Get 7GB free space with Dropbox
I’m sure all tech-savvy people are using Dropbox already, but it never hurts to drive the point home. Essentially, it’s a combined application/cloud service that allows you to load data into a special folder on your hard drive that will be uploaded to a corner of the company’s data centre. From there, it will automatically download to any computer that you install the Dropbox application to, keeping documents and changes synced up across the network linked to your account. You can also access the files through applications for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and BlackBerry smartphones.
And just what useful things can you do with that, eh?
Well, here’s a few ideas:
- Work on ideas and documents at home, on the move or in the office, and keep all the changes up to date across all your devices. No more need to email different versions backwards and forwards, with no chance of getting confused with one canonical copy to update.
- Made a mistake and deleted something you shouldn’t have? If it’s in your Dropbox, just go into the web interface and choose to ‘Undelete’ the file. It’ll automatically download back into your folder.
- Set your backup software to dump archives into the Dropbox folder, where they’ll be automatically uploaded safely to the cloud. Then, if you suffer a major malfunction that ends up wiping your hard drive, just re-install the app, and restore data from your backup. Good as new.
- Have a set of bookmarks and browser settings that you need to work effectively? If you get frustrated wasting time having to set up a new machine every so often, how about storing your settings in your Dropbox, ready to be loaded onto any system you need. This doesn’t just work for web browsers, you can store custom config files for a host of applications together, helping you get up and running more quickly.
- Keep forgetting your passwords? Storing them in your web browser is hardly the best solution, since they can often leave important personal details open to hackers or casual snooping. With file syncing, you could store your most important data in a secure container using something like TrueCrypt or KeePass, which will show up on every system you use, but be protected with robust encryption.
- Send large files more easily. Most email systems have a maximum attachment size, and most webmail services like Gmail set that limit pretty low. If you have video or audio files that you need to show to someone quickly, just stash them in your Dropbox’s Public folder, then email over the link. That way, they can be downloaded as often as you like, rather than having to send a separate file to everyone who needs it.
I’m sure you clever folks will be able to come up with a few extra uses on your own, but those are the main functions that I find indispensable. And remember, you’re getting all of this for the grand price of nothing — nada, zip, zilch, zero.
So it’s gotta have some downsides, right? Well, there is the inherent problem that dogs all cloud services, availability. While Dropbox tends to be remarkably stable, it’s not outwith the bounds of possibility that their data centre will be unreachable for extended periods of time. This kills the useful file syncing and storage, but at least you retain access to your documents which are stored locally. More worrying, perhaps, is the fact that everything you upload is sitting in storage in someone else’s data centre, open to being viewed or manipulated however they choose.
While Dropbox’s terms of service expressly forbid employees from rifling through your data, like any other company they have to comply with local laws and regulations. In this case, the company is headquartered in the US, and hence is subject to the Patriot Act, which gives law enforcement wide-ranging powers to compel the company to open up your archives. If you’re worried about your data possibly being accessed by the FBI (and what thinking person wouldn’t be, frankly), you can either choose not to use any cloud services, or encrypt. The service itself uses an AES-256 algorithm to secure data, and you are completely within your rights to insert a container using other forms of security into your vault.
The biggest problem is the restricted amount of space available for storing data. Nothing comes for free, and while bandwidth and hard disk space is very cheap, they are still worth something. Dropbox offers customers only 2GB of free space, while paid plans offer either 50 or 100GB. While 2 gigs might seem a lot at first glance, once you begin filling up with documents, audio recordings and backups, your available space bar begins creeping down at an alarming rate.
Getting more storage for free
Thankfully, there is a way to grab more space for free.
As a thanks for testing out its new beta application, Dropbox will give you a full 5GB of space. You can read up more on the offer on the Dropbox forums, but for the TL;DR crowd, here are the steps to follow:
- Grab either the experimental desktop application from the site, or the beta Android client.
- Install the app. If you’ve downloaded the Android version, you’ll have to open the .apk file manually with a file manager tool like the excellent Root Explorer.
- You’ll notice that you still have only the standard 2GB of space. To get the free space, you’ll have to upload photos and video using the new Camera Upload feature. Uploading anything will net you 500MB, and for every 500MB you put on you’ll get another 500 MB. So, to get the full 5GB extra, you’ll have to upload 4.5GB of your own data.
- Camera Upload is automatic on Android — on opening the app you’ll notice that all of the photos and video from your Gallery will be added to the Dropbox. On Windows, the process is just as simple, but you’ll have to plug in your phone or digital camera via USB, then select Dropbox from the list of options that pops up.
- If you don’t have enough photos to qualify for the whole whack, don’t worry. You can just set your phone to record a video, then leave it running until it reaches about 1GB. Do this a few times, and you should have en0ugh data to qualify.
Don’t worry if you get stuck on 6.5GB. There’s a known bug in the code which the Dropbox developers have promised to fix. If you need more space, you can sign up through the following referral link to get a further 250MB as a bonus.