File Sharing and Backup

by Scott Austin April 12, 2012

Disclaimer – I am not associated with products / services that I discuss on this blog.  I’m not getting paid/compensated in any way.  It’s just me sharing my opinion.

As a startup (ie cheap), we don't have a file server for storing and sharing our files.  So each of us is storing the files we create on our PCs.  This is obviously a concern when it comes to backups as we don't want to lose our data in the case of losing a computer.  This is where cloud storage comes into play.  Today, there are many cloud storage options including Microsoft SkyDrive, Google Docs, Apple iCloud and DropBox.  And for me, what works best is a combination of some of these services.  Not the ideal of one solution that meets all needs.  But in the end, you get a lot of functionality.

I work on a variety of devices. My main machine for grinding out work is a Dell desktop. I've also got a Win7 netbook for portable needs. And I've got an iPad which I generally use a reading device. Plus, I've got my Android smartphone, the Galaxy II S. So, I consistently use four different devices on three different operating systems.  Here's how I do it:

The Good - DropBox

DropBox is the bomb for me.  I've installed and used it on Win7, iPod Touch, iPad, Android and Windows Phone.  It works seamlessly on all of these devices.  Setup and use is very simple.  DropBox gives you a folder on your local device where you can store your files.  The local folder is great for those times when you do not have connectivity (which still happens in 2012).  That local folder gets synched the cloud by DropBox constantly and seamlessly.  So you have a cloud backup of your files.  Then, everywhere else that you install DropBox, the folder (and all files and sub-folders) get synched there too.  So, no matter what device you are on, you have an up-to-date set of files.

You can easily share files in your dropbox with others by giving them the files internet address.  You can even use it to serve image files for your website if you like.

After using it for a while, you'll start to come up with great ways to use this.  For example, I'm now in the habit of making PDF versions of my PowerPoints.  That way, I can easily show the presentation to someone on my iPad by showing the PDF.   My Android phone now automatically puts my camera photos in DropBox so they are synched.

DropBox starts off giving you 2 GB of storage for free with the ability to purchase more space.  2 GB isn't going to be enough to store all of your photos and videos.  I use it for my 'working' files.  You can also get more free storage by referring others to sign up for the service.  The max free storage space recently got increased to 16 GB.

The Bad - iCloud

iCloud works great with Apple products. But I only use Apple for my iPad. So I haven't even tried iCloud.

The Ugly - Google Docs

Google Docs allows you to store any file type, not just ones that are created on Google Docs apps.  But the storage is cloud only with no ability to automatically synch with your local device.  And working with non-Google Docs file types is a huge pain.  So I only use Google Docs to store files that are created in Google Docs apps.  It works great for this.  Google Docs allows you to easily give (and take away) access to other users.  And my favorite part is that multiple people can edit the same file at the same time with each user seeing all of the updates.

The Unknown - SkyDrive

I used to be a big fan of SkyDrive when all of my devices were MSFT.  Now that I am on multiple devices, I have moved away from SkyDrive.  But I've been reading that MSFT is now working on making SkyDrive work across competitive OS's.  I've already got OneNote files synching across all three OS's.  So SkyDrive might be option again.

SkyDrive gives you 25GB of free storage!

Here's a Fast Company article on the topic if you want even more information. My quick summary is this.  Use DropBox!  If you have not installed it, do so now.
Scott Austin
Scott Austin