Drop it like it’s hot

Tips on how to manage one of the best online file backup and syncing services

Drop  it  like it’s hot
Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock, you must have heard of Dropbox. An excellent online file backup and syncing service, it is available for all popular desktop and mobile platforms. Apart from providing online, access-anywhere backup of your data (docs, photos, music and videos), Dropbox is also one of the best and most popular ways for auto-syncing data between computers as well as smartphone, tablets and even iPods.

You needn’t be bothered with version control across computers, or copying from one to the other using pen drives, or mailing stuff to yourself. Everything happens automatically as long as your Dropbox can talk to the internet. Ditto for your iTunes music library and your photos if your want. A data backup gives you peace of mind and file syncing gives you convenience. If you haven’t tried it, you should. You have nothing to lose as it’s free. And if you’re already a Dropbox user, here are some tips and tricks that will help you get more out of the service.

The desktop client

For starters, you don’t have to go online and log into your account each time you want to park a file on Dropbox. The service has a downloadable Dropbox desktop application (https://www.­dropbox.com/install) for Windows, Macs and Linux. This allows you easy access to your Dropbox via a folder right on your hard drive. You can copy or move a file into your hard drive’s Dropbox folder — or one of it’s subfolders. The Dropbox client will automatically send it online and also sync it with any other computers or mobile devices that linked to the account. To access your Dropbox account on your smartphone phone, head for its app store and download the free app. Dropbox has flavours for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

More gigs?

You don’t have to be down at the mouth about the paltry 2 GB of space that you start with when you open a Dropbox account. There are various ways of boosting storage here for free. Check the service’s own “get more space” page (https://www­.dropbox.com/getspace) for the multiple options available. These include simple things like taking a tour of the basics of Dropbox or connecting your Facebook and Twitter accounts with the service. Referring your friends to Dropbox can get you up to 16 GB of additional space.

Space limitations

What do you do if you have space constraints on your smartphone or laptop, but your online Dropbox account has accumulated gobs and gobs of data overtime? Besides, there’s no point keeping everything that’s uploaded on Dropbox to be available on all devices anyway. To deal with such situations, Dropbox has an option called Selective Sync. This lets you select only the Dropbox folders that you want synced to your device and ignores the others.

So while your phone may keep beaming photos up to the online camera uploads folder on Dropbox, you can opt out of syncing that folder to your laptop. To tweak this to your taste, check Dropbox preferences on your desktop.

While we are on the camera uploads feature, it may be pertinent to mention that its wise to switch off this option on your mobile if you are running out of space on Dropbox. If you want to store specific photos there, you can always use a service like https://sendtodropbox.com/ to mail them.

Upload critical files, don’t sync

When it comes to very important files that you want to back up and keep safely, you must remember to upload them in a folder, but not sync that folder. There’s a difference between uploading files to an online repository and syncing them that people often don’t realise. Accidentally deleting a vital file or folder that has been synced will automatically lead to its deletion online along with all other linked devices. So you will be left fretting with no copy of it at all. Not so with an uploaded file/folder that’s not marked for syncing.

To avoid falling into this trap, avoid using the aforementioned drag-and-drop-file desktop client. Instead, go to the Dropbox website, create the folder you want and upload your precious files in it. Now even if you delete these files from your local machine, they will continue to stay unharmed blissfully online.

(The author is a personal tech writer)

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