Along with Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Dropbox was one of the first services to show how useful and versatile the cloud could be, providing simple synchronisation of the contents of a single folder – the “Dropbox” – across multiple computers, OSes and users.
Dropbox provides 2GB of free storage and up to 100GB for $20 (£13) per month. A client has to be installed on each device – Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS versions are available – and once installed you can sync files between them and your online Dropbox simply by dragging items into the Dropbox folder.
Other users can also share and sync with a folder. You can set this up by right-clicking a folder or through the Sharing tab on the web-based interface. Either way, it’s very simple. Once your folders are set up for syncing, you can keep track of events and change preferences through an icon in the System Tray.
In a way, Dropbox’s simplicity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the concept of dropping files or folders into the Dropbox and knowing they’ll sync across all your devices is simple, and works brilliantly. On the other hand, there’s no way to sync specific files and folders – your Music folder, say – without moving them into the Dropbox, which doesn’t really suit the way Windows works. This limits Dropbox’s usefulness as a backup and restore program.
On the plus side, Dropbox’s excellent versioning features mean there’s no need to worry about files syncing after you’ve wrecked a key file; you can always drag it back from a previous copy.
Dropbox isn’t particularly media-savvy. It has photo-sharing and photo gallery features, but nothing outstanding. It’s also quite slow with big uploads, taking three and a half hours for our initial 500MB backup. However, it’s speedy at synchronisation. Photos added to one Dropbox appeared on another machine within 1min 44secs, while changes to a picture were synced to other systems within 1min 7secs.
For all its limitations, Dropbox is great because it makes sharing and syncing files so easy across most devices. Other services offer a more rounded package, but Dropbox is as useful now as ever.
|Software subcategory||Online backup|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|
|Operating system Linux supported?||yes|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||yes|
|Other operating system support||Fedora Core 9, Ubuntu|