Cloud storage service has become popular in recent years, allowing users to backup their files with a simple drag-and-drop or upload. While many companies boast their own reliable and user-friendly cloud services, Dropbox has begun to make an appearance at UMass. It might be strange to see an outside service being used on campus despite the availability of Moodle, UDrive, Spark and other UMass digital services, but it isn’t without good reason.
Dropbox is a cloud storage service that allows users to store files on their servers. Users can upload files onto their account and access them from any computer. Upon signing up, users initially receive 2 GB of storage for free, but users can gain small amounts of storage through special offers on the Dropbox site. For additional storage beyond this, you can pay for Dropbox Pro service, which ranges from 100 GB to 500 GB for a monthly fee of $9.99 to $49.99.
From that short description, Dropbox might sound like any other cloud storage offered. However, the most prominent feature that the service boasts is an optional folder that can be installed onto a computer desktop. Once installed, this folder looks like any other folder sitting on the computer, save for the Dropbox logo beside it. It works like any other folder and files can be dragged and dropped into it, but once added to the folder, the files will be automatically uploaded to the Dropbox cloud storage. There’s no need to go onto the website to upload files as long as the folder exists.
This small feature streamlines the service significantly once multiple computers come into play. Instead of moving the file to a different computer via USB flash drive or email, the Dropbox folder will automatically upload and download any file within the cloud as long as the computer has an internet connection.
The features don’t end there. The folders that users create are automatically set to be private, but a folder can be shared with other Dropbox users. Once shared, the folder will appear on the other user’s computer as well as the computer of the user who created it. Both users can then access the folder normally, putting files in or taking files out onto their own computer. This feature could work in a classroom setting as the professor and students can all be connected to a single class folder, although as of now the services offered by Moodle and Spark seem to be the more secure methods.
There is also a Dropbox app for both iOS and Android devices that allows users to view and download their files. Unfortunately, uploading from these devices is more limited. On the iPhone and Android, photos and videos from the phone’s album can be uploaded to the cloud storage and then accessed on a desktop, but other files can’t be uploaded. Viewing files via tablet is a different matter. Most file types are viewable from these devices and some files can even be edited, such as word documents.
As a whole, the Dropbox service is a very streamlined cloud storage service that offers users quick and easy access to their files without having to visit their website. There might be a high cost involved if 2 GB of storage isn’t enough, but with some easy offers users can gain a little extra free space.
John Park can be reached at email@example.com.