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Using Dropbox to Connect a Team

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Since Apple released iCloud in 2011, Dropbox has been threatened. There are many users who still prefer it for keeping their documents synced across all devices, but Apple’s deep OS integration is hard to beat. After all, you don’t see Dropbox prompts when saving a document. Rather, Apple’s iCloud greets you with a more minimal, modern interface (folders appear more like apps and tags are used for organization). 

Dropbox still has many uses, though, and one of them is connecting a team that’s hard at work on a project. In this tutorial, I will show you how you, and your team, can use Dropbox to aid your collaboration and keep important things from getting lost.

Evaluate the Situation

A lot of information is passed from one team-member to another daily. Dropbox can make it seamless.

Before you invest your time in Dropbox, it’s important that you know a few things. First, you will need a decent Internet connection just to work with files. As I write this, I’m sitting at the local library, which has a 150x150 Mbps fiber connection. It’s great, but the price of something like this at your business could be too expensive to even consider. I’d suggest having at least a 10 Mbps upload speed if you’re going to be moving large files around. 

Luckily, Dropbox does have local network sync so you don’t have to transfer things more than once. If members of your team work remotely, you must remember that they may not be able to secure such a reliable Internet connection as yourself.

Next, you’ll want to look into the Dropbox Pro plans available, and even the Business ones if you need more space. The base plan offers 100 GB for $9.99 per month or $99 per year, which should be more than enough for the average team. Depending on what you’re working with (lossless audio, 4K video, RAW photos, etc.), a mere 100 GB could get used up fast. Dropbox’s personal accounts go up to 500 GB, but you can take things a step further with their Business plans.

It’s important to note that Dropbox Pro is not meant for a team. You can technically use it between yourself and a few other people, but it’s not optimized for this. If you really do have a dedicated team that you’d like to bring together with the service, it’d be a good idea to consider Dropbox for Business. For $75 per month, you will be given as much storage as you need, 256-bit AES encryption, two-step verification, fast sharing to all members of the team, and remote wipe if one goes rogue or loses his device.

Why You Should Use Dropbox

There are many personal reasons to use Dropbox, but when it comes to a business, they become a bit foggy. The main reason it’s better than, say, uploading and emailing the link to a file is because it doesn’t take as much effort. Rather than saving the file to your desktop, opening your FTP server, uploading the file, and waiting for the recipient to download it, you can track everything through Dropbox. When a new file is added to the folder, anyone else who has it on their computer will be notified that something new is available.

I use Dropbox to backup my photos, MainStage patches, invoices, and even to share photos with people.

Dropbox isn’t really that much less complicated than other methods of transferring files. It is more reliable, though. And you don’t have to manage anything but the files themselves—Dropbox does all the work for you.

Another nice thing about Dropbox is its integration with the apps you probably already use to keep your team in contact. You can share files directly with HipChat and even attach documents already in your Dropbox folder to a Trello post. It gives you more time to focus on the project than getting things to the other members of the team.

Usage Inspiration

So far, this probably sounds like an extra expense you don’t need. Not to worry: I have compiled a list of productive uses for Dropbox. In reality, the service can be used no matter what industry you’re in, so long as you handle lots of files daily.

  • When the graphic designer team is finished with a piece of an app’s user interface, he saves it to the project folder in Dropbox. The programming team can then pair it with their code in a timely fashion.
  • Raw video footage can be imported straight to the Dropbox project folder and, when it’s finished uploading, be available to the editor, who may be on the other side of the world.
  • Use a project folder to keep your entire team up-to-date on the code, images, documentation, and anything else that may arise. Much more organized than individual files being sent at random times.
  • Get your new single to the mastering technician so you can move one step closer to its release.
  • Share screenshots of bugs within an app and keep them organized, even color-coded with OS X’s tags.
  • I have a friend who does architectural photography for her dad. She takes the photos, edits them, and uploads the final products to Dropbox. Her dad then proofs them and sends them to his webmaster who puts them on the company portfolio. This is a fantastic use of Dropbox to keep everything in one place and not need flash drives or even email.

Keep Things Backed Up

Hard drives may be local, but they're not always redundant.

Time Machine is great, but doesn’t provide nearly as much peace of mind as Dropbox’s Packrat feature. If you have a free account, you can’t use the feature, but it’s well worth the $10 per month, which comes with additional storage and other accolades. (Packrat is included with Dropbox for Business at no extra cost.) 

Think of Packrat as Time Machine in the cloud. If you delete something completely from your computer’s Dropbox folder, it will still be in your account. You can delete it permanently, but there’s no reason to since it is outside the walls of your account’s storage; you’re not using any space by leaving it there.

A free Dropbox account offers a limited version of Packrat in that keeps files for 30 days. For most people, that’s more than enough. However, you might find yourself wanting to feel the nostalgia of browsing some of your first projects. If you pay for Dropbox Pro, Packrat allows you to do just that. You can dive back as far as you want into the history of your account. This works both ways, though: if you stop paying for Dropbox Pro, you will lose your files.

If you have a large team of people constantly creating and destroying things, you may as well have the security of a truly solid backup. Packrat is useful for a personal account as well. You can get back all those old photos if you need to, or recover a bit of music that is now rare.

Planning Productive Use

Hopefully I’ve inspired you to use Dropbox in a very productive fashion. I’ve discussed the various plans available as well as prolific uses. Even though OS X’s Time Machine does a good job of backing up the personal data on your Mac, Dropbox seems to be a safer alternative to keeping project files safe. 

If you still feel that there’s more to be said, give us some feedback in the comments. What are you using Dropbox for right now and how would you use it to keep you up-to-date on your team’s project?

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