Though it publicly debuted in September and boasts 1 million users, I recently stumbled across Dropbox through a friend on Facebook. Dropbox, whose slogan is “secure backup, sync and sharing made easy,” is doing just that. Making your life easier in backing up files and being able to access them from anywhere through the Web.
It is like a 2G flash drive (2G is the free amount of space that it comes with, additional space can be bought or obtained through referrals of friends) that you don’t have to carry around or worry about losing or connecting to your computer. It also works with Windows, Macs and Linux. The Web account also shows you all your recent activity, allows you to access all your content and download it. But what I want to talk about is how journalists and newsrooms can use this as a tool.
Backing up notes, stories, audio, photos and more
As a student journalist, the most basic way that I would back up any sort of notes, stories, and audio files is through e-mail or a flash drive. I constantly went through the hassle of e-mailing a story to myself and then keeping it archived on the e-mail server. This obviously isn’t an efficient way of storing or backing up your files, and often mine would get lost or deleted when servers would crash at work. “Make sure you keep everything backed up,” an I.S. manager once told me after I had lost all my work files.
Well, with Dropbox, you can easily drop everything into a downloaded “My Dropbox” folder on your computer, and the content of that folder is easily accessible through your Dropbox account via the Web. Why is this more efficient? Because it is one location for all your files and you don’t have to worry about the files being too large to be sent through e-mail, which leads me to the next point.
Sharing/uploading content from the field
Journalism is changing and many journalists have to send things immediately from the field. Or update from the field as mobile journalists or mojos. Most news organizations likely use an FTP client for transmitting large files, which allows you to upload large files through the Web unto a server – at least that is what we used at The Minnesota Daily. Photographers would upload photos to the FTP server, which our photo editor was able to access. We couldn’t use e-mail because the image files are too large and you always want high-quality photos. Dropbox is a similar concept, but much more usable.
FTP clients are often confusing and cumbersome. Dropbox makes the process easy. All you have to do is create a Shared folder that you and a group of people can collaborate on. You as an administrator can invite the people that have access to the content of that folder. You can simply drag and drop. And the site side of things is just as easy, allowing you to simply upload content. You can download a photo you have uploaded at the click of a button. This way, you don’t have to worry about the size of the file and the folder is accessible on your computer as well…or multiple computers.
I won’t go to far into detail about this next one, but I believe it can also be very useful. Dropbox allows you to sync between numerous computers. All you have to do is go onto a separate computer and log in to the site. The program simply download Dropbox software onto that computer and syncs the content for you. You can begin to drag and drop the content from that computer into the “My Dropbox” folder. Nifty, I know.
Drawbacks and limitations
The drawback behind using Dropbox may be for larger organizations, and the cost of buying more space. 2Gs of space simply isn’t that much for the amount of transferring and uploading of content some news organizations might be using. Also, the syncing of content sometimes is a little timely (a couple minutes, depending on the amount of content). This tool, however, can be used beautifully with smaller organizations or on an individual level.
At the basic level, Dropbox can serve as a portal for content that you want to make sure isn’t lost in case your computer is stolen (happened to a photographer I worked with), or a house fire, or you name it.
If you think it would be helpful, download it here. This will also help me get more space and give you bonus space because you were referred.