Five Useful Ways Dropbox Can Improve Your Business

dropbox-for-freelancersWhat would you do if something happened to your computer? Say, it caught fire, was stolen, or got drenched in your latte?

If you were using a good backup solution you could just keep on working, otherwise you could be in a lot of trouble. For those of you who don’t already have a backup and file sharing solution in place, you’ll want to learn more about Dropbox.

A computer-savvy client introduced me to Dropbox a few months ago as a way to share huge¬†files without having to compress and email them to me. However, I soon discovered that Dropbox can do so much more — making me a much more productive and efficient freelancer.

In this article, we’ll show you five ways Dropbox can help your freelance business.

What Is Dropbox?

Dropbox is software you install on your computer. It’s compatible with PC, Mac and Linux computers. It’s free to use and comes with 2 GB of memory in the Dropbox website. If you need more, you’ll have to get a Pro account ($9.99 per month for 50GB and $19.99 per month for 100 GB).

You can install Dropbox on any computer you own, as well as access your Dropbox account online through any computer or cellphone with Internet access.

Dropbox provides the following services:

  • data backup and storage
  • file synchronizing
  • file sharing

Because of these features, Dropbox is useful to freelancers who work in various locations or collaborate with several people. Here are 5 ways Dropbox can make you a better freelancer:

1. It keeps your files safe and secure.

As soon as you download Dropbox, a Dropbox folder appears in your computer’s file directory. Simply drag any folder or file to your Dropbox, and Dropbox will automatically back it up in its servers — in real time. You don’t need to schedule backups, because Dropbox automatically does so as soon as you save a file in your Dropbox and every time there are changes to the files.

Here’s a screenshot of my Dropbox:

dropbox-folder

So, no matter what happens to your computer, you’ll still be able to access all the files you’ve saved in your Dropbox (More on accessing files below).

Dropbox even protects your files from you. That is, if you delete a file and then later realize that you need it, Dropbox will still have a copy of that file in its secure servers. Dropbox will let you undo up to 30 days’ history. If you want to have an unlimited undo option, you’ll have to pay extra.

Clients sometimes unexpectedly ask for copies of files even months after a project is completed. They can’t find the files in their computer, or maybe they deleted them by mistake. Your clients will be very impressed if you can whip up their files at a moment’s notice. This is one way to be a superstar freelancer.

Aren’t you already breathing easier already, knowing your clients’ files will always be available to you, no matter what happens?

2. Share files with your clients quickly and easily.

Dropbox lets you share files with clients and collaborators — whether or not they use Dropbox themselves. One way to share files is to invite your clients to download Dropbox as well. Afterwards, you can share folders with them using the email address associated with their Dropbox account. The folder you’re sharing with them will simply show up in your client’s Dropbox folder.

dropbox-share

Another way to share files is to put them in the public folder of your Dropbox. From there, simply right-click and copy the public link to the specific file. This will allow anybody — including non-Dropbox users — to access your file online using the public link you’ve provided.

This eliminates the hassle of emailing files to your clients, especially large files that don’t get through email, such as videos or graphics.

3. Collaborate with clients and others.

If your clients like to make their own changes on files, or if you work with other service providers on the same files, then Dropbox will make life easier for you. In this case, you and your clients and other collaborators should all be using Dropbox.

Then you can access each other’s files by sharing folders in your Dropbox. All of you will always see the latest version of the shared files. Dropbox will synchronize these in real time. Should you want to revert to an earlier version of a file, it’s easy to do so. Again, you can do this either on your computer’s file directory or via the Dropbox website.

No more saving several versions of the same file. No more emailing each other’s contributions on a file back and forth.

4. Work anywhere (almost).

Now that your working files are in your Dropbox, you can access them almost anywhere — from any computer where you’ve installed Dropbox. Or, from any other computer with an Internet connection. Or, from your iPhone or iPod Touch, through the Dropbox iPhone app. Or, from your cell phone with web browsing ability. Talk about mobile freelancing. Left your laptop at home? No problem, access your Dropbox account online and there you go.

Forget about saving files in USB thumb drives that either get lost or get broken easily. Stop emailing yourself files you want to access.

5. Access files faster.

The beauty of Dropbox is that it appears as a regular folder on your file directory — even the folders that originate from your clients’ Dropboxes are shared with you. You don’t have to go online to access these files. You can work on your Dropbox files even if you’re offline (however, Dropbox will only sync and backup files when you’re online).

But It’s Not Perfect

As useful and convenient Dropbox is, it isn’t perfect. For one thing, everything you put in your Dropbox will still be residing — and occupying space — in your hard drive. This means, you can’t use it to archive files if you want to free up some space in your computer.

Another downside is you have to be connected to the Internet for Dropbox to back up and synchronize your files. You also have to have enough memory allocation in your Dropbox account to keep files synced. I quickly filled up my free 2 GB of memory after saving all my client and work files in my Dropbox.

Alternatives to Dropbox
If you want to compare services before committing to one, here are some that have comparable features to Dropbox:

Sugarsync
FilesAnywhere
PowerFolder

I haven’t tried any of these tools, so I can’t give any comparisons. The best way to find out which one is best for your needs is to use the free trial of each service.

What’s Your File Security Plan?

Data security is important to any business, including your freelancing business. It’s worthwhile to explore the options available, especially because new ones come up all the time.

Now it’s your turn: What have you been doing to ensure the safety of your files? Do you have any solutions you’d like to share? Please post a comment below.