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I hate backups

Backups are like dentist visits. No one wants to do it, but the consequences of ignoring it are grave indeed.

But what if I told you that you could have automatic, always up to date backups, but with only 30 minutes do-it-once work? Welcome to the wonderful world of cloud sync tools, the most popular of which is Dropbox.

I’m going to cover Dropbox in this article, but plenty of other options exist, such as Google Drive or Use whatever you feel comfortable with.

How much??

Lets get this out of the way. You pay for convenience and Dropbox is no exception. Yes, you can get started for free and yes, if you only use Dropbox for your word documents and nothing else, that 2Gb of storage is likely enough to last a really long time. But life is about more than just your documents and if you start syncing your phone’s photos and videos to Dropbox, or if you download a lot of PDF reference materials, or MP3s, then you’re going to have to pony up.

At the time of writing, in mid-2016, Dropbox charges £89/annum for one terrabyte (i.e. 1Tb, that’s 1000Gb) of space. More than enough space for thousands of documents, photos, videos and more. It’s actually kind of overkill – until the start of 2015, Dropbox charged the same for just a tenth of the space and it was still hard to see how you could fill it, without resorting to high definition movies of the almost-certainly-illegal kind that you can download from torrent sites. This kind of space should last a lifetime.


There are two primary reasons for running Dropbox and a few secondary bonus features. The main reason you do it, is for the backups, duh. The second big reason is for file versioning – Dropbox will keep 30 days worth of versions of every file you sync with them. So, for example, if you’re an author and you accidentally delete 10 chapters of your book and save the resulting file to your hard drive, you’ve just lost 10 chapters of your masterpiece. But if that file was one of those you sync to Dropbox, then as long as you notice the accident within 30 days, you can just rollback to an earlier version and play it forward from there.

Other nice features include photo synchronisation for your phone, easy sharing of files between friends or colleagues and web-based access to your files. That’s right – as long as you have any old PC handy, you can login to your Dropbox site and browse all your files via the web. That’s pretty invaluable if you’re borrowing a PC, or using an internet cafe. Just remember to log out again when you’re finished!


Grab your credit card, visit the Dropbox plans website and pick the £89/annum option, also known as “Dropbox Pro”. The sign up process will step you through downloading the client and setting it all up.

Setting it up

On your computer

All too often, I see people downloading Dropbox, running it, then continuing to use their “My Documents” folder to store everything! So if you’re running Windows, step one is to make sure that your “My Documents” folder is definitely inside your Dropbox folder. To do that, here’s the steps you need to follow – albeit these are for Windows 7, since I’m not touching Windows 10 with a barge pole.

  1. Open your Dropbox folder and create a “Documents” folder inside it.
  2. Open the Start menu and click your user name to open the User folder
  3. Right-click on “My Documents”
  4. Select “Properties” and click on the tab named “Location”
  5. The dialog box shown below will open – click the button “Move” and an Explorer dialog “Select a destination” will open
  6. Browse to the folder you created in Step 1 (c:\users\<yourname>\Dropbox\Documents usually)
  7. Click the button “Select Folder, then Click “OK”
  8. In the dialog that appears, click “Yes” to move all the files to the new location.

Depending on how many files you have in there, that might take a few minutes.

On your Phone

One awesome feature of Dropbox is its auto-backup of all the pictures you take on your phone. Another wonderful side effect of that is that seconds after you take a picture with your phone, it appears in your Dropbox folder on your computer inside a folder of your choosing (I call mine “Camera Pictures”, because I have no imagination).

To make this work, just visit your App Store, download the Dropbox app and sign in. Then, open the app, go to settings, and make sure all the “Camera Uploads” settings are to your liking. In other words, make sure it’s a) on, b) uploading both pictures and videos and c) depending on your data plan, you can choose to upload on WIFI only, or immediately, using your data plan. Be careful with option c – photos and videos tend to be pretty big these days, so if you’re on a capped data limit, you might find yourself looking at a sizeable bill unless you choose “WIFI only”.


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