10 Ways to Optimize Your Dropbox

Here at LockerGnome, we burn through a ton of bandwidth sending multimedia files across various channels to one another. Of these channels, the one we use most is Dropbox. Not only does Dropbox assist in sending files to folks regardless of being a part of your corporate network, but it’s also a simple enough service to use at home.

What’s more useful is that it’s absolutely free to use to store and sync up to 2 GB of data, with additional bonuses given for inviting your friends and family to the service.

Dropbox is one of the most popular file sharing applications across multiple platforms currently on the market. It’s also one of the easiest ways to sync files across multiple computers both in and out of your local area network. Unfortunately, Dropbox doesn’t always deliver the best bang for your buck in terms of performance or capacity. Thankfully, there are a few tricks you can use to make it faster, easier, and more optimized for your home network.

Set the Maximum Bandwidth

In a productive environment, every bit of your upstream and downstream needs to be optimized. You don’t want Dropbox’s synchronization process to clog your network when you need it most. For this, Dropbox has implemented a system that allows you to set maximum download and upload speeds. This setting comes in handy when you’re traveling and dealing with a very limited amount bandwidth, but you don’t want to pause Dropbox outright.

Utilize the Pause Function

Are you in the middle of an important process that requires every bit of bandwidth you have? Are you dropping packets because a live stream is fighting with Dropbox for access to your clogged tubes? Dropbox gives you the ability to pause and resume sync functionality on the fly, without cutting you off from your data. After all, your data is downloaded and held on a local drive and all Dropbox is there to do is make sure changes, additions, and deletions are applied to the folders it manages.

Pause on Dropbox does just that: it pauses. You don’t have to restart your file transfer from the beginning, worry about synchronization issues taking away your data, or anything of the sort. Dropbox is made to synchronize around your needs.

Enable LAN Sync

LAN sync allows you to grab files from your local machines if it can be down within the same local area network (LAN). This feature is very useful, especially when you’re trying to quickly exchange files between more than one machine. This also spares you from having to reach out to the Web for a file, saving you bandwidth and time.

Unfortunately, LAN sync only works if the file is sourced locally. If all of your machines are set to sync and a file comes in from an outside source, Dropbox will automatically try to download the file on each machine individually. This brings us to the next tip.

Set a Single Dropbox Server on Your Network

This may be the geekiest of all the tips presented in this list. If you’re tired of all your network resources suddenly becoming used by every machine on your network eagerly attempting to download the same file multiple times, you might want to consider setting up a single file server that interacts with Dropbox on your network. You can do this by simply removing (or pausing) Dropbox from all but one computer on your network, setting up a shared folder with that system, and hooking all of your systems up to that one instead. By keeping Dropbox paused on laptops and other portable devices, you can easily switch on Dropbox sync at your convenience when out and about. Of course, relying on a network connection may result in reduced read efficiency for those files, so there is an additional step you can take if this solution isn’t working for you.

rsync is available for free and usable across Linux, OS X, and Windows (through an installation of Cygwin). This command line utility gives users the ability to sync folders across your network, and only your network. If you have a file server or PC running Dropbox, share the Dropbox folder over the network. At this point, you can direct rsync to synchronize folders between your shared Dropbox folder and various other folders across your network. rsync will need to be set up on each computer, but this will guarantee that Dropbox will only use a single device to reach out to the Internet and grab new content. Be aware, though, that rsync is an advanced user process that requires some old-school command line use for the initial setup.

Both Windows Vista/7 and recent versions of OS X have some basic synchronization capabilities built in. Windows Sync Center is one of these solutions that may work for dedicated Windows networks. Do you know of a better solution here? Please leave a comment below and let us know!

Ultimately, you may be better off simply connecting via a single shared folder on the network and copy vital data-heavy files to your local drive as you need them. Dropbox is generally not recommend for serious video editing or other high-speed synchronization processes within a single network, anyway. Dropbox is simply another efficient tool for getting data from one remote location to another without having to have someone logged in on either end.

Use the Website

Dropbox has an extraordinarily helpful site. Not only can you manage your files and folders using its interface on virtually any device with a browser, but you can also create shared folders and read detailed logs of changes made to your files. If you accidentally delete a file, you can still restore it using the tools at Dropbox.com. You can also opt to delete them permanently, removing any trace that the file once existed in the directory (pending shared parties that haven’t already downloaded them and moved them out of the Dropbox directory).

Refer Your Friends

Free Dropbox accounts can earn up to 8 GB of extra storage (at 500 MB per referral) by simply referring friends to the service. Your affiliate link is available to you through Dropbox.com and it’s encouraged for you to share your affiliate link on social networks, blogs, and other public pages people might frequent. While this is a clever marketing ploy on the part of Dropbox, it does allow you to get up to 10 GB on a free account and 16 GB of extra storage on a pro account.

As an incentive, Dropbox gives your friends 250 MB of extra space just for using an affiliate link to sign up.

Take Part in Dropbox Quests

Dropbox has a list of quests that you can take part in for additional storage space. These quests are usually very easy to solve, requiring very little effort on your part. Simply taking a tour, adding a file to your Dropbox folder, and inviting a friend (whether they accept or not) can earn you 250 MB of additional space.

Use an .EDU Email Address

.EDU customers of Dropbox get double rewards for referrals, and plenty of extra bonuses on their available storage space. If you have an .edu account, you can use that instead of a Gmail or private domain. Even if you didn’t sign up with Dropbox using your .edu, you can still verify the address with Dropbox through the education page once you’re logged in.

Also, being an .edu customer gives you a much higher ceiling on the amount of referral bonuses you can apply to your account. For example, a basic student account can reach a bonus limit of 16 GB while a pro account doesn’t hit a ceiling until 32 GB of bonus referral storage has been reached.

Go Pro

All right, so you’ve gone through all the steps and you still don’t have enough space on your account? Honestly, the best way to use Dropbox in these instances is by upgrading to a 50 GB Pro account. While investing in a synchronization service may seem like a poor financial decision, a seamless product such as Dropbox can be a real asset when working outside of a dedicated office network. I’m able to share large files with clients all over the world by simply presenting an external link once the file has synchronized with the surface, access my data from virtually any mobile device I own with a wireless connection, and receive files from just about anyone already on the service.

At $9.99/month or $99/year, a Pro account isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s intended for users who intend to utilize the service for business applications. Professional users put Dropbox through the ringer in terms of bandwidth and capacity limitations. Charging a premium for increased storage capacity can be an acceptable investment in trade for ad-free and seamless cross-platform integration.

Use Selective Sync

Sometimes, there are files and/or folders that you don’t need on every computer in your home. For example, your desktop in the living room made available to guests may be a great place to store your photos, but not so much your personal documents or work files. You can customize which folders within Dropbox you sync by accessing Preferences > Advanced in the main Dropbox menu. Here, you can tell Dropbox which folders you do or do not want to sync with a given computer. This is a great way to optimize both your internal storage and bandwidth usage through Dropbox on computers to which you really don’t want everything copied.