Dropbox 101: How I Learned to Love the Cloud

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Thanks to paramedic educator Chris Cannon for this guest post. If you would like to guest post or review on Everyday EMS Tips check out the guidelines here.

I love Dropbox. There, I said it out loud. I use Dropbox multiple times each day to get things done, and I’m not real sure how I survived without it. It has completely changed how I manage files, to the point that I no longer even carry a flash drive.

Dropbox is a cloud (web) based application that allows you to access your files from any computer or device with web access. There are two ways to access your files after you create a Dropbox account: You can login to their website from any web browser, or you can download a local client to your computer. The local client creates a Dropbox folder on your computer that is synchronized to your web account and across all of your devices that have Dropbox installed. All you have to do is place your files in the folder, and they are automatically synced across all devices. Cool!

You get 2 gigabytes of storage for free when you sign up for a basic Dropbox account. I use the heck out of my account, and I’m only up to about 4% usage. Granted, I don’t place music, pictures, or other multimedia files in my Dropbox folder; this would cause me to run out of space very quickly. Instead, I use the folder to keep my in-progress files in sync. I mainly have Word, Excel and Powerpoint files that I’m actively working on in my folder. Dropbox does utilize the https:// protocol, so all web transmissions are secure.

Dropbox also allows you to collaborate and share files with other Dropbox users if you wish. Simply click on the “Sharing” tab on the Dropbox website, and you can make select files and folders available to others. This has been extremely handy recently, as Deryk (a fellow EMS faculty member) and I have been working on an accreditation document. Instead of emailing copies of the file back and forth, we are simply utilizing a shared Dropbox folder to make sure we both have access to the most current file.

To earn my love, an app has to fulfill several requirements:

  1. Reliability – It has to work every time. Period.
  2. Simplicity – I don’t have to mess around with complex user interfaces or learn new operating systems.
  3. Portability – It must work on my mobile devices.
  4. Compatibility – It must work on ALL of my devices.

Dropbox fulfills all of these requirements with ease. It is rock steady reliable (I’ve never had an issue with down time – ever). It is as simple to use as placing a file in a folder. And finally, it works on ALL of my devices, from my Windows based desktops and laptops, to my iPad and iPhone, to my wife’s Android-based smartphone.

I can’t recommend this application highly enough. It has truly simplified the way that I handle file access and synchronization. Gone are the days of emailing files back-and-forth between work and home, having multiple copies of one file on my flashdrive/desktop/home computer, and having to remotely access my work computer every night. Dropbox has simplified and streamlined my work process, and I think it could be beneficial to everyone who regularly uses a computer. And it’s FREE!

Please use the following link to sign up for a Dropbox account: http://db.tt/GmhjSdf.

Chris Cannon is the Allied Health Department Chair and Director of EMS Education. He is an avid consumer of all things technical, and lives by the lifehacker.com motto: Geek to live, don’t live to geek.

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