I’ve been late to the party most of my life, so it’s no surprise to me that I’ve only now discovered Dropbox, while I’m sure the rest of the world has moved onto the Next Big Thing. But that’s okay, I’m here to tell you that I’ve spent a fair amount of time flailing about the Cloud to no avail. Mostly I’ve been working through Apple’s buggy MobileMe service, which Apple converted to iCloud when they updated Mac OS X late this summer. But it has its limitations with our despotic router, mostly with reliability. I keep asking myself this question: if I go home without today’s work on a flash drive, can I get to my data at work if something comes up? The answer always seems to be, “Possibly, but probably not tonight.”
Similarly, I’ll inevitably forget some—or all—of my work at home and rather than have to go home and get it, I’d really like to be able to log into my computer at home and retrieve the data. But the answer to the question, “Can I log onto my Mac at home through Back to My Mac?” is a fairly steady, “No.” Our router does not allow shenanigans of this nature. Honestly, this router would be right at home leading a large, Central-European country in the 1930s (whose ancestors are also famous for sacking Rome, probably because there was nothing on TV that night).
There are plenty of solutions. Most corporate entities employ some form of VPN scheme, but that usually means having to configure your router and employ VPN clients, which is an allocation of IT resources that doesn’t make sense when all you did was foolishly forget your work at home. I imagine I could enable my iMac at home to allow me to tunnel in via SSH (all Macs are essentially Unix boxes at heart) and retrieve the data that way if I had to. But ick. And asking our router to do anything it doesn’t want to do is like asking Queen Latifah if she likes girls or boys: it’s apparently none of my business.
Enter Dropbox. The beauty of this software is that a) it exists on multiple computing platforms, meaning Mac, Windows, mobile operating systems, even Linux; and b) it’s free. It’s like having your data on a flash drive that you can access from any of your computers or mobile devices, but that you don’t have to put in your pocket. Dropbox, in short, means never having your data put through the laundry.
I could take space up here describing what it is, but the Dropbox folks do it better (which saves me from having to do it at all). Suffice to say that it’s changing my life. And it’s saving my company money: I think I may have put our last flash drive through the wash.