Last week we had a copy customer come in and ask to use our computer to pull up the file they wanted to print from Dropbox. This was a first for us, but I think not the last time it will happen. I was reading a blog post about Dropbox and why the author no longer carried flash drives. It got me thinking about the fact that I rarely use flash drives anymore.
For those who may not know, Dropbox is an online file storage system. There are a number of companies that provide this kind of service; Dropbox, however, is the best by far in my opinion. Dropbox stores a copy of all your files in a secure, private, storage site that is accessible from the Internet. They support a number of devices including PCs, Macs, and many mobile devices. I can access the files stored on my Dropbox from my iPhone and iPad. It automatically copies the files I save on my MacBook to my iMac. I can also access files created from any of my devices on any of my other devices. Whether I created it on my Mac and want to access it on my iPhone or iPad, or whether I created it on my iPhone and want to access it on other devices it works. It also works with Windows, so I can create a document on my Mac and open it on a Windows machine. Wherever it was created, it is also possible to store offline copies so that I can access the files even when I don’t have an Internet connection.
Probably the best feature, however, is that it keeps copies of old versions. Virtually everyone has accidentally saved over a document that they didn’t intend to, or deleted a file that should have been kept. If you do that with Dropbox you can recover the old file. Simply go to the Dropbox website, login, and you can access all the files and the versions that exist. Each version is stored by date. Deleted documents are also stored and can be recovered.
I keep all my genealogical documents on Dropbox. The photos of individuals, the digital copies of documents, and my family tree data is all stored on dropbox. My Rootsmagic data file is stored in Dropbox. Wherever I am and whatever device I am using I can access the genealogical data I have stored. I still need to use RootsMagic on the device to access that file, but the photos and documents can be read with the programs installed on any of my devices.
I have used these documents in many places just because the access was so easy. I also have significant peace of mind that my documents are stored in multiple locations and with the ability to recover files I have lost. I love Dropbox. The modest monthly investment in this product has saved me countless hours of driving to get the document I left and re-creating a document I deleted. I agree with the author of the blog post I mentioned above. Dropbox may just have eliminated my use of the flash drive.