What is Dropbox – the short explanation
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What is Dropbox? It’s is an easy way to store and share photos, documents, spreadsheets, and other types of computer files, using a PC, tablet, or mobile device. Much like the introduction of email, digital photography, and low-rise athletic socks, once you get the hang of Dropbox, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
What is Dropbox? It can be used on phones, tablets, or PCs
- Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by Dropbox, Inc. That offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and client software. Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on each of their computers, which Dropbox then synchronises so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of the computer it is viewed on.
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Dropbox works by keeping identical copies of selected files on your computer(s) and Dropbox’s cloud-based storage system, and automatically synchronizing them over an encrypted Internet connection. I’ve bolded automatically synchronizing, because this is the killer feature of Dropbox, something that will save lots of time and streamline collaboration. It’s cited repeatedly in my unofficial Dropbox guide.
What does Dropbox’s automatic syncing feature enable? Here are some common scenarios:
- Mark uses Dropbox to share a folder full of documents with his coworkers, so they can work on spreadsheets and other documents together.
- Jennifer backs up the photos that she takes on her iPhone, without using cables. Once the Dropbox app is installed on her phone, the photos and movies taken with her phone are automatically transferred to Dropbox’s Camera Uploads folder, which she can immediately access on her laptop or any other PC or device that has Dropbox installed (for more information, see What is Camera Uploads, and how to manage photos in Dropbox).
- Chris instantly backs up the files he’s working on in Dropbox. If his computer crashes, he can easily recover them.
- Helga travels a lot. She uses the Dropbox app on her phone to quickly review important work documents while waiting to board a flight or sitting in a conference auditorium. She can also share specific documents with collaborators, right from her phone!
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Besides automatic syncing, another advantage of Dropbox is it follows the same conventions that people already use to save files, create folders, and move stuff around on their computers. This means your Dropbox data will always appear in the familiar “My Computer” (Windows) or Finder (Mac) on your computer.
What else is Dropbox useful for?
Dropbox is a great collaboration tool. It’s easy to share links to folders or files, or give permission to other people to modify files — useful if a team scattered across many offices or cities is collaborating on a report.
How much does Dropbox cost? Dropbox Basic is free, but includes a limited amount of storage space. To access more storage as well as other useful features, users can upgrade to Dropbox Pro or Dropbox Business.
Dropbox In 30 Minutes explains not only how to get started, but also highlights the most valuable features, best tips and hidden time-savers that will help you get the most out of Dropbox. Buy a copy of the Dropbox book for the Kindle or iPad, download the PDF for easy printing, or purchase a copy of the paperback. If you want to download the Dropbox application for your PC, visit Dropbox.com.
The Dropbox app isn't designed to run on Windows Server operating systems.
However, this configuration may work if you run the Dropbox app as an application in a user account, instead of as a server service.
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- You can run Dropbox on a computer that is also running a server OS.
- Dropbox runs within individual user accounts rather than as a single service that many people access. Dropbox user accounts must remain signed in on a machine for files to sync properly.
- We recommend that only one user account accesses a given Dropbox folder, and that this folder is located on the main drive of your computer or on a drive that is physically connected to the computer.
- Dropbox Support may not be able to assist with problems that occur when running the Dropbox app on a server OS.
Can Dropbox be shared locally on our network from our server?
Some teams attempt to share a single Dropbox folder over local network sharing so that multiple people can access the same Dropbox account. We don't recommend sharing the Dropbox folder, or any folders inside the Dropbox folder, over your local network.
If you share a Dropbox folder over your network, issues can occur because network file systems do not send messages when files change. Dropbox waits for these ‘file update events’ to sync changes. If you attempt to share a single Dropbox folder over a server, the following issues can occur:
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- Permission issues
- Files stuck in sync
- Extended sync times
How can I make sure that my files stay on my server for backup purposes?
Some teams want to keep a copy of their files on a local server, in addition to in Dropbox, for secondary backup and to access files offline.
By default, all of the files you put in Dropbox are synced online and remain on your local hard drive (unless you decide to use selective sync). This means that you can access your files from your local drive even if you're offline. Once uploaded to Dropbox, your files and any subsequent edits to your files are backed up as long as the application is running. The time frame for recovering edits and deleted files depends on the account type. For more information please visit this article.
Note: For information about migrating data from a server, including setting up the folder structure and options for space management, visit this article.