Using Dropbox as Backup Storage

A few weeks back when I went on holiday, I did an unheard thing – I left my laptop at home. While I was doubtful initially, I realizedI could manage without my laptop. However, a day into the trip I realized I hadn’t locked up the internal bedroom doors and our house was susceptible to a break-in. One thought rushed through my head – what if they stole my laptop? My entire life is on it!

I know my priorities are a little skewed but come to think of it, I have over 10 years of documents, photos, videos and other files hosted on my laptop with know recent backups. So I made a note to make sure I made a backup of all my important files.

Since I’m a big believer in cloud storage, I knew I needed online backup storage since experience has taught me DVDs tend to get lost and external hard drives can easily fail. After looking at several storage options, it occurred to me, why not use my existing Dropbox Pro service? I already have an annual plan with 100 GB of storage and I love the multiple device syncing that it offers me, not to mention the security and stability of the service.

There was one hitch. Dropbox requires you to move all files/folders into the Dropbox storage folder. I didn’t want to change the structure of my files and I didn’t want a duplicate folder of my key documents. And that’s where the handy tip of symbolic links came into play.

Symbolic links will essentially create a shortcut to your original file/folder without having to move anything around. All you need to do is do some handiwork in Terminal:

  • Make a note of the folder you want to copy into Dropbox. i.e. if you want to copy a sub-folder called Work in the Documents folder, the path is /Documents/Work
  • In Terminal, navigate to the Dropbox folder using the following command:

cd Dropbox

  • Now use the following command to create a symbolic link for the Work subfolder in the Dropbox folder:

ln -s ~/Documents/Work

And you’re done! Repeat for all your important folders and leave your laptop at home stress-free!

Based on this tip from Macworld.

Update: After 12 days, I have finally synced up two of my key folders (Documents and Pictures) via Dropbox. Dropbox doesn’t have the fastest upload speed so I recommend that you don’t backup all your files at once.