This is an easy week for me as I already use both Dropbox and Google Drive (although I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realise it was no longer Google Docs). It’s useful though to think about how I use each one and clarify what I find irritating.
Overall I am a huge fan of Dropbox. I signed up almost two years ago now when my computer hard drive self-distructed. By incredible good luck (you might say providence) I had backed up on my external hard drive the night before, but the experience was nonetheless sufficiently harrowing for me to decide I needed another back up as well. The peace of mind which is created by watching the tiny green tick appear on the Dropbox desktop icon, showing all your work is saved in the cloud, is a daily comfort to me!
So, I started out with Dropbox as a simple back up option, but it’s since become useful in two other ways as my working methods have developed. Firstly, when I became involved in running the ‘Things‘ seminar at CRASSH it allowed us to create a shared folder so we can work on budgets, advertising, email templates etc as a group. It’s quite satisfying to watch other people work as the update icons flash up on your screen! Secondly, as I got an iPad and a decent smart phone, Dropbox has enabled me to access my work anywhere. You might say this is dangerous given how PhDs take over your life in any case, but it means I can go on short library trips with just my iPad and still access all of my work, as well as checking things on my phone in an emergency. This is especially useful since the iPad app has been updated to allow you to upload directly to Dropbox. Working on the train is now my most productive time.
However, there is one big annoyance with Dropbox, which I don’t seem to be able to solve. With a shared folder, there is nothing to stop multiple people opening and editing a document at the same time, meaning you end up with conflicted copies. Dropbox saves these but then it seems to be impossible to delete them. However hard we try they magically reappear! This is a problem which Google Drive doesn’t have as all editing happens online allowing multiple edits to be saved at once. I’ve used this particularly for spreadsheets when planning events with multiple people. I think this is useful in such circumstances when you only need the one document, but for more complex sharing like ‘Things’ Dropbox is still more useful. Also (as Helen says), Dropbox allows you to edit offline, and I like the fact that the documents are still on my computer.
Overall, I think I’m happy with my current strategies. One of the joys of a MacBook is having Time Machine backup which likewise automatically keeps regular copies of your entire computer system. But as my PhD draws to a close, and every painful word written becomes more important, maybe I’ll put it all on Google Drive too. The less opportunity for my human error the better!