space, but you may find that you don’t need to do so. It is really about how much you want to save there.

With all these fantastic features and for no cost, why wouldn’t you give it a try?  If you want to start using Dropbox, click here.  Dropbox is a great tool with some killer features.  I hope the program will save you as much time and streamline your online file storage as it does for me.