Founded in 2007 by two MIT students, this cloud storage and file-sharing service has become a household name to the tune of 100 million people and growing.*
Dropbox is a service you sign up for that creates a folder on your device(s). Anything you put into that folder locally then syncs globally wherever you have Dropbox installed. Magic.
You can also very simply share files from within your folders by right clicking and getting the direct link; better yet, you can share folders themselves. This is where Dropbox becomes seductive since you can share as conservatively or liberally as you desire. For example, I have a shared recipe folder with my mom and sister, a wedding planning folder with my fiancee, a work folder with my team, and an ever vacillating number of folders with different sets of friends.
But that's not all! Imagine that you're working with a team on a project. A very important project that has occupied 3 weeks worth of your time and resources. Imagine too that one of your coworkers' laptops takes a dive off the coffee table onto the floor, and that this laptop had the software on it being used to build the majority of your project. It would be extremely comforting if your file were saved painlessly in the cloud and you could pick right back up where you started. And if you've ever gone through the pain of misplacing a critical file, you know the value of being able to retrieve it quickly so as to get back to work.
Resurrection, and other tricks
Macworld reminded me recently about Dropbox's staggering backup system. Not only is your most up to date file kept, all iterations of your files, who changed them, and where, are recorded on the site. Should it dawn on you that you want the version of your report from five days ago, or 14 saves ago, Dropbox has you covered.
There are many other features for smartphone users like automatic photo uploading, App backups, mobile file management, and folder management. The most recent iOS update made sharing, posting, and moving files as easy as swiping the file name to reveal those options. Dropbox for iOS and Android includes photo uploading so you can get photos painlessly stored where you want them, and can easily find them later before they get crowded out by hundreds more. There is also an increase in third-party apps building Dropbox integration, which adds ease and power to accessing and using your files anywhere.
If you're in a position where you've been told you should "back up" your critical files and unsure what that means or where to begin, Dropbox would be a safe and powerful place to start. Even one folder with essential documents would save you from a lot of trouble should the worst happen to your device(s). Dropbox makes your necessary documents available to you from nearly any up-to-date device or web browser.
An initial free account comes with 2GB of storage, and is upgradable for different amounts and sizes of storage. You can also invite friends and participate in various promotions to earn extra space.
In short, Dropbox is a clever app that will quickly earn its place into your workflow. The best services are the ones that work without ceasing and need for continuous attention. Dropbox asks for little, and delivers a lot.