Use of dropbox as a backup


I’m new to DT (Just paid for the Pro Office 4 days ago…)…
Sorry for the Q. but could’t find answer after 3 hours of searching the forum.

I fully understand that storing the DT database in dropbox is wrong and could cause problem when accessing it from more than one mac…

My Q. is, what if I only use one mac?? may I leave the DT database inside the dropbox folder in my mac in that case? just for the automatic backup?
Can’t see the problem here as it will just copy the database to the cloud(dropbox) without changing anything… so I use it as a perfect backup for my DT database, and I don’t need to schedule any sync using DT preference sync option.

Again, I’m using only one mac with DT and I don’t need any access from another.

Thank you for prompt replay.


It’s not an issue with multiple users, multiple clients, or multiple anything else. It’s limitations on the Dropbox technology. Not that there’s anything wrong with Dropbox, but Dropbox is not omniscient and doesn’t know how to maintain database consistency when copying databases hither and about.

Thank you for your super-prompt replay!

Can you be more specific on this topic?
As far as my understanding… when there is no modification of the file/database from another dropbox connected machine… Dropbox only copy what it see in my dropbox folder on the mac… it is like a mirror image of everything in that folder… Dropbox does not suppose to change or maintain or rearrange anything it just copy what it see to the cloud… one to one…
I really want to understand what’s the point you think dropbox will mess my DT database… an example will be more the perfect.


You seem to be under the impression that there is only one client at any given time. This is incorrect. Dropbox itself – its storage system – also acts as a client.

There are many files being created and destroyed very quickly, sometimes with identical names, sometimes not, and large files are rewritten continuously.

The folder contents are an incomplete representation of database state – there is almost constantly information in flux.

Users have been reporting issues with keeping their databases in Dropbox for years now. Some were doing it to sync. Others were doing it as backup. Not all had problems. Many did. (Many didn’t notice any issues until they installed the Sync plugin which, being a very paranoid bit of code, noticed all of the missing files, damaged records, and other things that the user just didn’t see in daily operation… then blamed the Sync plugin :frowning:)

IMHO the following should be engraved on all DEVONthink users’ hearts and minds:



But you can sync to your Dropbox account. This is quite different from having your Database file stored in your Dropbox folder, and is fully supported by DEVONthink… and has the same effect as you want…a remote backup.

Start by going to Sync in Preferences, and add your Dropbox Account in Locations.

You also need to go Selective Sync in Dropbox and exclude Devonthink in the “Apps” section to avoid it being downloaded to your Dropbox Folder on the computer.

If you ever needed to, you could recover the database from the Dropbox account, by going to “Import Database” in the Sync prefs, and selecting your Dropbox account as the source.

There is some guidance on this in one of the tutorials, and it might be worth buying the Take Control of Devonthink book.

EDIT you might want to look at this thread for more discussion of this. Although syncing to the Dropbox account is fully supported, and can be used as a means of restoring a database, there is a lot of resistance to regarding this a backup, even though it is. The mantra about not having your databases in your Dropbox folder is so strong that using the supported Dropbox method seems to be frowned on.

Regarding Sync stored data in any form, whether on Dropbox or not, as a database backup can be dangerous. That danger would become real in any case in which Sync was performed afterwards, whether from the same computer or another. There’s not permanent retention of the database “backup” in that case. The “backup” could be modified, and possibly could involve loss of important data that had been deliberately or inadvertently deleted prior to second Sync.

From a quality assurance perspective, I don’t regard Sync data as database backup. When I create a backup, I want it to remain unaltered, available in the future if needed to restore information that had been lost.

I like DEVONthink Database Archives, because they meet that criterion.

I like Time Machine, because it maintains a series of backups over time that one can return to, if something has gone wrong with a database in use (although, as Time Machine doesn’t know how to check for database errors, at least every few days I check open databases using Verify & Repair).

I would not be satisfied with any backup routine that modifies the previous backup and doesn’t retain it for long, such as a daily backup that writes over the previous daily backup. Although that’s arguably better than no backup, if something goes wrong that I didn’t catch, the next backup perpetuates that problem.

There is a danger this will become a repeat of the the thread I linked in my post.

I agree it would be poor practice to have the Dropbox sync store as the only means of back up. It is like a live (well, hourly at best) backup of what is on your computer, so if what is on your computer becomes corrupt or you delete something you didn’t mean to, then the Dropbox sync store will not save you, as it will have the same issues.

Versioned backups like Time Machine or deliberately archived versions protect against the shortcomings of the Dropbox syncstore method.

Like all backup strategies there is no single method which covers all eventualities, but the Dropbox syncstore method has it’s place in the backup armoury. If all your computer equipment was stolen or burnt, including your Time machine disk, and your remote site backups were a week/month out of date, then Dropbox would save you.

I agree.

A good backup system should be redundant and provide for both onsite and offsite backups.

The reason I noted that it can be dangerous to assume that Sync data files constitute a backup (whether or not involving Dropbox) is that in Support we’ve encountered several users who assumed that Sync itself provided adequate backup. They came to Support with an issue of lost data after Sync, with no safety net backups. We can offer sympathy, but that doesn’t retrieve lost data.

THANK YOU all for your replays!!

so I moved the database out of dropbox J.

Q.1 - I understand that dropbox does not considered to be a good backup… what will be the best way to do that? as I also understand from your answers that using the sync option in DT is not the “best” idea…

Q.2 - after using sync to store DT database in dropbox… it’s seems that I can’t search dropbox any more for a specific file using the dropbox iPhone app. (it’s worked before I moved the database out)

Q.3 - I also install the DT iPhone app, just to find out that it can’t actually access DT database via dropbox… is that mean that I need to download all my over 35G DT database to my iPhone ?? is there a better way to to that ?


Re Q1: Placing your database in Dropbox may damage the database. I noted that the Sync store in Dropbox isn’t an ideal backup, because it may be modified each time Sync happens, perhaps incorporating an unintentional user action that removes important data. Simply put, I prefer more permanent backups. :slight_smile:

Re Q2: The Sync store doesn’t use the Dropbox folder.

Re Q3): If you want the document files of a DEVONthink database to be available via Dropbox to other Macs and iOS devices, that could be done by exporting the contents of the existing database to a new folder stored in the Dropbox folder. Then create a new DEVONthink database and use File > Index to capture all the contents of that new folder in Dropbox to the new DEVONthink database.

Q1. The conversation Bill and I had above agreed that having a Dropbox sync store (i.e. the DT approved use of Dropbox) as your only backup was not good, but it works, can be automated, costs nothing and is a legitimate complement to other methods.

Q2. As Bill says if you set up a Dropbox sync store up according to the DT approved method your Database does not exist in your Dropbox folder. The data is in the cloud in (in “Apps”) but not in a single entity Database format.

Q3. DEVONthink toGo (DTTG) does not use Dropbox at all. You install it on your iPhone and it syncs directly with the Mac. Within DEVONthink Office you have to “replicate” any files in you want to be on your iPhone into the “Mobile Sync” folder in your database (which could be the whole database). Then initiate syncing manually from your phone (no automation or scheduling). It will upload the contents of the “Mobile sync” folder. And also download any docs on the iPhone to the Mac.
Warning, DTTG is not one of DEVONthink teams best apps and there is a major change Version 2 imminent. Read the DTTG forum for some of the current problems with DTTG version 1.
I have never used indexing in any form, but Bill’s suggestion is another possibly better way.

As I said earlier I think you would find “Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink” well worth $15.

Agree entirely with this, almost a “must have” I would say.