Revisiting the thumb drives versus DropBox debate

A Mac site, TUAW, has an article giving “Reasons why USB thumb drives are the wrong choice” and why their staff uses cloud solutions such as DropBox instead.

I realize that reopening this debate is like opening a can of worms, but there might be some out there who’re using flash drives who might want to reconsider. I’ve been using DropBox for my Scrivener editing for about a year. The only problems I’ve had have come when I failed to close a file on one Mac and tried to open it on another. And in those cases, I was warned about what I was doing.

I work at a community center where flash drives are common as the only place files are stored. That makes me very nervous. In many cases, that flash drive has the only copy of a document that’s taken many hours to create.

One advantage of DropBox is that files always exist in multiple places. In my case, that’s my iMac, my MacBook, and on DropBox’s distant servers. Backups retain copies of what’s on my iMac and DropBox keeps versions. That makes for five copies of almost everything I’m writing. That’s a lot better than the one copy or perhaps the ‘one copy plus a backup if I remember’ with flash drives. And my iMac and MacBook are a heck of a lot harder to misplace than a tiny flash drive, particularly if you write in multiple locations.

Just remember than any technology has to be used with care. If you use cloud services such as DropBox, when you finish writing be sure to close out that document and watch the little DropBox icon to make sure the file transfer to DropBox is complete before you shut down your Mac. I’ve gone into the DropBox preferences and selected “Use black and white menu bar icons” because the B&W version makes it more obvious when a file transfer is taking place.

Feel free to share your experiences and opinions, pro and con, about this issue. Personally, I’m delighted with the freedom DropBox gives me to write on either of my Macs without the bother of remembering which version is the latest.

–Michael W. Perry, Seattle