Using Dropbox to back-up your PhD

20 Jun

Given how long we work on our PhD’s you’d hope that we all had excellent back-up and archiving systems in place. I know quite a few people that are very good at backing up to DVD every couple of weeks (I’m terrible at this – but that is another story).

But, even when we are good at backing up semi-regularly, we tend to be less good at backing up files we are actually working on day to day. For me this is especially true if I have needed to work on files across multiple computers (and so have put them on a USB key).

I had a USB key die a couple of months ago. The USB key had about 2 months worth of work I’d been doing as a research assistant. It wasn’t particularly difficult stuff but I had to spend weeks re-doing file merging and reference checking. The whole experience made me realise I had to do something about back-ups. And this is where dropbox came in.

Dropbox is a ‘cloud’ service that works by saving any/all files you place in your “dropbox” onto your other computers, iPhone/Android, and the dropbox website. It basically acts like a USB key on the cloud – so it is great for moving files between computers and for backing up the files (for both the short and long term). Using dropbox you can say goodbye to having multiple versions of the same file across different computers and stop having to email yourself files.

You get 2GB worth of free storage space – but you can upgrade to paid storage if that isn’t enough – although if you’re like me and mainly using it for word documents and PDFs that is unlikely to be a problem.

To start using Dropbox you just need to create an account and download the dropbox software to at least 1 computer. When you setup Dropbox, the setup will create a Dropbox folder for you on your computer. Everything that you put in this folder will be synchronised with all the other computers you have registered your Dropbox account with.

Handy Tips

If you work from home or have 2 computers in different labs then it is handy to also install dropbox on your second computer.

Since the files are also backed-up to the dropbox website you can also log-in online to access files when you’re using a computer where you don’t want to install dropbox.

Get extra storage space by going through the “Getting Started” guide, and by sharing your referral link with family and friends

Dropbox will save 1 older copy of every file – if you accidentally make changes to a file you can find the old one on dropbox and revert back


One Response to “Using Dropbox to back-up your PhD”


  1. Backup to the cloud « Jenn's Studious Life - July 6, 2011

    […] names but different versions. I was starting to look for better alternative when I stumbled upon Emily’s blog and she shares about the apps that she’s using: […]

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