Dropbox: A Free, Unlosable, Theft-Proof Flash Drive

Dropbox – and other similar ‘cloud’ services – likely will make the USB flash drive a lot less necessary, if not obsolete altogether. And soon.

The concept is simple (and Dropbox executes it nicely): You save your files to a web server, and those files are available anytime anywhere from any computer with internet access.

Here are several features that make Dropbox an especially attractive solution:

  • It is cost-free and advert-free. For $0.00 you get 2 Gb of storage. (At this time you can upgrade to 50 Gb for an annual fee; more upgrade options are planned according to the Dropbox wiki.)
  • It is convenient. You can save files to a Dropbox virtual ‘drive’ on your computer at work (I keep it on the Windows desktop), drive home, and when you boot up the computer in the den you will see those same files on your home PC’s Dropbox ‘drive’. Amazing.
  • It is clever. Say you have a file named spqr.doc saved to your Dropbox virtual drive at work. You edit the file and save it. Now, say you have a Dropbox virtual drive installed on two other PCs: one at home, and one in your secret Bat Cave. When you edit the file spqr.doc at the office and save it to your Dropbox virtual drive, the copy of that file on the PCs at home and at the Bat Cave is automatically updated to the most current version (or will be the next time you connect to the internet).
  • It is forgiving. Your files are available offline if the internet goes down. And should you accidentally delete a file, Dropbox lets you undelete it, or roll back to a previous version, all in a matter of a few clicks.
  • It is idiot-friendly, and it works. This idiot is highly qualified to recognize idiot-friendliness, and Dropbox scores high. Simple installation. Clear, easy-to-follow instructions. Good online help. And after a month of use, no errors, no glitches, no issues.
  • On vacation? Visiting relatives? Out of town? You can access your Dropbox files from any computer by logging onto your Dropbox account at their web site. No software needed – just an internet connection.
  • Dropbox’s ‘shared folders’ make it easy for you to share files with other people. (Just enter their email address and click ‘Share’ – Dropbox does the rest.) Any member of a shared folder can add, edit and delete the contents within. And changes made to a shared folder are instantly sent to every member of that folder. Great for collaboration…

Dropbox is starting to make my flash drive look downright ugly. Until Google comes out with its rumored online storage service, this likely will be my choice in the meantime.

Three well-known competitors: Box.net, Orbitfiles.com and Esnips.com