The Mac App That’s A Free And Secret Online Backup Weapon

Are you backing up your Mac’s files online yet? Here’s the best way to do it. There are umpteen services which give Mac users plenty of online catastrophic backup storage. Most are free for the first few gigabytes of storage, but toss in your movie clips, music, photos, and Documents folder, and that free online storage becomes an expensive proposition with a monthly price tag.

In between do-it-yourself backup apps like Arq, and the online backup services, is the world of Dropbox. It wasn’t the first online storage service, but it was the first to do data storage right.

The key to using Dropbox on your Mac is to make sure you don’t use it purely as bulk online storage. Yes, it will do that, but the price adds up quickly. What Dropbox does that iCloud and other integrated sync services don’t do as well is store app data.

At the basic level, Dropbox is free. The Mac app places a folder on your Mac. Drop in whatever files you want backed up into that folder and they get synchronized with Dropbox in the cloud (a big server hiding away somewhere on the internet). That means your files are backed up somewhere else besides your Mac (or, your home or office).

Good, right? But not great.

Great is what Dropbox does better than iCloud, or SkyDrive, or Google Drive, or any other online storage system.

It doesn’t take many files to turn free Dropbox into expensive Dropbox. However, many Mac apps also take advantage of Dropbox storage. Instead of just saving their files in your Documents folder, they save those files in Dropbox’s folder instead. Bingo. Instant backup.

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Another advantage to using Dropbox for app data storage is synchronization. Because Dropbox works on Windows PCs, and on iPhone and iPad, your data files are available on those platforms, too.

If your apps are cross-platform and run on Mac and PC and iPhone and iPad, a change you make on the Mac shows up in the other devices moments later.

 

The Dropbox app is easier than drop dead simple to setup and use. Create a Dropbox account. Setup where you want the Dropbox storage folder to be. That’s it. Done.

The most difficult option is finding Mac apps that take advantage of Dropbox and will automatically store their data in the Dropbox folder. But don’t worry. Most Mac apps also give you the option to store data in a specific location. Simply use Dropbox instead.

Dropbox has other advantages besides data storage. It’s a good drop box. That means you can drop in files to a Public Dropbox folder and others can retrieve the files.

It’s also a good backup for different versions of files.

Competition for online backup and storage is becoming intense. Dropbox gives users up to 18 gigabytes of free storage (2 gigabytes free, and 500 megabytes per referral). The next level up starts at about $10 a month or almost $100 a year.

What I’ve done with Dropbox is to avoid the bulk online storage capacity, and select specific apps that also have iPhone, iPad, or Windows PC counterparts, and store those files in my Dropbox folder. That way I never get close to 2 gigabytes of storage, get a free backup online, and important files are always available.

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Not bad for free, right?