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Summary:

Earlier this week Om wrote about Dropbox, which he liked so much that we at GigaOM are trying it out for our file-sharing and backup needs. Also this week, FolderShare, another remote file access program, launched its first version since being acquired by Microsoft two-and-half years […]

Earlier this week Om wrote about Dropbox, which he liked so much that we at GigaOM are trying it out for our file-sharing and backup needs. Also this week, FolderShare, another remote file access program, launched its first version since being acquired by Microsoft two-and-half years ago. So I decided to try them out, too.

After playing around with both, I’m torn. The essential differences between the two stem from the fact that Dropbox is all about sending your data to the cloud and accessing it there, whereas FolderShare links two computers that are already online. So for remote access of your files, FolderShare is the clear winner, while Dropbox takes the cake for backup and collaborative work.


I used both programs to link my MacBook with my ancient Toshiba laptop, which runs Windows XP. I’m using Firefox as my browser, and it was nice to see that Microsoft’s FolderShare program respected that and didn’t seek to open in Explorer instead. Both took just a few minutes to install and were easy to get running. Dropbox didn’t install cleanly into the applications portion of my Mac’s hard drive, but I moved it over.

With the install over, it was time to play. I created a shared folder in Dropbox and had the option of either saving files into my Dropbox located on the desktop or going to the Dropbox web site and uploading them. This feature would be nice if I were working on some else’s computer and didn’t want to install the Dropbox client. Could you use this to upload proprietary corporate data even if it was protected from transfer to a USB drive?

To access a shared folder, you send out invites. With Dropbox currently in private beta, it’s a nice way to spread your Dropbox love to friends who might appreciate the site. Another fun things about Dropbox is that you can share your photos with non-Dropbox members via a URL, but that will show all the photos in your Dropbox photo file, so be careful who sees it.

Frankly, because I don’t collaborate with anyone using offline files like Word or Excel, and work from the same laptop all the time, I’m not sure how useful I find Dropbox. FolderShare, on the other hand, is appealing to me in the way it lets me access the random files I have stored on my personal laptop, such as contact data from Outlook and notes taken on my personal PC. I can also use it to grab photos and music fairly easily, although I do wish I could see thumbnails for my images in the display. That would require too much information to be stored on the Microsoft servers, though.

Another caveat is that for FolderShare to work, both computers have to be online. So hibernating computers need to be awakened from their slumber. Bottom line, you could use FolderShare for easy access to your files on various computers and Dropbox for backup and collaborative work. As a word of caution, both services were running pretty slowly while I was playing around with them.

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  1. One thing to add is the file versioning with DropBox. It’s great if you accidentally delete a file, or need to pull up an old version of a file.

  2. Блог без заголовка » Silicon Valley Report in Russian » FolderShare и Dropbox Monday, March 17, 2008

    [...] GigaOm обзор двух приложений для обмена файлами между компьютерами – FolderShare (нынче Microsoft) и DropBox (нынче в [...]

  3. I too installed both, intending to keep the folder where I keep most of my work synced between my MBP and my Sony Desktop, (yes, it’s kind of old).

    It turns out that Dropbox doesn’t support watching folders that already exist, (although they say it’s coming), which is what made me install FolderShare.

    However, after some reading it appears that Foldershare leaves *.p2p files all over the place in your shared folders, (one for every file that’s shared). Also, when I went to the web interface I could see my MBP’s whole filesystem. Faced with these realities of foldershare, and the unpleasant experience of trying to uninstall Office at some point years ago, I got rid of the Microsoft product ASAP.

    I’m not using DropBox that much yet, but am excited for the “Watch Any Folder” option when it comes out. When that happens, I’ll be using it constantly, albeit in the background.

  4. I’ve been playing with DropBox, and while it has a great albeit minimalistic interface, like FolderShare, it is /unsuitable/ as a backup tool. I’m unconvinced they are maintaining appropriate levels of security… Additionally, sites like http://www.elephantdrive.com and http://www.carbonite.com have been doing this for years, including the versioning mentioned above. ElephantDrive actually keeps versions in perpetuity for their subscribers, while other sites delete them after 30 days.

  5. @John B: I encourage you to try out SugarSync if you’re interested in sync + backup, while working with your existing folder structure. We found early on in our product design that this is what users want, so we designed the product to accommodate this use-case. There’s also an optional mobile component that allows you to access your files while on the go.

    Mark Dixon
    Director, Products

  6. I have been using FolderShare at least a year before they were acquired … this thing is ROCK SOLID!! This thing has never let me down, Honestly, you don’t see software built like this that often. I am syncing my files across four computers. I am not inclined to even try anything else.

  7. Homebizseo.com Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    The drop box is a must.

  8. Nitin Badjatia Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    I’ve been using foldershare since it was an independent company. It has to be one of the most stable applications I’ve ever used. The down side to FS, as stated in your piece, is offline access to files. Computers have to be on to access them. Dropbox takes care of that issue, and adds versioning. I’d love to see what they (dropbox) will charge for their service.

    Another one to check out is SugarSync. http://www.sugarsync.com. This seems to combine the great aspects of both FS and Dropbox into one application. SS is also using Amazon’s s3 for storage, much like Dropbox. SS also gives you the ability to access files via a mobile client, which is useful if you want to email someone a document while on the move.

    All in all, I think that the cloud is becoming a viable place to store files efficiently and effectively.

  9. Hi, here’s how I suggest using these services:

    Foldershare – for fast, P2P syncing of your media files across multiple PCs. So I sync my photos, videos and music across my PCs/media centre at home. I don’t often need remote access to these.

    Dropbox/Sugarsync – for syncing, sharing, backup and online access anytime for your documents. These are all my working files, etc that I want to be able to access wherever/whenever.

    I’m using Dropbox at the moment because I find it fast and light. Note that Sugarsync has a nice mobile version of their site for accessing files.

    Cheers

  10. SugarSync can’t sync/backup folders on external drives on the mac yet, which means I can’t use it yet as all my data is on an external firewire drive. They say it is coming, though.

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