I have spent hours every day this week working on the assignments for my BU Genealogy class. Hours. Two days ago I had a panic filled moment when it seemed that my laptop had frozen, and I was reminded of the recent horror I’d lived through a couple months ago when the laptop’s hard drive went bad and I had to send it back to Best Buy for repairs. I hadn’t done a backup in several weeks (shame on me), but fortunately the clever boy at the Geek Squad counter was able to pull most everything off my partially ruined hard drive and put my most recent work onto a backup CD. Phew…..
When my laptop starting acting up this week, I put my class work aside, made sure my backups were all in order, and got myself a Dropbox account. People on the Android forums ( I have an HTC Droid Incredible smartphone and LOVE IT) talk about Dropbox all the time. And Dick Eastman writes about it frequently in his Online Genealogy Newsletter.A great concept, but one which seemed complicated, involved, and time intensive. Instead, it has turned out to be incredibly simple and straight forward.
I went to the Dropbox website and set up a free account in about 2 minutes. I created some folders in my online account to keep my files organized. I then downloaded the free Dropbox program to my laptop, which created a Dropbox folder on my hard drive. Within that Dropbox folder, I created sub folders to match the folder structure in my online account. Finally, I moved the files I wanted to store using Dropbox into the appropriate folders on my laptop. Within minutes the files were automatically uploaded to my online Dropbox account.
Now, as long as the files stay in the Dropbox folders on my laptop, any changes I make to them will be synced with the copies stored online. I don’t have to remember to upload them, it
happens seamlessly in the background. If my laptop were to crash again, I could just install the Dropbox software on another computer and I’d have instant access to the most current versions of my files on the new computer as well.
With my cell phone, I went to the Android marketplace, and downloaded the free Dropbox for Android application. Now, to access those files, I just open the Dropbox application on my phone and view the files stored online. I am able to open and edit the files using the free mobile office software that came installed on the phone.
Dropbox provides the ability to share files with others, by placing those files in a public folder, or by specifically linking a private folder with someone’s email. This also works with media stored in the public photos folder.
Currently, I’m using Dropbox to store the draft version of my Turner Collins Genealogy book, my gedcom files, and scanned images of my irreplaceable ancestral photos. I have a BU Genealogy folder, which has copies of my completed assignments, my notes, and work in progress, and an NGS folder for the work I’m doing for that course. There is also a folder where I am keeping backups of the settings and databases related to this WordPress blog. (Redundancy is our friend) Prior to discovering Dropbox, I kept backups of my genealogy data and writings on an external hard drive as well as a flash drive I keep on my key chain. I am still planning on using these means of backup, but adding Dropbox gives me an even greater sense of security knowing my important work is safe in the Clouds.