Dropbox: Your stuff, anywhereIn addition to Evernote, which I reviewed last month, another essential mobile app that I highly recommend is Dropbox. In short, Dropbox is a cloud-based file storage application. There are a number of these types of apps out there, but Dropbox’s file accessibility and sharing features are what sets it apart from its competitors.

When you mark a file or folder for backup in Dropbox, it becomes available on any device running the Dropbox app. It doesn’t matter if the device is a PC, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. The app also runs on just about any operating system including Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry (yes, it runs on BlackBerry for those who still refuse to switch). Best of all, you can share files with anyone you want through Dropbox, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account!

What I like about Dropbox

I’ve been using Dropbox for over three years. It’s become such an integral part of our business that we replaced our internal file server with Dropbox a couple of years ago. Put simply – I swear by it as a file storage, sharing and server application. Here’s what I like most about it:

  • Dropbox App Favorites ScreenIt’s great for backups. I don’t worry about scheduling backups for my critical files. My files are always backed up in the Dropbox cloud without having to think about it.
  • It’s a file server. I downloaded Dropbox on all of my home computers, tablet and phone, so I can access all of my files no matter what device I am using.
  • It’s platform independent. It’s doesn’t matter if I’m using a Window’s PC, a Mac, an iPad, an iPhone, an Android tablet, an Android phone, or even a Kindle Fire. I can access my files on any device I’m using.
  • Files are kept locally. On your PC and laptop, the files are kept locally with backup copies stored in the cloud. While subtle, it’s important as it means your files are always available, even when you don’t have an internet connection. If you make file changes while you’re offline, Dropbox syncs the changes when you get back online. On phones and tablets, you mark files that you want available for “offline access” in order to save space on your device (see image right).
  • Version control. If you accidentally delete or change a file by accident, you can get the previous version back. This feature has saved many times when I’ve made a change to a file and forgot to save it as a different name.
  • It’s economical. You can create a free account that gives you 2GB plus 500MB for every referral up to a maximum of 16GB in referrals. That much space will suffice for most, but for as little as $99/year, you get 100GB plus 1GB for every referral up to a maximum of 32GB in referrals.

Using Dropbox for real estate

Dropbox is a great tool that you can use in your real estate business to be more efficient. Here a few use cases to get you started:

  • Create shared folders for transactions. For each property transaction, either selling or buying, create a folder where you keep all of the documents related to that transaction. You can further separate the documents into subfolders for different phases of the transaction. Then you can decide which folders you want to share with buyers, sellers, team members, title reps, loan officers, escrow, or everyone.
  • Maintain a folder of key documents. For documents that you need to access on a regular basis while out in the field, put them in a folder that you can access on your PC, laptop, phone and tablet. Examples are listing presentations, market reports, neighborhood information, contracts, templates, approved vendor lists and policy documents. Best of all, you can easily share these documents with others via email through the Dropbox app. No need to wait (or have to remember) to send those files when you get back to your computer.
  • Share with assistants, teams and office staff. Setup (at least) one folder where you share documents with your team. It’s a great way to make sure documents don’t get lost or accidentally deleted through email. Plus, team members will always know where to find the latest version of a file.
  • Picture backup. You can set up Dropbox to automatically store and backup all of the pictures you take with your smartphone or tablet. This feature makes it easy to retrieve pictures for creating property flyers, uploading to the MLS or sharing with others, like team members or clients. In other words, no more worrying about how to extract files from your phone or messing with emails.

Getting started with Dropbox

It’s easy to get started with Dropbox. Just follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://www.dropbox.com and sign-up for your free account.
  2. Follow the step-by-step instructions and download the app to your computer (or laptop).
  3. Choose the folders and files that you want to make accessible, share, and/or backup.
  4. Download the Dropbox app to your phone and tablet.

It’s that simple. Now you’ll have access to all of your important files no matter where you are.

I’ve listed a few ways that you can get more from Dropbox. If you’ve discovered other tips or creative ways to use Dropbox, particularly for real estate, please share in the comments!