Dropbox review

4.5 out of 5
free

For

Allows you to sync files to multiple computers, for day-to-day storage 2GB free is more than enough, easy to use, iPhone app

Against

You need internet connectivity to sync the files, limited to 2GB for free

For the geeky, sharing files with the world or other devices is all done via the FTP that you've got for your website or blog. It involves a stack of complicated codes, faffing around with FTP software and generally an interest in computers and the way the Internet works to get it to go. For the rest of us, there is dropbox.

Available for the Mac and PC (the iPhone has an app, and access though a mobile page is also offered) the concept is that it is a centralised folder that you have on all your computers or devices that allows you to automatically see what is in that folder be it on your work or home computer.

Sign up for an account, install the software and you can then instantly share documents, photos -pretty much all files - as long as they are in the that Dropbox folder. Within the folder itself can be further folders and better still you can give public or selected access to those folders if you want.

What it means for example is that if you save all your documents to that folder whenever you make a change and then save it, it is automatically updated on all your computers rather than just the one you are working on. In turn this means the hassle of transferring it to a USB drive or CD to then take home or in to the office doesn't exist.

Clever huh?

On the Mac the whole system is as if it isn't there. In fact the only way you'll know you've got it installed is the appearance of a Dropbox icon on the menu bar at the top of the screen and a folder that you can drop stuff into on your desktop.

Clicking on the icon in the menu bar gives you direct access to your Dropbox folder, tells you how much storage you've got left (in percentage form) and what the recently changed files are. Unfortunately it doesn't change colour to show you that a file has been changed - something that would have been nice if you were working with others on a number of files - but it's no deal breaker.

While the system is likely to help you if work from home or need to share photos with the family across different computers, where we can really see the success is in the ability to share folders with others.

A quick invite to a folder and companies could easy share work projects without having to email large files around. In our tests we were able to share large (100MB +) documents within the team easily and quickly (based on internet connection).

If you aren't fussed about private access to certain people you've invited there is a "Public" folder that allows you to dump files in and then dish out a URL to anyone. (As an aside, PR reading this review, this is a perfect way to share pictures and press releases with journalists.)

As we mentioned there is an iPhone app as well that allows you to access all the files on the system. We had no trouble viewing word documents or images and you can upload from the iPhone as well, handy if you need to share a picture without docking or emailing the photo.

Of course you might not be at your iPhone or your computer with the software installed. Don't panic, Dropbox appears to have thought of that too. Connected to the whole system is a simple website that once logged in allows you to view files you've got stored, view recent activity, and organise your sharing options.

It's basic, but it does mean that if you are at a random computer, be it in an internet café or someone's office you can still access the files.

It's free, so how can the company survive? 

Well it comes down to the amount of storage you want. The basic or standard package, which is free, gives you 2GB of storage. That storage is upgradable either via paying cash or signing up friends (although that will only give you a maximum further 1GB).

The quickest way to get more storage space is to pay. Part with $8.99 a month and you can upgrade that storage quota to 50GB, opt for $19.99 a month and it jumps to the Pro 100 account that gives you, you guessed it 100GB of online storage to store your stuff, more than enough for most people.

Verdict

Dropbox is a very clever, but incredibly simple, sharing solution that we can see saving a lot of time for those that use multiple computers or just have the need to access certain files from anywhere without having to carry a USB thumb drive around.

Yes you've worked out how to set up a network storage drive on your home Wi-Fi network a system like this isn't that useful (around the home) but your Time Capsule or NAS drive isn't going to let your work computer play or your iPhone for that matter.

The free 2GB threshold is likely to be more than enough for basic file transfer and we would have no issue recommending this to you and everyone you know.

Storage and sharing files might be boring, but this makes it incredibly easy.