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Using Dropbox Smart Sync For Remote Storage

Monday June 17, 2019. 03:00 PM , from MacMost
A new feature added to Dropbox is the ability to set files or folders to be Online-only. The ideal use for this would seem to be archiving your old files to Dropbox instead of vulnerable local hard drives. While it works for that, the process is rather clunkly, forcing you to set and reset an archive folder to be Online-only and also minding your settings on all of your devices as you add files to Dropbox.

Check out Using Dropbox Smart Sync For Remote Storage at YouTube for closed captioning and more options.
Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with Today I want to talk about a new feature in Dropbox that allows you to use Dropbox as remote storage.
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So the problem with cloud storage is that it doesn't necessarily save space on the hard drive. As a matter of fact it may take up more space. For instance, if you save a file on your desktop Mac that file will sync to your laptop Mac and take up space on both drives. Now a lot of times that's what we want. We want the file to be everywhere. But sometimes you want to actually take a file and get it off your drives completely, store it in the cloud, and not have a local copy. This can save space on your drive and allow you to archive old files that you probably don't need anymore but you don't want to completely throw away.
So the new feature introduced in Dropbox is something that's part of the Plus o rProfessional Individual Plan and it's called Dropbox Smart Sync. If you go to your Dropbox, Preferences you'll find a control for this under Sync and then Save hard drive space automatically. You can turn it On or Off. Unfortunately you have to turn it on or off for the entire account not just a selected folder which would be nice. So this isn't actually what I'm that excited about because turning this on basically it makes it like iCloud Drive but with Optimized turned on. Things will automatically get off loaded and save you space as files get older and you don't use them anymore. That's not that exciting to me.
What's more exciting to me is that you can now manually set a file or folder to be Offline Only. Now when you go to set this up it will ask you to install an extension for your Mac. Once you do that if you control click on something, like I have this Archive folder here in my Dropbox folder, and I've got Smart Sync. You can see I can switch it between Local and Online Only. Local is just like before. I have a local copy of this folder and all its contents at all times. But Online Only will actually remove it from my local hard drive and store it remotely.
You can see this Archive folder is 145 GB. The entire thing is set, you can tell by this icon here, to be remote only. That means that this Archive is not taking up any space on my drive yet I can still access all the files in them. It's far from perfect because it seems like I have to set this manually all the time. So, for instance, if I were to take this folder here that has a file in it, move that to Dropbox, and now it's there, it's going to sync it and that file, you can see, is now set to be Local. I can select the folder, change the folder to Online Only, and it will change the folder and all the files in it to be Online Only.
Now if I move a second file in there you'd think that that would be Online Only since that's what the folder is set to. Nope. That one is going to be Local as well. I have to either change that so that the individual file is Online Only or reset the folder again to Online Only for everything. So that's annoying. I love for a folder to be able to just be Online Only and anything I put in there automatically becomes Online Only.
So if we look back in the Preferences we can see under Sync there was the option to have New content default to Online Only. But that clearly wasn't working. So I'm not sure if that's a bug or I maybe don't understand that selection. Also, of course, I don't know whether I'd want that as the default for the entire account. I still want to use Dropbox normally. I just want to have an archive folder where I can off load things.
Another serious problem is even though I set this Docs folder to be offline only here. I added some stuff to it. I had to go and set it to be offline only again and it all seems to be good now. It's actually not good because my laptop actually shows these as being Local. So I have to go to my laptop now and tell my laptop also that these should be offline only. It's a real pain if you're adding say several gigabytes of stuff to archive. You have to set it to offline only, wait for it to sync on your laptop, and set that to offline only. You can do that before the sync is complete but you basically have to have both your machines in front of you in order to archive something otherwise the other one is going to download everything you've archived before you get a chance to say you want that to be offline only.
So you may have noticed another feature in the Preferences called Selective Sync. This is an old feature. It's been around for awhile that you can also use for offline storage. For that what you do is put a bunch of stuff in Dropbox and then take that folder and say I don't want it to sync to this computer and it disappears. So this file is no longer stored on your computer but you can't see them either. The only way to see them is go to You still have to go to your other machines and tell them that you also don't want to see that folder there or all that data is going to sync to those machines as well. So in a way it's got that same flaw.
This new feature is nice in that you can still see the files and get quick access to them when you need them. But it's still really clunky to use as true offline storage. Which is a shame. Now that Dropbox gives you 2TB of data for your Plus Plan it would be nice to use that rather than putting your archives on old aging hard drives that you stick in a drawer somewhere until they break. I'd love to see Dropbox either improve this feature so it can be better for offline storage or maybe add a new folder type that can be set to be offline storage and behave properly.
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