Dropbox — Almost in the Cloud

I’ve been told that “Dropbox” is a good place to store files in the cloud. Is that true?

While I’m a big fan of Dropbox and use it all the time, technically speaking, it is not a cloud storage location. Here is a link to the Dropbox website: https://www.dropbox.com/

Dropbox is a wonderful online extension to your desktop computing, but it’s missing a key cloud component as we’ll see.

When installed, Dropbox puts a folder on your desktop computer. It looks and works like any other folder (or directory) on your computer. You move files into your dropbox folder; you take files out of your Dropbox folder. If you put a Word document into the Dropbox folder, then you can edit it in Word directly in your Dropbox folder.

So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that you can put your Dropbox folder on every computer you use (home PC, laptop, work computer). You can even put it on your iPhone. Any files you store in the Dropbox folder are synchronized among all your computers. If you edit a file in the Dropbox folder at work and then return home, the file is on your home PC is identical with the file at work, with all the edits you performed at work in place. If you take your laptop to a hotspot and make a change to the file, the version on both your home computer and your work computer reflect this change.

Dropbox has one more trick. Your files are accessible online (once you log in to the Dropbox website). If you visit a friend and use his computer’s browser, you can log on to Dropbox.com and access your file. You can download the file to your friends computer, make changes in the file and then upload it to Dropbox.com. Now your laptop, home computer, and work computer will all have this update. Amazing!

But you said Dropbox isn’t a cloud computing site. It sure sounds like one. Why isn’t it in the cloud”?

The key component that Dropbox is missing for cloud computing is there is no software to process files at the Dropbox website. Remember when you were at your friend’s house you had to download the file to his PC to work on it. That’s because there is no wordprocessing software (or other document processing software) at Dropbox. Even when you worked on your file at work, home, or on your laptop, your computer had to supply the software. If you didn’t have Word on one of the computers, then you couldn’t edit the file in the Dropbox folder.

So Dropbox is a wonderful way to alway have access to a file on all your computers, but you have to do your processing on those computers and not in the cloud.

Dropbox lets you store up to 2 gigabytes of data for free online, just not in the cloud.


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