Blog Post

Hosting content using Dropbox public folder

Hosting content using Dropbox public folder
At this point, Dropbox is arguably the most well-known cloud storage service on the market. Whether an advocate of Dropbox or otherwise, I'd like to share with readers a cool feature that allows your Dropbox public folder to be used as a host for your web content.
By taking advantage of Dropbox's public folder and the ability to share public links, those wanting to avoid a full plunge into selecting a host but wishing to have live web content should definitely like having this easy-to-do hosting option. While using Dropbox in this way might not meet the needs of all designers, it can be particularly useful to educators.
If you've wondered before about what web service to enlist in order to host your content, you've had to make a number of decisions. Your site's purpose, expectations for usage, and the relative cost associated with maintaining your site through a hosting service are just a few worthy considerations. For those planning to run complex programs that amaze or wanting the ability to store server side code, in my experience the best plan still remains finding a professional hosting service with the server space and ability to provide you with a custom url, among other features. 
Otherwise, using Dropbox as a host can offer open access and flexibility users appreciate, especially in terms of placing content online for educational and personal purposes where no expectations for future profits exists. If you are just trying to have a basic webpage but don't want to pay the cost of have a professional host nor compromise your ability to manipulate your page's code, hosting your own files through Dropbox emerges as a great alternative.
The benefits of hosting through Dropbox go beyond saving money and the ability to fully control your content. The possibility exists to use this option as a classroom tool for those wanting to teach coding to students but not wanting to send them off to for-profit companies in search of a content host. Teaching some of the technicalities of the web to students as a reflective process is easier using this hosting option due to the ability to turn students into full-fledges managers of their own materials. Hosting through Dropbox also provides teachers and students the ability to change content quickly from any location with a connection to Dropbox, and create easier sharing possibilities among classmates.
Of course, there are a few limitations to hosting through Dropbox that are worth noting. Depending on the amount of content your site has, the speed at which your page loads might be slow enough that the delay becomes frustrating or difficult to mitigate. This means some of the best features of HTML5 (audio and video) might not work as well as you'd like compared to a purchased web host or other free limited-manipulation alternatives. As alluded to before, your url can't be user specified and instead consists of a Dropbox domain, making the Dropbox hosting option less-than-ideal for those wishing to give off professional vibes. Finally, if you opened your Dropbox account after Oct. 4, 2012, you will need to create your own public folder, so this requires an extra step detailed through this link to Dropbox's website that should be completed prior to beginning the below steps.
For me, in upcoming writing courses I plan to have my students create public folders and host their own content through these folders. While this requires time for lessons about coding, the tradeoff in the end should outweigh the cost in time when students are better able to reflect on their knowledge of basic HTML and CSS code to understand languages abstractly as formed through recognizable structures.
Below are the basic steps to creating your own host folder. I hope readers find this information helpful to their own teaching and learning (sorry the images are so small....please zoom in for a better view).
1. Create folder and put HTML, CSS and other files for your webpage in it
2. Locate your public folder (instructions on creating a public folder above) in Dropbox folder (first image below) or on the actual website (second image below)
3.  Copy folder you created with your webpage and paste it to your public folder
4. Go in folder to your HTML file and right-click [cmnd-click], then copy public link in Dropbox folder (first image below) or on the actual website (second image below)
5. Paste the link into your browser
6. View your page!