Cloud backups have become more crucial than ever now that we rely so heavily on digital storage of our finances, taxes, photos, media, business documents, and other private information. On the mobile phone side, Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive are pretty good at covering the bases of backing up your pictures, apps, and some files you may have stored.
You can find similar types of cloud services on the computer side too – but there’s something really important to realize about them: most desktop based cloud services are designed to SYNC files, not to create snapshots or backups. What’s the difference? Well, for some there won’t really be a difference. If you’re mostly using the cloud service to backup your pictures and files that don’t get edited very often – you’re going to be just fine.
But imagine a scenario where you have a customer database with 10,000 records in it. Let’s say, on accident, one night before going home you hit the wrong key and accidentally wipe out the database. The next morning you come in to to realize that Dropbox has sync’d the database with no records in it to your cloud account. Because Dropbox is a synchronization service, you won’t have moments in time in the past to restore to to rebuild your customer database. A proper backup provider would likely have different snapshots of that database going back several hours, days, weeks, months, or even years.
So while Dropbox would be a great service to use to recover the most current snapshot of your hard drive in the situation where your have a hardware failure (especially when data recovery is not possible or affordable) the syncing nature of it could leave you vulnerable to other types of issues. Certain viruses are out there that target this very thing – by overwriting your files with garbage before tanking your system so that your cloud syncing is worthless.
This article is designed to teach you how to backup Dropbox so that you have those snapshots you can roll back to in the case of a catastrophe.
What is Dropbox?
If reading this article and are new to cloud based syncing services, Dropbox is one of the biggest names in that space. Dropbox offers a seamless way to automatically sync and access your files from anywhere. You can use it for a lot of different purposes. I’ve used it before as a way of transferring and accessing files across multiple computers and with different co-workers throughout the day. Some people use it as a centralized storage location (think of a cloud based NAS) that everyone can access seamlessly. And the interface is so easy to use – your Dropbox folder will look like any other folder or drive on your computer.
Understanding the Difference: Syncing vs. Backing Up
Dropbox is primarily a syncing service, not a backup service. The distinction might seem subtle, but it’s crucial. Syncing ensures that your data is consistent across all devices, while backing up creates a secure copy of your data that can be restored in case of data loss. If you’re using Dropbox as your primary storage, it’s essential to understand that data is always at risk. This risk can come from accidental deletions, system updates, or even forgetting your password.
How To Setup & Use Dropbox
1. Sign Up for a Dropbox Account If you haven’t already, head over to Dropbox’s official website and sign up for an account. You can start with a free basic plan, which offers limited storage, and upgrade later if needed.
2. Download and Install the Dropbox Desktop Application While Dropbox can be accessed via a web browser, to enjoy the full range of backup features, it’s best to download and install their desktop application:
- Visit the Dropbox download page.
- Click on the “Download” button.
- Once downloaded, run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions.
3. Sign In to Your Dropbox Account Launch the Dropbox application on your computer and sign in using the credentials you used during the signup process.
4. Choose Folders to Backup Dropbox will prompt you to choose which folders from your computer you’d like to continuously back up. Options might include your Desktop, Downloads, and Documents folders. Select those that matter most to you.
5. Understand the Dropbox Folder Upon installation, Dropbox creates a special folder on your computer. Anything you place inside this folder is automatically backed up to the cloud and synced across all your linked devices.
6. Enable Selective Sync (Optional) If your computer storage is limited, you might not want all your Dropbox files downloaded and stored locally. With Selective Sync, you can choose which folders from Dropbox are stored on your computer and which ones remain only in the cloud.
- Open Dropbox settings/preferences.
- Navigate to the ‘Sync’ tab.
- Click on ‘Selective Sync’ and choose the folders you wish to have on your computer.
7. Access Files on the Go with Mobile Apps To access your files from anywhere, download the Dropbox mobile app from the App Store (for iOS) or Google Play Store (for Android). Sign in, and all your backed-up files will be at your fingertips.
8. Monitor Storage Usage Keep an eye on how much of your Dropbox storage you’re using. If you’re nearing your limit, consider deleting unnecessary files, sharing them without adding to your quota, or upgrading your account for more space.
9. Set Up Two-Factor Authentication for Added Security To enhance the security of your Dropbox account, it’s advisable to set up two-factor authentication. This requires a second verification step, usually a code sent to your phone, each time you sign in.
10. Regularly Check for Updates To ensure you’re using the latest features and security patches, regularly check for and install any updates to the Dropbox application.
Why Backup Dropbox to a Local Drive?
- Offline Access: While Dropbox provides convenient access to your files from anywhere with an internet connection, there might be times when you don’t have internet access. By backing up your Dropbox data to an external drive, you can access your files offline.
- Cost-Effective: External hard drives are a one-time investment, making them more cost-effective in the long run compared to ongoing cloud storage subscription fees.
- Create Snapshots of Your Files: Dropbox is a syncing service, so as you change files they will sync with your cloud hosting and overwrite them. By backing up periodically to an external drive you get the advantage of having archives you can go back and look at or restore from when needed.
Methods to Backup Dropbox
- Using the Dropbox Web App:
- Sign in to your Dropbox account on the web.
- Locate the files or folders you want to backup.
- Select the desired files or folders and click the ‘Download’ tab.
- Once downloaded, transfer the files to an external hard drive.
- Using MultCloud:
- MultCloud is a cloud file manager that allows you to manage multiple cloud storage services in one platform.
- Sign up for MultCloud and add your Dropbox account.
- Select the files you want to backup and download them.
- Transfer the downloaded files to an external hard drive.
- Using the Dropbox Desktop App:
- If you have the Dropbox app installed on your computer, connect an external hard drive.
- Navigate to Settings > Preferences > Sync > Move in the Dropbox app.
- Choose the external hard drive as the new location to save your Dropbox data.
Backup Dropbox to Another Cloud
Apart from backing up to an external drive, you can also backup your Dropbox data to another cloud storage service. Using a service like MultCloud, you can easily transfer files between different cloud storage providers.
Dropbox File Size Limits
The Dropbox file size limit depends on the platform you’re uploading from:
|Platform||Maximum File Size|
Note: All files uploaded to your Dropbox account must be smaller than your storage space. For example, if your account has a storage quota of 2 GB (Like a Dropbox Basic account), you can upload a single 2 GB file or many files that add up to 2 GB. If you are over your storage quota, Dropbox will stop syncing.
Setting up Dropbox to backup your files is a straightforward process that provides peace of mind. With your data securely stored in the cloud, you’re protected against unforeseen circumstances like computer failures or data corruption.
But while Dropbox is a fantastic tool for syncing and sharing files, it’s essential to have a backup strategy in place. Whether you choose to backup your data to an external hard drive or another cloud service, the key is to ensure that your files are safe and accessible, no matter what.
- Is Dropbox secure for backing up my files?
- Yes, Dropbox uses encryption to protect your data in transit and at rest. Additionally, enabling two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security.
- Can I share my backed-up files with others?
- Absolutely! Dropbox provides sharing options, allowing you to send links or collaborate on folders with specific people.
- What happens if I delete a file from my Dropbox folder on my computer?
- It will also be deleted from the Dropbox cloud. However, Dropbox keeps deleted files for 30 days, allowing you to recover them if needed.
- Is there a file size limit when uploading to Dropbox?
- For free accounts using the website, the limit is 2GB. With the desktop or mobile apps, it’s based on your account’s storage limit.
- Can I backup files from external drives to Dropbox?
- Yes, as long as the external drive is connected to your computer and you move or copy files into your Dropbox folder.
- What types of files can I upload to Dropbox?
- You can upload most file types, but there are some exceptions, like certain types of symlinks, .lnk files, and web-based files.
- What if my Dropbox file is too large to be uploaded?
- If you are trying to upload a file to dropbox.com that is larger than the 50 GB file size limit, you can download the Dropbox desktop app and upload it from there. Alternatively, you could compress your file to make it smaller and try the upload again.
- Is Dropbox a backup service?
- No, Dropbox is primarily a syncing service. While it stores your files in the cloud, it doesn’t serve as a dedicated backup solution.
- How often should I backup my Dropbox data?
- It depends on how frequently you update or add new files. However, it’s a good practice to backup your data regularly, at least once a month.
- Can I backup my Dropbox data to multiple locations?
- Yes, it’s a good practice to follow the 3-2-1 backup strategy: three copies of your data, two on different mediums, and one off-site.
- Is it safe to store a backup on an external hard drive?
- While external hard drives are a reliable backup solution, it’s essential to store them in a safe place and ensure they are free from physical damage.
- What other cloud storage services can I use for backup?
- There are several cloud storage services available, such as Google Drive, OneDrive, and Amazon S3. Choose one that fits your needs and budget.
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