Syncing files across computers using DropBox

Motivation

In the past few months I have been using DropBox for syncing my work files between my home and work computer. It has saved me from numerous mistakes and from sending the files to myself via e-mail.

Recently I found this service highly useful for sharing files with 4 other people with whom I am working on a data analysis project. Being so happy with it (and also by gaining more storage space by inviting friends to use it), I thought of sharing my experience here with other R users that might benefit from this cool (free) service.

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a Software/Web2.0 file hosting service which enable users to synchronize files and folders between computers across the internet.
This is done by installing a software and then picking a “shared folder” on your computer. From that moment on, that folder will be synced with any computer you choose to install the software on (for example, your home/work computer, your laptop – and so on)

DropBox also enables users to share some of their folders with other DropBox users. This seamless integration of the service with your OS file system (Windows, Mac or Linux) is what’s making this service so comfortable, by allowing me to work with co-workers and have the same “project tree” of folders, all of which are always synced.

You could also share a file “online”, by getting a link to it which you could share with others. So for example, you could write an R code, share it online, and call to it later with source(). This is the easiest way I know of how to do this.

Dropbox is a “cloud computing” Web2.0 file hosting service offering both free and paid services. The free version (which I use) offers 2GB of “shared storage” (unless you invite other users, in which case you get some extended storage space. Which is one of my motivations in writing this post).

Dropbox has other non-trivial uses allowing one to:

The service’s major competitors are Box.net, Sugarsync and Mozy, non of which I have had the chance of trying.

How to start?

Simply go to: DropBox.com
Sign up, install the software, use the new shared folder, and let me know if it helped you :)

How to get Extra space?

You can:

  • Earn another 750MB of space by connecting your dropbox to your twitter/facebook account and sending a status update about them. To get this bonus, head over to “Get extra space free!” page.
  • Refer a friend to open a dropbox account (every friend joining earns you another 250MB of space). This bonus is bounded by a total of 8GB of added space (after that, you won’t be allowed any more extra space)
  • Upgrade – pay 10$ a month and get extra 50GB
  • Ricardo

    good, although if you take the time to use a system such as svn or git you would get the versioning, which is a huge advantage

    • http://www.talgalili.com Tal Galili

      Hi Ricardo,
      I am quite eager to start using git (especially after reading this: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2010/03/17.html ),

      But for managing a bunch of files (data files, reports and the likes), in collaboration with other researchers (who are not necessarily tech savvy) I do find DropBox to be much more appealing.

      Best,
      Tal

  • http://robjhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    Another competitor is Syncplicity. It has the advantage of being able to sync any folder on your computer, not just those in a specifically designated folder. I’ve used it for over a year and can highly recommend it.

    • http://www.talgalili.com Tal Galili

      Thanks for the suggestion Rob. I might have decided to migrate to their service, but since I understand they are already starting to play with that feature, I’d stay a bit longer to see them implement it.

      Cheers :)
      Tal

  • Jeet

    I, too, would heartily recommend a decent (D)VCS such as Git over DropBox for this purpose. The benefits over DropBox etc. for project file management — from data files to reports to actual scripts — is simply spectacular: it is like comparing an iPhone to a landline! Files can easily be shared with collaborators via free public repos such as GitHub, or, for more controlled accessed, through gitosis.

  • x7nvan

    Another option is sugasync. Like Syncplicity but it is free with 5 Gb space.