Last night the unexpected happened. My laptop hard drive died. 500GB of hard disk space is a lot, and I was using a few hundred GB of it, but outside of applications, the data was not a whole lot, about 6GB. All of my music is backed up to several local machines, and my photos are on my photo machine, home server and Amazon. The amazing thing about the total hard drive failure was that the only single thing I was thinking about was “what size/kind of hard drive will I replace it with?” I never once thought about loss of data.

That’s quite an amazing change from where we were not to long ago. I have lost so many photos, videos and MP3 files that I would gladly pay to get back over the years because of an admittedly lazy backup strategy (or in some cases no strategy.)

I can remember a hard drive failure resulting in a tangible sense of loss. Now it’s no different to me than a failed video card or a busted printer. Finally, and I hate to use the word, the Cloud and more specifically Dropbox, has solved my data problems and my computer is just a very fancy tool.

So let’s go through the process of rebuilding my computer and I’ll throw in all the places Dropbox made a huge difference in my restoration strategy.

The Data

Of course I want all of my documents, photos, Lightroom presets, fonts, PDFs, etc. Those are super important, just by installing Dropbox all of that was right back where it belonged, perfectly in sync with my PC Desktop, Mac Pros, iMac, Work Laptop, even my iPad and iPhone. If I end up on someone else’s PC I can access all of it from the browser. I always have access to all of my data.

I even store tons of sensitive personal data on Dropbox. I am sure you’ll cringe at believing it, but Dropbox’s service is actually very secure.

The Software

After I had reinstalled OS X, the first thing I did was reinstall the Dropbox client. It had about 6GB of downloading to do before it was finished, but at that point I was ready to start installing real software. Why do I say that? Because I store all of my software serial numbers in Dropbox. I have a folder where I keep the serial numbers for Adobe’s Creative Suite, Lightroom, Final Cut, name it. During this install I had to reach for X DVDs in total: OS X, iLife, Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Express. That’s literally it.

Lightroom, Office… pretty much all of my other apps were download from the net and punch in my serial number.

The Habits

It doesn’t take that long to get used to it. I don’t even think twice about it anymore. Unless it’s a massive video file or a disc image of some sort, I always save it to Dropbox. I have a very Monkish hierarchy where I know exactly where things should go. I have shares with several of my friends and my wife and son. We never email files or IM File transfer them anymore. When Dawn needs something I’ll just say “I stuck it in the family Dropbox.” Not only does she know where that is, she usually gets a tidy system tray notification that it has been added and she can click it and go right to it. If I need to share it with someone else I’ll just throw it in the public folder and get a link right to it.

While we are on that topic of convenience, several times my OCD file maintenance habits have led me to delete a file prematurely. That’s not much of a problem either, within 30 days I can just go back to the Dropbox website and undelete it. If you want to pay a little extra you can get unlimited history for undeleting and file versioning.

The Cost

While we are on the topic, how much does Dropbox cost? For most people it’s free. If you need less than 3+GB, it’s free. I say 3+ because Dropbox is pretty generous at giving you extra space, we are talking 1.5GB of space, for doing your part to help spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, friends, etc.

If you need more, like me, $9.99/month gets you 50GB of space, $19.99/mo gets you 100GB of space. That’s pretty reasonable considering the amount of space and the features you get for the money.

The Dropbox Commercial

So why am I sitting here telling you how awesome Dropbox is? I have been saying it for ages, but mostly because it just made a dead hard drive a minor inconvenience. It gives me the utmost confidence in data redundancy, and lastly, it’s just cool. The service is rock solid, I can’t remember an outage at all. It works on every device you have pretty much. It’s fast, it’s simple, and it makes keeping up with your data everywhere you need it totally painless.

There are other services that provide similar functionality, and I have tried them all. I’ll stick with Dropbox, I love it.

If you are going to try it, sign up with this Dropbox link and I get 500mb of free space, you’ll get a nice 250mb bump for yourself too!

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