How Can I Easily Share Files with Colleagues?

Are you looking for an easy way to share files with your colleagues who use a mix of Macs and PCs? There are many online file sharing and storage systems, but I use and recommend Dropbox. I’ve tried a handful of systems including SugarSync, Windows LiveMesh, Box and GoogleDocs. While I use several of these services on an on-going basis, I think Dropbox is the most versatile and has the best mix of features that I use and care about.

Here’s a list of some of my needs:

  • I want a fast, affordable, easy-to-use and secure system. I want to keep the files locally on my computer and have them get copied (synced) to my colleagues Mac or PC.
  • I want to be able to share different folders with different people.
  • I want to be able to access the shared folders and some of the files from my iPhone and iPad.

Dropbox meets all of these needs and has many other handy features. Here are some highlights:

  • It provides status indicators when files are getting synced and optional on-screen notification messages when files have been added, deleted or edited.
  • It saves older versions of files so you can retrieve a previous version.
  • It lets you view your shared folders and files from their web site, so you can access any file from any computer which has an Internet connection.
  • If two people simultaneously edit the same file, it’s smart enough to save both copies and point out this conflict.
  • Files stored in Dropbox can be accessed on iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, Android-based phones and tablets.
  • There is a special Public folder which can be used to share a file with the entire world, if you want. Any file in the public folder has a “public link” which can be put in an email or on a web site to provide an easy way for others to download this file. This is a handy way to share a file that is too large to send as an email attachment.

[Update February 2017:  Dropbox is eliminating the Public folder on March 15, 2017.]

Dropbox is capable and versatile, but it’s not as robust as a full-fledged file server to which you might be accustomed. In particular it’s important to know that you can’t share a folder inside another shared folder. Instead you would need to create a separate shared folder outside of the shared folder. Anyone you’ve invited to a folder can then add, delete or change files within that folder. Anyone you’ve invited to a folder can then invite others to join the folder. As the owner of the folder you can see the list of people who have access and you can revoke somebody’s access privileges at any time.

You can try Dropbox for free. A free account includes 2 GB of storage space. If or when you outgrow that 2 GB of storage space you can buy more storage space. 50 GB of storage space costs $100 per year or 100 GB of storage space costs $200 per year. Give Dropbox a try. I think you’ll like it.

If you chose to sign-up for Dropbox, please consider using this link to do so since I’ll earn a referral bonus. Thanks.