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Drop Dropbox? Why Would You Even Use Dropbox?

Ed Bott has written an interesting blog post about dropping Dropbox for Windows Live Mesh. But the question that I immediately have is, why the heck would any Windows user even use Dropbox in the first place? For Windows users, Windows Live Mesh has always been the better solution.

Ed's post explains the why (a recent security failure coupled with previous issues) and the how (relatively straightforward) of his change. And if you're actually considering this switch, please do read it.

But at a higher level, I'd just point out that, depending on your needs, Dropbox is and has always been horribly limited for Windows users when compared to Windows Live Mesh. And while I, too, have certainly had a Dropbox account for years, I've never once switched from Live Mesh (yes, through all the name changes) because it's always been better. So I guess I don't quite get the need here.

Dropbox and Windows Live Mesh both provide PC-to-PC and PC-to-cloud data sync. Both provide some form of device integration as well, and for people outside the Windows ecosystem (iPad users, for example), this is the one area where Dropbox exceeds Live Mesh's capabilities: There are native Dropbox clients for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry.

Notice the lack of the word "Windows" in that list? That's why I've ignored Dropbox over the years in lieu of Windows Live Mesh. Well, that and the fact that Live Mesh is (and has always been) superior.

Here's how that's so.

Storage. Dropbox provides 2 GB of storage for free, and offers annual subscriptions of up to 100GB. Live Mesh provides 5 GB of cloud storage for free and unlimited PC-to-PC sync. It's free. And this combination of peer-to-peer and peer-to-cloud capabilities means that you can completely bypass the cloud if you're freaked out by the possibility of your files being stored out in the Internet. You can't do that with Dropbox.

Works the way you work. Dropbox currently only provides a single folder (your "dropbox"), whose contents are synced to the cloud and to any connected devices. Windows Live Mesh lets you sync any number of folders, which can be stored anywhere in your file system, between PCs and, optionally, to the cloud. For example, I have separate Live Mesh folders for each of my books, for frequently used work-related documents, for favorite photos, and so on. I don't have to change my document storage scheme to match Dropbox's limited capabilities. I just work the way I always work.

Remote access. Live Mesh provides a free way to remotely access each connected PC, similar to Remote Desktop Connection, which works from anywhere online. So if you need a file that is not synced but is stored on a different PC, you can simply connect to that PC and drag and drop it over to your current machine.

Application settings and configuration sync. It's limited now, but Live Mesh also syncs Internet Explorer favorites and Microsoft Office styles, templates, custom dictionary, and email signatures between all connected PCs.

I have used and relied on Windows Live Mesh for years, and it provides a safe and secure way to sync my work between multiple PCs and, in the case of my books, share sync files between me and my coauthor. I see no need for Dropbox at all. And while the recent security issue is just the icing on the so-called cake, that's just an excuse. Dropbox never made any sense to me, and I suspect it really doesn't answer a need of most of the people reading this.


So, for whatever it's worth, I too did use this recent security issue has a "reason" to cancel my Dropbox account. But come on. I wasn't using it in the first place, and I should have closed it years ago. If you're a Windows user, you should think about doing the same. You have a superior and free alternative that's better integrated right into Windows. It's called Windows Live Mesh.

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