For a cyber version of “Singing in the Rain”, how about “Syncing in the Cloud”? This week’s question concerns how to synchronize and share documents between individuals and groups even across different operating platforms.
I searched for a user friendly, reliable and, (you guessed) free way to do it. If you have a work team, a volunteer group or maybe a club or alumni association that you need to share some files with, then I have an answer for you. Even if you don’t have a group. You may want to synchronize a file or files across several PCs or Macs that you use; at work, at home or on the road.
There are several useful programs available, but for my money, (free) first choice is Dropbox. It’s easy to setup and it’s easy to explain to your partners. It works on Windows platforms, Macs, Linux and even on some mobile devices. You can share files in a public way or you can share with just certain members of Dropbox. Files are stored on Dropbox’s secure servers and you can access them from any computer with Internet service.
The user interface is very simple; you can drag and drop files from the Dropbox Folder just as if it were on your computer. If you have broadband Internet Service, transfers and updates will appear almost instantaneously. When you save changes to a document, Dropbox synchronizes them on all your computers.
To get started, go to Dropbox.com and sign up for an account; you’ll need an email address and a password. Then download the Dropbox software to your computer and you’re in business. Download the Dropbox software to all the computers that you want to share with and now you’re set to start syncing and sharing; “Syncing in the Cloud” as I said before.
In you want to share files in a more or less public way, use the” Public Folder” built in to Dropbox and simply send the Dropbox Web address for that folder to anyone you want to see it. The Public Folder lets you easily share single files in your Dropbox. Any file you put in this folder gets its own Internet link so that you can share it with others– even non-Dropbox users! These links work on someone else’s computer even if your computer’s turned off.
If there are files you just want to share with a certain group of users, set up a “Shared Folder” and assign users emails to it so that they can access the file, make changes and then you can all use the modified, synced file.
Photo sharing has special features when you use the Dropbox folder called “Photos”. These images can be viewed as a photo gallery online even by non-Dropbox users.
Dropbox limits free service to 2 gigabytes and there is currently no data encryption provided. You can purchase space for larger files if you have need.