Dropbox is cloud storage on the next level: You install their little application – available for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows – which will create a folder which will automatically be kept synchronized between all the computers where you have installed that little application on.
Because it synchronizes in the background and always keeps the local copy around, the access-speed isn’t different from a normal local folder – mainly because it is, after all, a local folder you are accessing. Dropbox is not one of these slow “online hard drives” it’s more like rsync in the background (and rsync it is – the application is intelligent enough to only transmit deltas – even from binary files).
They do provide you with a web interface of course, but the synchronizing aspect is the most interesting.
The synchronized data ends up somewhere in Amazon’s S3 service, which is fine with me.
Unfortunately, while the data stored in an encrypted fashion on S3, the key is generated by the Dropbox server and thus known to them, which makes Dropbox completely unusable for sensitive unencrypted data. They do state in the FAQ that this will maybe change sometime in the future, but for not it is as it is.
Still, I found some use for Dropbox: ~/Library/Preferences, ~/.zshrc and ~/.ssh all are now stored in ~/Dropbox/System and symlinked back to their original place. This means that a large chunk of my user profile is availalbe on all the computers I’m working on. I would even try the same trick with ~/Library/Application Support, but that seems risky due to the missing encryption and due to the fact that Application Support sometimes contains database files which get corrupted for sure when moved around while they are open – like the Firefox profile.
This naturally even works when the internet connection is down – DropBox synchronizes changes locally, so when the internet (or Dropbox) is down, I just have the most recent copy of when the service was still working – that’s more than good enough.
Another use that comes to mind for Dropbox storage are game save files or addons you’d want to have access to on every computer you are using – just move your stuff to ~/Dropbox and symlink it back to the original place.
Now if only they’d provide me with a way to provide my own encryption key. That way I would instantly buy the pro account with 25GB of storage and move lots and lots of data in there.
Dropbox is the answer to the ever increasing amount of computers in my life because now I don’t care about setting up the same stuff over and over again. It’s just there and ready. Very helpful.