September 2, 2010 My Dropbox Strategy

Dropbox icon

Dropbox accomplishes the impossible task of keeping all of my files in sync across all of my computers and the internet 100% percent of the time. It does this through the use of a special Dropbox folder stored on my computer’s hard drive. Anything I save into my special Dropbox folder gets securely copied to the Dropbox website, and then downloaded to all of the computers connected to my Dropbox account. Dropbox does all of its transferring in the background, and knows which versions of my files are the most recent, replacing older copies as I make changes. I no longer need to manually connect two computers and configure antiquated synchronization software in order to sync my laptop with my desktop. I no longer need to subconsciously maintain a running list of changed files while I am using my laptop on vacation. Dropbox keeps track of all my data, and keeps it in sync across all of my computers from the moment I click the save button in every application.

My Dropbox strategy starts with preparation. Like a bird preparing a nest for its young I prepare my computers for Dropbox before the application is installed. This process starts by declaring a master copy of all the files I wish to keep in sync with Dropbox, and moving them onto a single computer. Next I create folder named Dropbox under the root level of that computer’s Home folder, and within that folder I then create the following sub folders.

  • Documents
  • Firefox
  • Lightroom Backups
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Sites

(The Firefox and Lightroom Backup directories are part of my special way of keeping my Firefox profile, and Lightroom catalog in sync across multiple computers. You might have special applications or workflows of your own that require you to create special directories inside your Dropbox folder. Look for how I set up these special folders in a future post.)

Next I move the contents of my Home Folder’s Documents folder to ~/Dropbox/Documents and repeat to process for Music, Pictures, and Sites. In order to preserve the natural locations of these pre-established folders I then remove them from my Home folder using the following terminal command.

sudo rm -R ~/Documents ~/Music ~/Pictures ~/Sites

and recreate them with symbolic links originating from their respective Dropbox directories.

  • ln -s ~/Dropbox/Documents ~/Documents
  • ln -s ~/Dropbox/Music ~/Music
  • ln -s ~/Dropbox/Pictures ~/Pictures
  • ln -s ~/Dropbox/Sites ~/Sites

Now it is time to install Dropbox, select the default location ~/Dropbox as my Dropbox folder, and wait for all of my files to be uploaded to the cloud. This process can take several minutes, to several hour or days depending on the size of my Dropbox folder, and the speed of my internet connection.

Once Dropbox has finished uploading the files from my first computer it is time to move over to my second computer and install Dropbox. If both my computers are on the same LAN Dropbox will make short work of transferring my files from one computer to the next. If my second computers is not on the same LAN, or if my second computer is separated from the first by a slow internet connection I will manually sneaker-net my entire Dropbox directory from my first computer to my second computer to save time downloading all of my Dropbox files from the cloud.

This process can be repeated for all of the computers I wish to keep in sync with Dropbox. Even a laptop that I only turn on once and a while can benefit from Dropbox as long as I let it automatically sync up prior to taking it on the road. It is true that to hold all of my documents, music, pictures, and sites I need the largest 100GB Dropbox account available. But two hundred dollars annually is a price I am willing to pay for effortless sync, seamless cloud based backup, and the ability to acess any file in my Dropbox from any internet connected computer in the world.

Interested in trying Dropbox for yourself Use this link to get signed up and enjoy the dream of being in sync across all of your computers.