Dropbox For Drone Work
Dropbox is a great tool for drone work if you know how to use it correctly. It can back up your files, store your passwords, help collaboration efforts with your clients, deliver your products easily and affordably, and much more. Dropbox has a lot of features and they can sometimes change over time, so for the purpose of keeping this article relatively current, I’ll be sticking to the basics as they pertain to drone work.
Backing Up Your Data
I touched briefly in our File Management article about backing up your data using Dropbox but I want to give a little more detail on how it works. When you sign up for a Dropbox account, you get a certain amount of space on the Dropbox server(s) to store data. You might also get a certain number of users that can use the account depending on the plan you pick. The great thing about Dropbox is that it integrates with your computer or computers to provide an easy and seamless experience. Once installed on your computer, Dropbox duplicates your files and folders on the server space it provides you by uploading your files from your computer to their server(s). It also keeps your files synced so when you add or delete files from your computer, it adds or deletes the same files from their server. That’s a very simple explanation of how it works but if you understand the basics, it’s easier to understand how to use it for your specific needs.
Sharing Your Data
You can share your files and folders with just about anyone including clients that do or do not have a Dropbox account. My personal preference when sending a client a set of files is to zip the files into a single compressed file and send a link to the client that allows them to download the file. When Dropbox is installed on your computer, a right mouse click on the file will bring up a menu with sharing options through Dropbox. You can simply copy the link, and send it off to the client in an email. There are other options on how to share files, but I find this method to be fast and easy for everyone involved.
One downside to this method is that even though the files are compressed into a single file, it’s still a file that will be roughly the same size as the total of all the files you put into it. That means that it will be taking up space in your Dropbox. That may or may not be an issue depending on how much space you have. The other drawback to this method is that the new zip file will take some time to upload to the Dropbox server(s) and you won’t be able to send the file until it is fully uploaded. If these issues are a problem, there are other options for sharing. Click here to check out other sharing options from the Dropbox website.
Although there are several options for sharing data through Dropbox I generally only use one other method which is folder sharing. This is a great option for sharing data seamlessly with a client or colleague. When you share a folder, that folder is duplicated on the person’s computer you are sharing with. They need to have a Dropbox account to receive the shared folder and they can sign up for a free account if they don’t have one. When you put data into a shared folder on your computer, it’s automatically uploaded to the Dropbox server(s) and then downloaded to the computer of the person(s) you are sharing the folder with. Pretty cool, you can deliver files to a client without even thinking about it. But there are some drawbacks to this method so be aware before you start sharing data using a shared folder.
You can set permissions on the shared folder to allow the person you are sharing with to “view only” or to “edit”. If they can edit, then they can add files to the folder but can also delete files from the folder. If they don’t know Dropbox very well, it’s possible that they could delete files you don’t want them deleting, and guess what… those files are then deleted from the Dropbox server(s) and then your computer. So it’s possible to lose your original data without even trying. You may be able to recover those files but do you want to take that chance or deal with the headache? Make sure to set the appropriate permissions if you’re going to share folders.
Another problem with shared folders that I’ve experienced is the issues that arise when one or more of the people that are included in the shared folder don’t have enough space in their Dropbox. Drone data can be large and if the person doesn’t have an adequate account, the flow of file sharing comes to an abrupt halt. If your client is using a free account, they will have very limited space that will quickly be filled up with your drone work. The sharing will stop and the error messages will start. It’s a pain and it doesn’t make you look very professional so pick the right sharing method for the right situation.
If you want, you can install Dropbox on another computer(s) that you use to dynamically put your files on both or all computers. This is very helpful for your workflow if you use different computers for different things. It’s also one more way to back up your data so if one computer fails, you still have your data on another.
I have a PC laptop and a Mac desktop that I use for different things and it’s great having access to all the files I need no matter what I’m working on. But hold on, of course, there’s something to consider before putting Dropbox on all your computers and that consideration is hard drive space. My PC has a 2TB hard drive while my Mac has a 1TB hard drive. My Dropbox account allows for 2TB of data. If I put 1.2 TB of information on my PC, no problem. My Dropbox has plenty of space to accommodate. But the Mac does not. Dropbox will try to sync all the information and will fill the Mac hard drive up completely before it stops which will cause tons of heartburn and frustration.
I talked about external hard drives in our File Management article and they are a good solution for this problem as well. Dropbox is an awesome product but you may have to make it work for your situation and get creative on how you use it.
Finally, I recommend downloading the Dropbox app for you phone. The app will not download files to your phone but it does allow you to access your files that are on the Dropbox server(s). It can automatically upload data from your phone to your Dropbox, and you can even pick folder to upload to with your phone. You can also download any of the data to your phone from your Dropbox or just view it on your phone without downloading it.
If you don’t have it yet, click this link to try out a free Dropbox account and see if it’s a good fit for you.