Dropbox Tips

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Despite all the concerns and discussion out there over cloud usage by legal professionals, Dropbox still remains one of the most popular applications among lawyers. I am not going to discourse on whether or not that should be the case – the internet is rife with the opinions of very capable commenters on the subject – just remember that there are Bar rules out there about lawyers employing reasonable measures to ensure security when using the cloud. My personal use, however, takes into account the potential risks as well as rewards of using this free and cheap multi-user, cross-device sync app that a majority of cloud users have embraced. That means I enable security features whenever possible and store documents I have no fear of others potentially having access to.  While that may limit others’ use of the service, I still find plenty of utility in Dropbox when I need to collaborate or share with someone else – and I have chosen not to use my other favorite sharing / storage service, Google Drive.

First, as with any other online service, make sure you have a very secure password – please, no 1234567! Did you know that is one of the most popular passwords out there? No duh! Make it hard to crack with letters, numbers, symbols and mixed caps. Also, disable automatic user log in on your computer and log out on your devices when not using the service. And, now that they offer it, enable two-factor verification – I have it on all services that allow for it, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. Dropbox has it too – all this means is that when you (or anyone) attempts to log into your account on Dropbox, you will get a text message on your phone with a verification code that you will also need to enter to get into your folders. Dropbox also encrypts files on its side of the fence and you can too – check out Boxcrypter, which I wrote about here in the Studio, for an extra level of encryption on YOUR side of the fence. Some content creations applications, like Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, let you password protect at the document level. You also can set Dropbox to selectively sync only certain files, thus limiting unwanted access where syncing isn’t really necessary.  No guarantees that these steps will prevent any and all security breaches, but it certainly improves your odds in keeping your data intact.

Besides syncing, sharing and backup, there are some pretty cool uses for Dropbox. Automatically upload your photos from your devices to Dropbox by enabling the auto upload feature in the app. Set up remote printing by creating a print queue folder, and setting up a script that will look to the folder and print locally at home anything you add to it while on the road (thanks Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration Blog). If you use 1Password for your secure password storage, you can use Dropbox as a password backup application. Backup your WordPress blog to Dropbox using plug ins such as  WordPress Backup to DropboxWP Time Machine andBackupBox. Use Wappwolf to automatically share, convert files, sync, zip, unzip, encrypt, decrypt  and employ actions in other applications such as  Evernote, Facebook, Flickr using Dropbox. There is little doubt that Dropbox’s popularity is one of its benefits – there are plenty of very smart users out there who create applications to extend the reach and utility of Dropbox because they use it too.

One last little gift to you: MakeUseOf has a cool chart showing off some of Dropbox’s tips, tricks, keyboard shortcuts, and tools and plug ins. Check it out – this really only scratches the surface of what you can do with the service. And remember, always sync responsibly!

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Boxcryptor Encrypts Your Cloud

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I know, I know. Don’t tell me. I have been a bit AWOL for a while. Day job and miscellaneous other excitement.

But I’m back, and have something to talk about, which certainly helps when trying to write. The common complaint raised by cloud opponents is the lack of security when you move your valuable data out of your direct control and into the ambiguous grasp of a server in Mozambique.  For those of you out there using the cloud and enjoying all that mobility and freedom, you may be interested in a little tool called Boxcryptor. Boxcryptor is an encryption application for common cloud services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive, all of which I happen to use, as well as any cloud using a WebDAV standard. It is also platform independent, so you can use it on your Mac or PC, Chromebook or Android or iOS device.

Boxcryptor creates a crytopgraphic virtual drive on your computer.  Files are encrypted locally before uploading them to your cloud of choice. Files are encrypted on an individual, rather than grouped, basis for added security. Any file dropped into an encrypted folder within the Boxcryptor drive will get automatically encrypted before it is synced to the cloud. To protect your files, Boxcryptor uses the AES-256 and RSA encryption algorithms. I love that it basically encrypts files on the fly, as part of your normal process of creating and saving data – just drop your files in the special secure drive rather than your usual cloud folder. You will know that your files are encrypted when you look in the cloud and see the .bc extension following the file name. It looks really simple to use, which is always nice.

Of course, to be really useful, the cloud has to allow for multi-party file sharing. It’s one of the main reasons to use it! Boxcryptor supports this, and accomplishes it in a secure way.

You won’t be able to see your encrypted files without Boxcryptor installed. So, you will need to have it on any computers on which you intend to view your sensitive material. However, once installed, just enter your Boxcryptor password to get into your materials. A word of caution here: that password information is not stored either locally or with Boxcryptor and you won’t be able to retrieve it if you forget it, once it is set. So choose carefully and store it somewhere safe. Since everything is locally encrypted, Boxcryptor has no access to your data either, so no worries there.

Boxcryptor is free for personal use and it does  offer AES-256 and RSA encryption, secure file sharing and mobile apps. The limitation is that you can only use one cloud service at a time with the free. Unlimited personal for $48 per year allows unlimited providers on unlimited devices. Company subscriptions offer multiple cloud services at once as well, along with groups, with multi-user pricing that goes down as you add more users. Company plans start at $96 per year for unlimited business use. The company plan also offers a master key and password reset function, enforce policies and centralized management and invoicing.

Because Boxcryptor believes its product is of particular interest to legal professionals, they sent me along a coupon code for Studio readers of 20% discount on their regular prices (discount code: boxcryptorlaw20, valid until December 31, 2013). So, if your resolution for 2014 includes greater cloud security, hop on that train and grab yourself some Boxcryptor.

Archiving The Web Via PDFs and Dropbox

Hi, my name is Martha and I am a data hoarder. No really. I love to clip and save and organize the cool stuff I find on the web. Perhaps it comes from my professional background as a researcher – you never know when you are going to need that great bit of information in the future.

I also am a fan of PDFs and I love to work with them on my iPad. My favorite PDF app is iAnnotate, but there are other great ones, like the venerable GoodReader which has been around about as long as the iPad has. I also love Dropbox, the web storage / syncing / sharing application that is pretty much everywhere these days.

So, when MacStories published this great hack, I was all ears. Imagine using a web bookmarklet to save a webpage or URL as a PDF and store in your Dropbox so you can edit and sync across devices and access from anywhere? Federico Viticci has a great means of doing just that using the Instapaper Text Bookmarklet, available on the Instapaper web site (scroll down to the bottom of the page) and a command line Mac HTML converter called wkpdf.  Sure, its geeky. But it works great. Mac only, though, so sorry all you Windows users.

Hit the link above for the very explicit details. Viticci offers a couple of ways of getting the job done, but the end result is stored PDFs of sites with active links and images, with the crap stripped out for easy reading. I particularly like the option to use IFTTT by sending a Mail message with the URL, which then appends the body of the message to a text file. Takes a little bit of tweaking and a few apps to set the system up, but once it is up and going, you will be an automated URL / HTML to PDF machine! Thanks Federico!

Does Insync Have Dropbox On The Run?

Have you heard about this new player in the cheap cloud storage / sync field called Insync? You might want to take a look at it, particularly if you are a fan or user of Google Docs. Insync, which has been in closed beta for more than a year, has now opened its doors to the general public with a claimed better feature set and lower cost (through Google storage) than Dropbox. Insync is trying to differentiate from Dropbox with more granularity and control over sharing and organizing files and its cost structure (free, with Google providing the paid storage in the background). Unlike Dropbox, you can set sharing conditions with read only or read write access and can revoke sharing permissions without moving or deleting the shared file entirely. You can share all or part of a folder structure and specify whether or not those you share with can reshare. You can tie multiple Google accounts to an Insync account too – which is GREAT for me and my many Google accounts. And, although the storage is via Google Docs, Insync doesn’t limit you to the supported Google Docs file types – you are only limited by the amount of storage you purchase from Google which is pretty darn cheap – $5 per year for 20 GB and just over $4,000 for 16 TB and by the 10GB per file size limit. Sign up is incredibly easy – just connect your Google account, download the local program, and link your machines to your Insync account.

Downside? No mobile apps yet. I have seen some complaints on Mac fora to the effect that it duplicates files with multiple labels, making organization difficult. However, at the price point, a little extra organization effort seems a reasonable trade-off. No problems here from this Mac user. As in the early days of Dropbox, there may be a few kinks to work out but this application seems promising indeed to heavy Google Docs users.

Manage Your Cloud From One Spot + Free Storage Options

I have a collection of free cloud storage accounts and, while not impossible, it is slightly challenging to organize and manage all of them. I stumbled on a local option for handling some of those cloud accounts – Joukuu. Joukuu, which means “cloud” in Japanese,  is a free, Windows-only (Mac version promised soon) download that helps you interact with three of the most popular services: Dropbox; Box.net; and Google Docs. You can pretty much manage your entire process with this app – access your files, sync and open with local applications.

Edit files, and create and sync on the desktop without having to log-in the cloud or open separate windows.

How about one-click backup? Just right click on your selected files, and choose the account, the files will backup to your online accounts automatically.

Move files between accounts in your Joukuu with simple drag and drop.

Joukuu does not copy any files to its own servers, so you need only worry about your own desktop and the various cloud providers it links to as far as security goes.

So, this whole Joukuu got me to thinking – just how much cloud storage can you pull down for free? While I can say for certain this isn’t an exhaustive list, you might be surprised at just how much you can expand your storage space for no cash. Dropbox starts you off with 2GB for free, but you can earn 3GB to 10.25 GB if you get people to sign up via referral from you. Box.net gives you 5GB for free with a personal account. Google Docs gives you 1GB for free. Each provider offers different limits on file sizes and access – definitely check them out. But, right out off the bat, Joukuu can help you manage between 8GB and over 13GB of storage without any investment.

Want more? Check out Windows SkyDrive which offers a whopping 25GB for free (50MB file upload size max). Zumo Drive gives you up to 2GB for free. Or Memopal which gives you 3GB for free. iDrive offers a consumer friendly 2GB free. ADrive offers 50GB of free online backup – wow! 2GB uploads, and ad-supported. With a little finagling you can lay claim to around 90GB of free, on-line storage. Several of these offer mobile apps for file storage on the go, particularly helpful with my iDevices. Not bad, not bad at all.

Can Dropbox Get Any Cooler? YES – Printing!

Ever need to print from your mobile phone? I know I have and the workarounds aren’t always so pretty. Air Print is coming in iOS 4.2, but you need special hardware for that. Print apps are available, but they can be buggy and they definitely cost.

There is a free solution that is as simple and as elegant as it gets. Use Dropbox. I love this tip so much that I shared the original post in Google Reader and I have to write about it here too.

If you aren’t already using Dropbox, stop right now and head over here and sign up for the FREE cloud storage service. You can find out more about why Dropbox is so awesome in my post about it here.

This printing solution will work with any mobile phone, not just my iPhone. Simply install Dropbox and download a utility onto the computer that is connected to your printer. This utility monitors your Dropbox folder for any new print jobs. Get the utility here. Once you unzip the file and open eprint.vbs, the utility creates a sub-folder inside your main Dropbox folder called PrintQueue where mobile print jobs queue up and a second sub-folder called logs where completed jobs are archived. Send the print jobs from your mobile phone, either through the dedicated Dropbox application for your device, or use Habilis (link here) which works with Dropbox via email. Once your file hits Dropbox, it gets slotted into the proper folder and the desktop utility takes over and prints your file.

You can turn off the utility by searching wscript.exe on your computer or pulling it up in Windows Task Manager. As long as you have a program associated with a particular file format loaded on the main computer, you can print associated files via this system.

I can’t wait to get home and check this out.

Hat tip to Amit at Digital Inspiration blog.

Dropbox Gets Better

I have been using Dropbox (link here), the online file storage site, for a few months now and I have to say that I really love it. With 2GB of free storage (and up to 100GB paid), it offers seamless integration between desktop, Web and mobile device (for me, iPhone and iPad), with offline edits synced quickly across your systems. You can load most types of media, including text, audio, video and images. You can share a file with someone else without having to resort to email exchanges. Changes they make to the public documents are synced as well, so that you can easily collaborate on a single file.

While none of these abilities alone makes Dropbox the standout killer app among the crowd of on-line file storage tools, the combination of features, plus a few relatively recent additions to the service from third party developers, have made Dropbox even more compelling.

First, a few weeks ago, stellar password manager 1Password (link here) announced the ability to backup your passwords in that app via Dropbox. It used to be that you would have to manually update passwords between your Mac software and your mobile device. Now you can automatically back up all 1Password enabled devices for free via Dropbox and the cloud. Check out 1Password’s user guide on how to do it here.

Next, web app Airdropper (link here) allows you to send a request to Dropbox and non-Dropbox users to upload a file to your Dropbox. Simply connect to Dropbox, send a request to a colleague for the file via the web interface with a link for upload, wait for your colleague to follow the link and upload and receive the file in the spot you designated in your Dropbox.

Finally, if you like to dictate, check out Dictamus (link here), a dictating app that connects to Dropbox for cloud access to your transcripts. The app itself includes many professional dictation features, such as rewind, overwrite, insert and edit functions, and voice activation to avoid pauses. But the ability to sync your dictation to the cloud with Dropbox makes it even more compelling for quick entries and sharing. For the record, Dictamus syncs with MobileMe’s iDisk as well.

It really doesn’t get any simpler than that! I already am loving Dropbox and I applaud their efforts to combine with other developers to offer such great features for free. Can’t wait for the next upgrade to this already great system.