Dropbox is an online file backup and sharing system which is providing similar functionality as a SVN server, but with very simple and user-friendly design. So that even a General user can use this software and he don’t even have to bother that there is a file backing up system running on his PC. All the activities will be handles by the Dropbox behind the screen. Furthermore this can be used as a tool to share your files with your friends in a highly secured way. In addition to that it provides a service to share your files publicly and share them as an online photo gallery.
Before you start the Dropbox service you have to install the PC software which is provided by them. You can follow this link to download it. Once you download and install the Dropbox software it will create a folder name “My Dropbox” in you’re my documents folder. Before you start using the service you must create a Dropbox account and it’s a part of the installation process. Then all you have to do is move your important files to “My Dropbox” folder. All the files there will be copied to your Dropbox account space. Furthermore all the changes you will make to the files inside the “My Dropbox” folder will be updated to your Dropbox account space. Those files will be saved in your Dropbox space in the case you need a backup. The total process is automated and you don’t have to bother. You can treat the “My Dropbox” folder as any other local folder in your computer.
There are two pre created folders inside you’re my Dropbox folder. You can use these folders to share your files easily. When you put a file in the Public folder, it will create a URL for the specific file. So that can be share with any one even outside the Dropbox. Once you put your some images in the Photos folder, it will create a online photo album. You can create your own folder in side and that will be the name of the Album.
Options For Users
Dropbox PC software provides the file backup and sharing service on a personal computer. Once you install it on your PC it will create folder locally and synchronize it with the web copy of files. To indicate the Dropbox is running there will be an icon in system tray and that icon will display the state of the system. From that icon you can access preferences and in there you can do changes to the application including My Dropbox folder location.When you go and right click on a folder My Dropbox there will be a sub menu related to Dropbox functions including sharing and show delete files. And by double clicking on the system tray icon you can open you’re my Dropbox folder.
There is a free iPhone application provided to interact with Dropbox. In there is doesn’t keep a local copy of files but give a listing. By clicking on a file you can open it. In addition to that, like in the PC application there is the facility to share a folder and the content of the folder will be automatically synchronized with the web copy of files.There are some special features in iPhone Dropbox application. In there you can take a picture or record a video and put it directly in a Dropbox folder. After that you can share it with your friends. For that you can use Public and Photos folders as well.
The web interface provided is having most updated and comprehensive features. In there you can manage the web copy of the files. It’s given the facility to upload, download, create new folder and share files inside that. Furthermore there is an option to download a whole folder as a ZIP file.At the top navigation bar there are links to display recent activities and shared item status. If you click on the show deleted files it will display the files you deleted recently and yet you can undelete. This is a really a important feature. Using this you can recover a file you delete from your PC which was in you My Dropbox folder. You can see the undelete link in the drop down menu in the specific deleted file or folder.
There is a portable version of Dropbox and its provided by the Dropbox community. Using that software you can have a copy of My Dropbox folder in your portable data storage device, like your USB pen drive. You can download Dropbox Portable here. When you start it for the first time closely follow the instruction given by the installation process. Once you successfully set it up in your USB drive, you can have a copy of Dropbox files in there which is synchronized with the web copy.
Backup Space and Synchronizing
Dropbox Is going you 2GB of space and you can upgrade it up to 5GB by introducing new people. You will get extra 250MB per head up to 5GB. If you need further space you can purchase it. And the My Dropbox folder will be automatically synchronized to the web folder as a background process. It’s looking for changes that the user going to do for files and once you do some changes it updates it in the web folder. In this process latest edited version will always get the priority. For a general user, he doesn’t have to bother about anything, but work in My Dropbox folder like in any other local folder. It appears to be Dropbox is using some compression to transfer files over the internet and it will save your bandwidth. When you move files in your local folder, it won’t be re uploaded to save bandwidth. In addition to that like in any other SVN server you can recover the previous versions of the files (Sub versioning) and undelete the recently deleted files.
Sharing and Security
And Dropbox provide advance collaboration features. You can share a folder with a give a person and all the parties who share it can have a copy of file and Dropbox will synchronize it. In addition to that there are predefined folders to share files easily named Photos and Public. Using that you can have online photo albums and public links to your online files. And it uses SSL to transfer files and advance encryption when they save it in the web folder to ensure maximum security.
Dropbox follow few steps when it synchronizes files.
- Upload all the files in the local folder to the web folder.
- Make an index of all the files and save it locally and in web folder as well.
- Continuously compare the file index in web folder and local folder.
- Use compression and encryption to save bandwidth and ensure security.
- If there are any changes in index update the latest edited files in all the copies.
- Save copy of deleted files and previous versions in the web folder for recovery purpose.
This technology seems simple but the outcome is outstanding. This is the general functionality in the entire SVN servers, but Dropbox has made it easy to all the general users.
Future Of Dropbox
I have identified some problems in Dropbox system. The main drawback is there is no way to put folders which are on different location on the hard drive in to the Dropbox. In that case I have to move all of them to the My Dropbox folder. Its better if the user can add folders to Dropbox which are in different location in Hard drive by right click on them and “Add to dropbox”. And in the PC software there is no way to accept the Sharing invitation. For that user must go to web interface of follow the link in the mail notification. When someone shares a folder, there is no way to limit the privileges. All the shared parties can make changes to the files in the folder. I wish if there is a feature to control sharing and editing privileges. In addition to that there is no way to restrict accessing an album in the photos folders. Basically any one can access it. There must be a way to share an online photo album with specific person or group. And it’s better to introduce a compression to transfer files or improve the current compression. I hope Dropbox development team will be concern about above issue in their future development.