Back-up and share all your files with Dropbox

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One of the main technological challenges that most small businesses face is that they can't afford the huge upfront cost of big-business software.  One difficult issue that I've personally struggled with is automatically backing up files.  It's incredibly risky to not back up your business files (or your personal ones for that matter), but buying a local server or external hard drives to back everything up can be expensive and time consuming.

I recently started using a service called Dropbox, and I can safely say that all my back-up problems have been solved.  Dropbox is basically just an online system for storing files.  It has a web interface that lets you upload and download files, but the really great part is that they provide a free application that you can install on your computer to automatically sync your local files with your online Dropbox folder.

So instead of investing in a bunch on hardware to keep all your business's files safe, You can just set up a Dropbox account for anyone that works at your company, and everything will be taken care of for you.  This means no upfront costs, and no wasting time on tedious I.T. stuff.

Aside from backing-up your files, there are a couple of other reasons why I think Dropbox is great:

Sync multiple computers automatically

If you use more than one computer, you can link them all to the same Dropbox account.  This means that when you add or change a file on one computer, it will automatically update on the others.

Universal access to your files

The best way to access Dropbox is through the application you install on your computer, but I mentioned that they also have a web interface.  This means that you can get at your files using someone else's computer, or even your phone.

Easy sharing

Dropbox makes it easy to share individual files, or entire folders with other people - even if they don't have a dropbox account.  For example, if you're working on a PowerPoint presentation with someone else, you can share the file with them directly rather than emailing different versions back and forth.  This also makes it easy to share files that are too big to attach in emails.

Dropbox gives you 2 gigs of online storage for free, and you can pay $10/month to upgrade to 50 gigs.  $10/month is a little pricey for just the storage, but when you factor in the easy synchronizing and sharing, it's easily worth it.  If you want to try it out, I suggest you start by downloading and installing the application on your computer (for free).

When you install Dropbox, it will automatically create a folder on your computer that will sync with your online account.  Just put anything you want to back-up in that folder (or a sub-folder) and you're done.  At some point I'll a post about how to make your Dropbox folder the same as your "My Documents" folder in Windows.

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