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Welcome! I am Jason Nguyen, a graduate student in ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Bloomington, and this blog is where I make observations about music, culture, and academic life.

Tech for Scholars #1: Backup and sync your data with Dropbox

Dropbox LogoThis is the first in a weekly series of updates with tips and thoughts on leveraging technology in academic scholarship. This week, I take a look at a Dropbox, a free service that synchronizes files across multiple computers in real-time and also allows you to access them online on-demand.

Recently, a few of my colleagues have gotten into a little trouble with hard-drive or computer failures while working on final papers, which caused me to think about the easiest ways to backup data.  Being a data-redundancy nerd myself, I back up my data through a number of manual and automated schemes including synchronizing programs, R.A.I.D.’s, email, and simple drag-and-drop copying.  However, some of these means are clunky and imprecise, while others require some research and maybe a little help to setup.  So, I asked myself, what set-it-and-forget-it option can I suggest for people interested in things “just working?”

Dropbox fills that niche quite nicely.  Basically, you setup an account and install a program that designates a folder on your computer as being sync’ed through Dropbox.  Whenever files are modified or copied to that folder, the program auto-detects the changes and copies it to their servers. Furthermore, you can install the program on any other computer and designate the sync’ing folder, and it will automatically update the contents of that folder to match.

The Benefits

  • It’s free!
  • Each computer with the program installed will have an identical copy of the designated folder, updated in real-time.
  • If you are not at one of your own computers, you can access all the files online at http://getdropbox.com
  • The online version is also accessible by smartphones and PDA’s.
  • Dropbox designates a “Public” folder, and files in here can be accessed by anybody.  Each file is given a unique URL, which you can then send to someone.

The Negatives

  • The free version allows you to only store 2 gigabytes (which is more than enough for my papers, admittedly)
  • You are limited to a single folder.
  • There are always security concerns when you upload things to the “cloud.”

So, check it out, and if you do, let me know what you think.

Jason Nguyen

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