DropBox – Synchronization Simplicity

I actively work with two computers, a desktop for stationary, computationally intensive work (and play) and a Dell XPS M1330 for portability. This setup is well suited to the kinds of work I do in the different places I use computers (laptop in class for note-taking, web, and lab work while the desktop stays home to do photo processing, gaming, and movies). However, there is overlap in the workload as well, for example class notes and lab reports. I generally prefer to work on my desktop when at home, so it’s essential that I have my files on both computers. Enter Dropbox.

DropBox

It wasn’t until I started using Dropbox that I had an efficient way to synchronize my files between two computers. Dropbox is installed a small client service that runs at all times. In its current form, simply set up a synchronized folder and everything and anything that gets put into that folder will be synchronized with the online storage at Dropbox and any other machines that have the Dropbox client installed. All files can be accessed through a web interface. The free version of Dropbox gives users 2GB of storage, which is far more than enough for me.

DropBox
Used: 1.5% of 2GB = 30MB

Dropbox also has a simple versioning system in case you modify or delete a file by accident. Furthermore, a news feed-like list is kept of recent activity on the Dropbox account. Presumably, for multi-user scenarios, one would be able to see at a glance what has changed recently. Photo and file sharing capabilities are built into Dropbox. I don’t use any of these extra features and rely solely on the folder synchronization function. It’s simple and works well.

Dropbox’s simplicity is also a limitation. By forcing the user to put all the folders and files they wish to synchronize into a single folder, it means instead of accomodating the existing file structure the user has, the user must rejig their storage system somewhat. I normally keep all my school work in a separate folder on my hard drive, but I’ve since consolidated the folder into the Dropbox folder as I have little other choice. For this reason, I’ve started dabbling with other folder synchronization applications, such as Live Mesh and Live Sync.

4 thoughts on “DropBox – Synchronization Simplicity”

  1. I’ve used Live Mesh for a bit and though it works like a charm, it’s not terribly simple or lightweight – at least that’s my visual impression when compared to something like DropBox. They’ve gone with a heavy representation for the web view instead of a lightweight text-based display like DropBox, but they do let you monitor any folder you want, which is nice. I haven’t given Live Sync a shot.

    I would love for my entire computer’s content to be sync’d, including all media files, but that’s just infeasible with the speed of Internet connections today. I could try to sync my downloads folder so I can watch a movie wherever I am, but that file limit is always kicking me down.

    Supposedly with the cloud-computing future, you’ll be able to open your Office docs on the web Live Mesh, which is cool, but for now it’s just a fancy OS-like web front that does little more than clutter things, imho.

  2. A few thoughts about the idea of such services…

    I personally try to stay away from remote storage services for the very reason that I don’t trust them. You may think it’s weird considering the fact that everything and everyone is online now, but I still feel safer knowing, that my assignments, notes, documents, etc are not available to some random people.

    I suppose these services are good if you don’t care that much about the files that are stored somewhere on a distant server.

    So it all depends on your priorities and needs. Working on two computers is probably one of those cases when it’s needed. However, if you work for a company that takes information sharing very seriously (government for example) then there’s an entirely different story.

  3. I’ve been running a small test with my university work through Live Mesh instead of DropBox and it works fine. I especially like the idea of keeping my existing file structure. I feel that the application should adapt to how I work, not the other way around.

    However, I think it would be just as easy to Live Sync. The only part of Live Mesh I use is the folder sync feature; the rest of it is wasted on me at this point.

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