Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

Fly Me To The Moon, or Why I Love DropBox

Martha Sperry of the Advocate's StudioFor this week’s Guest Post Friday at Musings, we welcome Martha Sperry. Martha Sperry (@advocatesstudio on Twitter) is an attorney with extensive experience in the insurance industry. Martha also maintains a research and writing practice, AdvantageAdvocates with emphasis on research and written product for professionals and web consulting. Her blog on law, research, writing and technology Advocate’s Studio. Martha also has let Musings invade the Studio today, so please check it out!

Please forgive the silly title. I spent some time with a friend yesterday who had met Tony Bennett last night. Plus, when I think of the moon, I think of the sky and that invariably brings me to the clouds. There is a clear movement afoot that is all about shifting our tools, data and content to the “cloud.” The “cloud” is simply a shorthand way of saying “the Web”, be it an intraweb or interweb. In other words, instead of storing your tools and creations on your local machine or a local network of machines, you can take your tools and creations with you to any device with internet access. This is indeed a powerful ability, one that is not lost on lawyers who depend heavily on their electronic output.

 Fly Me To The Moon, or Why I Love DropBoxThere are many ways to exploit the “cloud” in your business and personal dealings. I am going to highlight one of those means in this post. DropBox is the word.

At first glance, DropBox looks just like any other online cloud file storage and sharing service. You can load all sorts of files – documents, videos, audio files, images, text, notes, etc. – from your device into your DropBox and the content will be synced automatically with any device that has DropBox installed on it. There are at least 10 different clients, including versions for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and mobile versions for iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry Or, if you are on a device that does not have DropBox installed, you can still get to your information by navigating to the DropBox site and using the web-based client by logging into its secured access. No more saving to portable media, using a File Transfer Protocol or sending by email – you can share DropBox content with others by making folders public. If the other person has DropBox installed, then you can both edit the documents and changes will be synced across all of your mutual devices.

You can get 2 GB of storage for free, and increase that storage via paid subscription, at reasonable rates.

Edit any documents that also live in your DropBox and you will get your changes synced as well. DropBox also versions your changes, which means you can revert to an earlier version. You can also get files you might have inadvertently deleted because DropBox keeps a backup of deleted files.

What really makes DropBox cool is the ease of use – simply drag and drop a file into your DropBox folder and it is immediately synced to all devices and the Web. The other thing that makes DropBox cool is that lots of other app developers think that DropBox is cool too, so they have developed tools that leverage and enhance DropBox. DropBox hosts a directory of friendly apps right on their website.

So, what exactly can you do with DropBox? Here are some ideas:

Backup your WordPress Blog to DropBox

Backup your passwords to DropBox (with 1Password)

Make public DropBox links download files rather than viewing them in browser

Save notes in DropBox with two taps (using JotAgent)

Sync e-books on your Android device (using FBReader)

Print docs from your iDevice using DropBox (and a download utility)

Invite others to load docs into your DropBox account (with DropIttoMe)

Put your fav small apps in a folder in DropBox to access later on any computer

Add files to DropBox using Gmail

Copy and paste from one computer to another via DropBox

As of yesterday, DropBox has updated it’s iPhone app to take full advantage of iOS 4.2, Apple’s latest operating system, which is about to drop.

This is just a small sample of the fun you can have with DropBox. Check out their App Directory here for more ideas. And soon, you might find that DropBox is effectively serving as the center of your on-line world and your ticket to the cloud.

As always, Martha and I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

 Fly Me To The Moon, or Why I Love DropBox
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7 Responses to Fly Me To The Moon, or Why I Love DropBox

  1. As a Dropbox user, I can honestly say that this is a fabulous service. I have never seen a better file sharing/storage device.

    But, I often worry about whether attorneys should be concerned about confidentiality when using cloud services, such as Dropbox. I do not see many differences between a cloud and a physical third-party storage service (like Iron Mountain). But, attorneys often voice concern about placing client files in clouds.

    Martha (or Chris) – do you have any opinions about this potential dilemma?

    Thanks for the great post.

  2. @martin- According to Dropbox, all files are encrypted during transmission and on the site. The only issues would be who gets the links to any shared docs.

    @doug The confidentiality issues in my mind are no different than having any third party store data. The issue comes down to encryption. I store most of my files in Clio and on my laptop, but have not tried Clio’s file sharing capabilities. They key, in my mind, is to keep outside parties from any access keys or passwords and to avoid using public wifi for sharing sensitive files.

    Thanks to you both for the comments.

  3. I too have used DropBox and it is an excellent service. As a construction defect investigator, we spend a lot of time in the field. DropBox is an excellent way to share information. Another construction consulting firm was recently featured for their use of iPads in replacement of the ubiquitous clipboards most of us are accustomed to. They used Box.net which is similar to DropBox for sharing construction documents and checklists for use in inspections. So far the experience has been positive.

    In regards to legal requirements for confidentiality, I’ll defer to those of you more qualified to comment. I think Chris is spot-on though regarding access keys/passwords and public wifi. For confidential files, I would suggest creating password-protected encrypted archives or (on a Mac) encrypted sparse disk images. That way, even if someone did gain access to your DropBox account, the files would be quite safe.

    Great post!

  4. Thanks Chris for jumping in, I completely agree – use cloud services with the same sense of security and data privacy as you would any other third party storage system. And I encourage you to visit the DropBox site and check out their encryption, it is quite tight as far as online storage goes. Of course, even if you are not a proponent of using the cloud for sensitive data, not everything we attorneys produce requires privilege protection – Chris and I used DropBox to share his fantastic post over on my blog today. Use any tool as you see fit and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

    Cheers!

  5. Thanks for chiming in Martha, and thanks for the great post! I learned some uses of Dropbox I never would have thought of!

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