5 Tips To Use Dropbox for Small Business

Sep 24, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

5 Tips To Use Dropbox for Small Business

Sep 24, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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5 tips to use dropbox for small business

As a small business owner, you probably already use Dropbox as part of your daily workflow.

However, in this post I am going to share five tips to use Dropbox for small business that you might not have already thought of.

Dropbox Options for Small Business

In case you don’t already use Dropbox, Dropbox works by automatically synchronizing a set of files (your Dropbox folder) across all of your computers (desktops and laptops).  For tablets and mobile devices your files are not automatically synchronized to preserve the local storage space – but they are available on demand.

Your files are also synchronized with the cloud, so no matter where you are or what device you are using the most recent versions of your files are always available on Dropbox.com.

If you accidentally delete a file, you can retrieve an older cached version from Dropbox.com too.

It is important to note that Dropbox is not cloud storage.

Dropbox saves both a local copy and a cloud copy of your files, while other cloud storage services like Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Microsoft Cloud are set up for cloud based access.

In my opinion this makes Dropbox far superior because you always have your files available on your local hard drive – which is absolutely necessary when working with large files like photos and video (you might get away with working on a typical office document over the cloud – but nothing like RAW photos and video).  With Dropbox, your files are always available offline too (you are not dependent on your cloud service provider).

Dropbox Basic starts with 2GB of space (but you can work up to 18GB by referring friends) while Dropbox Pro costs $9.99 per month with up to 1TB of space.  (I personally use Dropbox Pro.)

There is also Dropbox Business which starts with 5TB of space for five users at $75 per month.  Unless you absolutely need user access control, I personally don’t really see a point to Dropbox Business – it costs more per user, you still only have 1TB of space per user and in most small business environments, having multiple users share a single Dropbox Pro account isn’t a problem.

If there is one major complaint I have about Dropbox Pro, its that the 1TB of storage is far too small for creative professionals.

While I’m sure that 1TB is more than enough space for the average small business storing Word and Excel documents and the occasional site photo – for a photography studio, animation shop or video producer – 1TB doesn’t go very far – meaning that we still have to store the bulk of our files to a much larger local storage solution – like a NAS drive.

5 tips to use dropbox for small business

5 Tips to Use Dropbox for Small Business

Some of these tips might be obvious and some you might not have thought of before – so hopefully there are at least a few ideas here that will help you to leverage your Dropbox account.

1. Synchronize Accounting Files With Your Book Keeper & Accountant

Feeding information to your book keeper and accountant has always been a bit of a hassle.

In order to simplify this task, I have a Dropbox folder permanently shared with my book keeper so that she always has access to my most recent accounting information.

I file copies of my monthly bills, bank account statements, credit card statements, photos of cheques, sales records, government documents etc. – everything related to my business accounting.

This is also where I store my business QuickBooks file and all downloaded Quickbooks account statements (.QBO files).  This way my book keeper and I always have access to the most up to date QuickBooks file.

One thing to beware of is that you have to make sure that only one person is accessing your files at a time – especially with active files like QuickBooks.

If both you and your book keeper are active in Quickbooks at the same time, you will end up with a bunch of conflicted files – so a little coordination is sometimes necessary.

5 tips to use dropbox for small business

2. Synchronize Your Lightroom Catalog Across Multiple Devices

One of the biggest limitations of Lightroom is that it was built to be used on one computer by a single user.

However, with Dropbox you can keep your Lightroom catalog automatically synced across multiple computer work stations.

In most cases you will probably have more than 1TB of photos and videos, so we are only talking about your Lightroom catalog and user presets – your actual files will still have to be stored to a local network attached storage (NAS).  But it is still handy to be able to move between workstations without worrying about which Lightroom catalog is stored where.

For a complete explanation on how to synchronize your Lighrtoom catalog across multiple devices – click here.

5 tips to use dropbox for small business

3. Keep Your Deliverables Synchronized, Accessible and Downloadable

While 1TB of storage space is not nearly enough room to hold all of your RAW photo files, Photoshop files, Premiere Pro files and original video clips, it is usually enough space to store your deliverables.

By deliverables, I mean your finished JPEG photos and exported video – what you actually deliver to your clients.

Of course, it is necessary to keep your original files just in case you ever need to go back and change something – but in most cases, your finished work is whats actually important.

Storing your deliverables in Dropbox is far more useful than keeping them tucked away in a job folder on your local storage drive.

First of all, you can deliver your work to your clients via digital download.  With Dropbox Pro you can set passwords for shared links, set download expiration dates and set view-only permissions for shared folders.

Transferring your finished work to your clients by digital download is a much more efficient workflow than having to deliver a physical storage device (like a USB drive – or if you still live in 1999 – a DVD).

Secondly, if you need to see something that you did on a past job, show someone an example of your work or distribute additional copies via digital download – they’re all there are ready to go.

5 tips to use dropbox for small business

4. Keep Your Job Files Synchronized and Accessible

In addition to just storing your deliverables, I keep all of my job files on Dropbox (except for the working files as previously discussed).

Keeping job files such as contracts, invoices, model and property releases, notes, lighting setup diagrams etc. accessible on Dropbox is essential to my business.

I reference these types of files all the time – and I never know if I will need something at my desk, on my laptop or on a mobile device.

5 tips to use dropbox for small business

5. Organize and Automate Your Social Media Activity

Finally, Dropbox is an invaluable way to organize and automate your social media activity.

I save all images and video that I share to my various social media accounts to Dropbox.

This way, I can keep track of what was shared where – and I know that I am only uploading the low resolution, watermarked copies that were exported to my Dropbox social media folder.

If you want to automate some of your social media activity, automation tools such as If This Then That (IFTTT) integrate seamlessly with Dropbox to supercharge your social media activity.

 5 tips to use dropbox for small businessWhat Do You Think?

What do you think are some of the most effective ways to use Dropbox for small business?

What other solutions are available?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

 

 

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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9 responses to “5 Tips To Use Dropbox for Small Business”

  1. Rex Deaver Avatar
    Rex Deaver

    Google Drive and Copy both have synched folders on the computer. You do have to install the desktop apps.

    1. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      Thanks for the clarification!

  2. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Sorry JP, seems I’m always picking on your articles, but here goes:
    Dropbox IS cloud storage (if the service stores content in a remote computer, it is cloud storage by definition even if it has added capabilities), and most of the alternatives you listed works exactly like Dropbox. Google Drive and One Drive (Microsoft) also have software to install on your PC and apps to install on smartphones to synchronize files between them.

    I can’t say about iCloud but I’m pretty shure it also does.

    One thing that Dropbox has that lots of other services don’t (though some do) is local sync. Meaning that if you have more than one device in a local network, it can sync those files without an Internet connection. If you are connected, this also means it’ll sync way faster between local devices (using the local network instead of uploading to the Internet and then downloading to other machines).

    It’s also supposed to be one of the fastest cloud storage services out there regarding upload and download speeds to the cloud.

    But it’s really a balancing act, and each cloud storage service will have it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Dropbox is among the most expensive services per Gb, and it’s package is robust but kinda basic compared to others.

    You have cloud storage services that have full encryption on all the content (Mega and Spideroak if I’m not mistaken – meaning the content is unreadable to anyone but yourself), you have services that offers tons of space free (hubiC offers 25Gb, OneDrive 30Gb, Mega offers 50Gb), you have stuff like Google Drive that links directly to Google Photos, etc etc. And they all have different limits regarding file size… sorry, I don’t have the list here.

    My personal solution? I have a Synology NAS that has it’s own sync solution (Synology Cloud), and also use some 4 different free cloud storage accounts connected to it (with Cloud Sync). Local networks devices all use the Synology Cloud software to sync with the NAS, which in turn automatically syncs with the other 4 cloud storage accounts. It’s currently Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive and hubiC. I wish it was compatible with more services, but that’s probably coming on future updates.

    1. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      Discussion is always a good thing! BTW – if you want to expand on your Synology NAS setup, I think that would make a good article. I know tons of photographers that use a Synology NAS (myself included :) and would be interested in learning how to leverage it’s capabilities.

      1. Renato Murakami Avatar
        Renato Murakami

        Thanks JP!

        It’s nothing really special… I’ll make it as detailed as possible here.

        I have a Synology DS214play with 2 x 3Tb drives… bought it on Amazon, reasonable promo price, I think it was around $630 (it was actually double that, but that’s only because I live in Brazil).

        My idea was getting rid of all cloud storage apps (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc) from my PC and use only Synology’s own cloud app (Synology Cloud Station).
        So I setup the service on the NAS, installed it on my PC and tablet (a Windows 8.1 tablet), and uninstalled all other cloud storage apps.

        Synology has a YouTube channel that explains how to do most of the steps I’ll be talking about here.

        Ok, next, I installed and configured Synology Cloud Sync (name is similar, but it’s a different app) on the NAS. It’s the official way to connect your NAS to a bunch of cloud storage services… I think it supports some 9 different storage services, but I’m currently using: Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, hubiC and OneDrive.

        What I did was create each cloud storage specific folder INSIDE the Synology Cloud Drive folder (important part of my setup). So you end up with Dropbox, GoogleDrive, Box, etc subfolders inside the main SynologyCloud folder (which will all sync with your local machines).

        Here’s another way to look at it: all my local devices (Desktop PC and tablet) syncs only to the NAS, which in turn syncs to online cloud storage devices.

        Oh, also, my tablet doesn’t have that much space, but Synology Cloud let’s you selectively choose what folders to sync. My tablet only gets Dropbox stuff (smaller files).

        In my desktop PC, I have a Synology Cloud folder that has OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc subfolders in it. So if I throw anything inside those subfolders, it’ll first sync with the NAS, which in turn will sync with the services (via Cloud Sync) themselves. All automatic.

        I hope this is clear enough… kinda hard to explain everything. I’m thinking of making a video tutorial with graphics one day.

        For the online cloud storage, it’s all free accounts. I just made a rough sketch of what I should put in each of them considering how much space I had… for instance, since OneDrive gives me 30Gb free, I put my Video Projects folder inside the OneDrive folder. On Dropbox I only have around 4Gb, so it’s documents, compressed final photos, and such. Photos also goes to Google Drive, since the service links with Google Photos.

        Unfortunately, I didn’t find an official way to work with Flickr, Mega and some other services (which offers tons of free space). But the community has been asking for those for a long time, hopefully Synology team will get to it.

        Here are some more extras:

        – my Desktop folder (you know, the place where most people throw everything) is also synced with the NAS using Synology Cloud, just so I have the exact same files both on my PC and my tablet. You just have to create a new subfolder inside the Synology Cloud folder, and redirect the Desktop folder to read from there (right click+properties using Windows Explorer);

        – I’m also using Bittorrent Sync (another service included in a Synology NAS) to backup a folder instead of full sync (one way sync). The difference is that the NAS always retains the files even if I delete them on my PC or tablet… but this would be subject to a whole other tutorial;

        – It’s also possible to use something like Dropbox+IfTTT+Flickr to automate uploads to the service, plus make automatic file conversions and resizes using a service like wAppWolf. I just didn’t get to it because I’m not in need right now;

        I think that’s about it. There’s a whole world of stuff you can do with a Synology NAS, but this is mostly what I use it for. Well, it’s basically a mini server really.

        I should note that I’m far faaaar from being an expert. :P I know there are even ways to install unofficial packages on Synology NAS, but I really don’t know how to deal with Linux so I don’t even try.

  3. Aaron Villa Avatar
    Aaron Villa

    Good ideas. To save money from Dropbox Pro I would use Bittorrent Sync (https://www.getsync.com/) to sync larger files between your computers/partners/colaborators and also give you access to your files on mobile when not at home.

  4. Daris Fox Avatar
    Daris Fox

    OneDrive has sync’d folders from Windows 8.1 onwards natively into the OS and Windows 7 has the client to do that. You can also get the OneDrive client for almost any OS as well.

    Also the last time I checked Dropbox is the most expensive of all the cloud storage services, especially when you consider extras you get with MS and Google’s own sevices. For example you can get up to 1Tb of storage with Office 365 which can be accessed/used on any platform.

    1. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      Thanks for the comment – yes Dropbox is expensive (and 1Tb really hamstrings the way you can use it) – but its big advantage is its mainstream – when you tell a client “you can download your files from this Dropbox folder” they probably already use Dropbox and know exactly what you mean. As for MS One Drive and Google Drive (and I’m sure iCloud is the same) – what I hate about them is that they try to integrate everything with the MS/Google/Apple ecosystem. Dropbox just stores files and keeps them in sync – its not trying to take over your digital life and tie you to a certain platform.

      1. Daris Fox Avatar
        Daris Fox

        Thing is OneDrive doesn’t tie you into a platform, it’s like Dropbox where it’s system agnostic. Google and Apple like to tie you into their eco-system but MS has opened their platform up making their services available across the board often at the expense of their own systems.

        Also this is an article about Dropbox that should be borne in mind:

        http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/22/9372563/dropbox-really-is-a-feature