Like most people in the industry, I use Dropbox to share files with client, team members, and contractors. For what it is, Dropbox is the cornerstone of file sharing services. Despite it’s easy of use and simple sharing solutions, it does have its drawbacks. Recently I had the sickening experience of realizing one of my contractors deleted a folder of three years and several thousand dollars worth of work. Needless to say, I almost passed out at the keyboard when I learned this.
Do they have a acronym for that one yet? POAK?
I digress. Long story short, I manage to get most of the files back. But, it made do an audit on how I was handling file backups, sharing, and storage.
Advice on Using Dropbox
As I mentioned before, this incident forced me to audit how I was doing things. My first order of business was to organize Dropbox in a manner that would still be useful to me and my team, but reduce the risk of similar accidents. Here are a few things I suggest doing with your Dropbox folders.
Working with Team Members & Contractors
If you insist on only using Dropbox as your means of file sharing, I suggest you setup each team member and contractor with their own folder versus a global project folder. One of Dropboxes bigest downfalls is that you can not share individual files within a folder. You have to share the whole folder.
To remedy this situation, I create folders for each team member or contractor and only place copies of the files they need in their folder. Obviously this disrupts the normal workflow of using Dropbox a little, but I have found it to be quite useful.
As a side note, I having started using Box.net to share individual files and whole project folders with contractors and clients. Box.net allows you to only share specific files from within a folder, which makes it much easier to share finished products with both clients and team members.
Add the Packrat Option
Maybe I shouldn’t do this, but I use Dropbox as a faux online backup. I have a ton of files and resources that only live in my Dropbox folders, nowhere else, which is the opening statement was so gut wrenching. While Dropbox does allow you to restore deleted files, this is only good for 30 days. After that, the files are lost forever.
However, Dropbox offers an option to upgrade your account for a few extra dollars that allows to restore deleted files, no matter how long ago the were deleted.
I strongly suggest using this if you use Dropbox in a similar “faux backup drive” manner.
Always Copy Files into Contractors FIles
As an experienced Dropbox user, you are probably aware that if you delete something from a shared folder, its deleted across any machine using that folder. However, many new Dropbox user , like contractors, may not be aware of this and think that deleting files only effect their machine.
Obviously this is not the case, but we can’t really blame the user. Dropbox does a poor job of explaining this and has no real conformation or failsafe in place other than to restore deleted files.
I’d like to point out that despite these pitfalls, Dropbox is still an awesome tool and one I continue to use. If you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, you are missing out. It is a lifesaver if you work from multiple machine or with team members in other locations. I highly suggest signing up today.