Dear Lifehacker, My favourite file-syncing tool, Dropbox, suffered a big outage this morning, leaving me high and dry for file syncing and file sharing. What do I do when Dropbox goes down?
Signed, Dropbox Dependent
Dear Dependent, If there's one thing that makes us occasionally second guess our love for the cloud, it's when something we depend on goes down. This morning, Dropbox went down; at the moment, web access has been restored, but it's still a little shaky.
The Good News
The beautiful thing about a service like Dropbox is that if you're using it primarily to sync files between your own computers, you're not really going to have any serious problems if Dropbox goes down for a few minutes or even an entire day. Since you've got offline copies of your Dropbox files synced to every computer you've installed Dropbox to, it'd be sort of like if Gmail's web app and IMAP went down, but you were using a desktop client accessing an email database archived on the hard drive every computer you have. That's a pretty sweet situation.
Still, if a Dropbox outage really cramps your style, you've got options.
What Do I Do...
...to Get Syncing Again? If you're extremely eager (read: desperate) to start syncing files Dropbox-style and Dropbox is still down, you could try out an alternative Dropbox-like file-syncing tool along the lines of SugarSync, Syncplicity or Windows Live Mesh (the last two are Windows only).
You'd probably really only need to do this if you only need to sync a set of files (rather than re-syncing your entire Dropbox directory, which could take a while) and it's extremely important to your workflow that you get multi-machine syncing back up and running right away.
Note: Dropbox does support syncing over your local area network, meaning that if you've got two or more computers on the same LAN, you may be able to continue using Dropbox to sync locally without any hiccups. One Lifehacker editor said this was working for him while Dropbox was down; for others of us, it wasn't. Your mileage may vary, but if it is working, let us know in the comments.
...to Share Files? Apart from personal file syncing, Dropbox's other major use case has always been sharing files between friends and co-workers — something it excels at. You drop a file in your Dropbox folder, grab a public link to share, and paste it for a friend to download.
When Dropbox is down, you're probably looking for other options. To that end, consider checking out these four solid file-sharing alternatives to Dropbox. Personally, I've always liked Drop.io's quick, ad-spam-free file-sharing tools, but the others listed will do the trick nicely, too.
...for Everything Else I Count On It For? It's a pretty safe bet that, for the most part, Dropbox won't stay down for more than a few hours. In the lifespan of the service, I'm not sure I can remember another major downtime. If you use Dropbox for other purposes beyond file syncing and sharing — say, for example, to host a static website, start your BitTorrent downloads, sync passwords, and , and you really need those things to work all the time, you may want to consider a backup solution.
For your hosting needs, you might consider finding an inexpensive personal web host; for remote BitTorrent downloading, you could start using uTorrent's remote web interface; and for password syncing, we're huge fans of putting LastPass in charge.
Cloud doom and gloom aside (sure we rely on it and it sometimes lets us down, but cloud services are getting more and more reliable every year), for most people, the easiest solution is "just wait". As I was writing this up, the Dropbox status page turned from "down" to "running normally", so things don't look like they got too dire.