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How can I share data files with someone in a different location?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / February 24, 2012 7:50 AM PST
How can I share data files with someone in a different location?

I have a particular question, and I get different answers from
different tech people and salespersons at Fry's and Best Buy.

Here's my dilemma: my business partner works from home, while I am in
the office using a Windows 7 desktop. This desktop contains most of
the files. There are many times when he needs to access the files, so
I have to e-mail them to him. It's become a distraction and slows down
our work process. My question is what's the best solution to remedy this?
What's the best way to share files and work independently of each
other? Do we need to get a server? We're trying to keep down costs and
I've seen that they can run pretty expensive. Do we need a NAS? Can we
use another desktop computer as a "server"?

I think Pogoplug concept is nice, but I don't seem to read good or
great reviews about them. Any suggestions?

- Submitted by Tim
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You might try Dropbox
by jaflady / February 24, 2012 9:40 AM PST

A group of co-workers on a project share all our information using Dropbox. We each have a connection to dropbox on our computers, tablets or phones. We all save anything related to our group project into the shared dropbox and then everyone else can access it. It seems to work well. And I know of other groups who also use it. There are other similar programs/aps whatever we call them these days - but this is the main one I have worked with.

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Dropbox is the best answer !!
by aceaceace / March 2, 2012 9:51 AM PST
In reply to: You might try Dropbox

Dropbox is super cool and easy to use. Download, install, create a folder then share it with your co-worker. It will take 5 minutes tops. Everything you put into the Dropbox folder will show up magically in the co-workers Dropbox folder, if you make a change it will magically change on the other computer, if you drag it out of the folder it will disappear from the other computer.

If you click this next link to get your new Dropbox account I will get a referral 1/4 extra GB of space from Dropbox and you will get a Dropbox 2GB account for free! Never use a USB flashdrive ever again.

If you are worried about security and encryption, use another free program called TruCrypt. Encrypt your files right in your Dropbox folder. More info is here:

If the files you share are a spreadsheet or a document, then use Google Docs. Super easy to share a file, it is designed for document collaboration.


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by gbswales / March 2, 2012 2:53 PM PST

My understanding files are encrypted during transmission with dropbox - though of course not encrypted to the user when logged in. For me dropbox is the ideal solution which in addtion to syncing copies of the files stored at both locations (the files are in each dropbox folder on the computer as well as in the dropbox folder online.

1) You access files normally on each computer because that is where they are so apart from when they are actually updating you load them as quickly as any other file
2) You can access files even if your internet connection is down, they will synchronise when you re-connect
3) You can also copy files to a public folder in dropbox (this doesnt mean the world can just find them) it is a public sharing folder so if you have a large client presentation say, you can keep this in the public folder and any time you want to send it to a client you can instead send a link to the specific document in dropbox - this gets around the problems of some clients not receiving attachments
4) If you happen to be elswhere, at a client or on holiday, you can access your files from any computer with an internet connection without having to lug your laptop around
5) You can also use apps for both Android and iOS to access the same files, or upload new files, from your mobile or tablet device

I have used dropbox since it first came out and apart from one well publicised security issue (which has now been fixed) it has been 100% reliable for me and easier to use than any other file sharing method I have tried.

Some mention google docs - hmm OK if you want to use the google software rather than your own but I prefer to do my editing off the cloud.

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by webserf / March 2, 2012 9:59 AM PST
In reply to: You might try Dropbox

You can get a secured 2 gigs of storage. This is plenty of storage for documents, and typical office files, such as excel, photographs etc. Also, files can be worked on and saved to the Dropbox file, and collaborative efforts are possible HOWEVER, if you mutually work on a file, you cannot work in a "whiteboard" fashion. So, it is best if one person works a file and saves it, before the person on the other end picks up and works on it..
Also, it's a good idea to keep a back up copy of files in a separate folder, even if it's another Dropbox.
There are other cloud storage options, but I've found Dropbox to be simple to use, and simple to implement. If you find it valuable for your business, you can also add storage and the price is reasonable..

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A Business
by Hforman / March 2, 2012 11:14 AM PST
In reply to: DROPBOX.

Remember this is for a business. If he has CUSTOMER data, you would not want to share that on a dropbox account, especially if the data is customer medical records.

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I agree
by webserf / March 3, 2012 5:59 AM PST
In reply to: A Business

There is no guarantee that the files will ever be safe once they are in the cloud, if that "cloud" is not controlled by the owner of the files. ANY cloud storage is subject to certain risks so it becomes a matter of what information is being pushed up there, and the potential liability. In MOST all cases the data is safe. An individual's information from an everyday business would probably not be of much interest to those who have the ability to hack into it.
The level of protection that one might be looking for is directly related to the sensitivity of that data.
That said, even banks and other keepers of personal information have had breaches. There ARE risks.
Make a decision as to what level your information needs protection and I'd wager that the more protected it needs to be, the more valuable your overall business is as well, therefore, you can manage to pay for the additional protection.

I think a secure Dropbox account is a reasonable choice for most businesses. As well the data that is pushed into the box can be password protected, and encrypted.
At the risk of wash, rinse, repeat: Determine the value of your information and seek out the level of storage and protection you need.

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Dropbox idea is great, lots of bugs so backup elsewhere also
by JTSTCnet / June 17, 2012 2:25 AM PDT
In reply to: You might try Dropbox

Be aware that dropbox has tons of bugs which means you need to back up all your files somewhere else as they may disappear off of dropbox without one of the users deleting them. Also, sharing can suddenly be removed, meaning you can no longer share files and have to go reset the settings (which can cause it's own problems). Since the documentation is very poor, support is very slow and takes a quick look and sends out a standard reply (often missing what really happened/is going on) and there are tons of problems being reported in the forum so good luck searching through them to get an answer or getting your problem replied to, it will take you a lot of time to resolve the issue.

But if you want a free product, that you can share files to (not caring if you have to put in extra time when it doesn't work) and you keep copies of all files somewhere secure, then dropbox is useful.

We had a problem, checked their forum and found tons of people with problems.
The software is created so that if one person deletes or changes a file, dropbox does the same thing on all locations. But many people report that files were deleted when they didn't do any delete. At times dropbox support said they found an event that showed someone deleted the files, but about 25% of the time the answer was yes the file was deleted and we didn't see [an event that indicated] anyone delete the file.
So make sure everything is backed up, do no rely on dropbox to backup the files for you.

The problem we had was sharing all of a sudden stopped. We didn't know why. In debugging the problem (dropbox replies quickly with standard simple answers, but it takes them 24 hours or much longer to respond when they can't spit out on of the simple answers that might have caused your problem. Note the simple answers do not necessarily apply to your situation, just standard ones they have available - like someone must have deleted the file, go look at the events to see if someone deleted the file.
There was no event saying anyone had unshared the folder. We were doing our own debugging while waiting for dropbox, and found there was sharing issues. Each user's webpage for dropbox showed files that matched their computer, but the two webpages didn't show the same list of files. We noticed that sharing had stopped. There was a rejoin button, so we clicked it. But instead of restarting the sharing, it created a new copy of the files and synced it to the other account. Now we had a bigger problem, two sets of files that didn't match and oh, we now exceeded our dropbox account size (which the dropbox support person nicely pointed out was a way that sharing stopped, rather than checking the events to see that sharing had stopped before we tried a rejoin).

End note - back everything, don't trust that dropbox is really doing sharing or keeping your files.
From what I saw, about 3/4 of the problems people listed in dropbox were from people who had not set it up correctly (e.g. their antivirus was stopping dropbox from working), but about 1/4 of the problems with deleted files and sharing problems were dropbox bugs.

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Not here.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 17, 2012 2:36 AM PDT

When I don't have dropbox running I still have my synced files on my machine.

Also, if someone deletes the files, these are not deleted from my machine until I give the OK!

Something odd is causing you problems as you noted but here? ALL GOOD.

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Yes, here
by JTSTCnet / June 17, 2012 4:15 AM PDT
In reply to: Not here.

Bob, you say:
"When I don't have dropbox running I still have my synced files on my machine"
The problem is dropbox runs when your computer is running, the "synced" files change on their own, so when anyone at any synced location changes a file/deletes a file, the ones on your computer change also.

You also said "Also, if someone deletes the files, these are not deleted from my machine until I give the OK!"

So where is the documentation about that feature (and one that says you don't accept any file changes anyone else did without you oking them - same issue)? That goes against the purpose of dropbox, to automatically keep everything in sync. As I said, their standard help documentation is sparse and I saw no mention of this "feature".

I used to "love" dropbox and tell everyone about it, until we ran into these problems and I started reading the forums and seeing all the people having problems with files "disappearing" and syncing not working and while debugging learning how dropbox was really written to work.

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I'm sure there is documentation on that feature.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 17, 2012 12:06 PM PDT
In reply to: Yes, here

I am using the stock version and settings and see the verification popup when I delete a file from my other machine.

You seem a little combative and I hope we can find out why you are losing files like this.

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You guys are missing the point which is very frustrating
by JTSTCnet / June 18, 2012 9:17 AM PDT

When you delete a file it asks do you really want to delete the file.
This is NOT what I am talking about.

The problem is counting on the files being there as you are a business and need to share files with different computers (different people sharing them or having them there when you go to another location).

Other users are finding:
The files are deleting and therefore not available to them when they need them (and to avoid this they have to back them up on both locations often - daily, as soon as they get them, etc.).
Dropbox stops sharing - and the feature of dropbox (have two or more locations being able to see them) is not longer there. So you are back to emailing pictures to each other or having to wait till you get to other computer - e.g. Dropbox is not functional.

This does not happen all the time, took us 3-4 months of heavy useage before we ran into the problem.

I am trying to warn people don't Count on Dropbox working, there are a lot of bugs.
Yes it is useful but don't count on it working.
Spend time backing up daily (or more often) so you have the files at both sides (vs counting on dropbox working).
Have a backup plan with Dropbox stops working and don't expect Dropbox to be able to resolve the issues at all let alone in a timely manner.

I am bowing out of this conversation, the business users that want to count on dropbox understand fully what I am saying, as I said they can easily verify what I said by checking the dropbox forum.

Waytron - as I said, 3/4 looks like user caused (e.g. software setup on their computer like antivirus stops dropbox) 1/4 is dropbox bugs. And the lack of customer support is the same for paid accounts and non paid accounts, though they seem to come back quicker with the paid accounts (but still the problems don't get solved unless it is something simple like turn off your antivirus). We considered going up to paid version, but are taking another paid product instead because of the problems dropbox has.

Now, to make sure I don't get any more emails when people respond to this post.....

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Didn't miss a thing.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 18, 2012 9:25 AM PDT

Here when I delete a file on one machine the other machine pops up with a notice that allows me to save it or recover it.

Again you seem to misunderstand this is a discussion that we could try to figure out why you are losing a file without that notice.

-> But I'd like to understand why any business person would put their last copy of a file on such a place.

ALL MY DROPBOX FILES are not my last copies. Even if my dropbox content vanished I wouldn't lose a single file.

Are you new to PCs and file management? I think you have another discussion about this where I brought up the old Novel and file servers and you didn't seem to know about that.

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PS. Sorry, not you. But here's a link where be are
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 18, 2012 9:28 AM PDT
In reply to: Didn't miss a thing.
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No problems with dropbox
by waytron / June 17, 2012 5:24 AM PDT

I have several hundred clients that have been using dropbox for well over a year as well as several businesses using Dropbox for teams and have never had a single problem. Backing up your data goes without saying. You should never just a single copy of any data regardless of where it is.

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hmm unable to backup your claims
by JTSTCnet / June 17, 2012 7:18 AM PDT

Well your reply said it all. The feature you said that prevented others from deleting a file from a shared dropbox folder - you could not provide any documentation about this feature. Never seen it, and as I pointed out it does not fit with the purpose of dropbox.

Yeah, I used dropbox also as a business, for about 4 months, until we ran into a dropbox bug which led to other bug and I read the forum to see all the problems there.

I suggest for anyone to look at the dropbox forum user sight to see what users are reporting as problems. Note, there is no way to see the number of problems they reported directly to dropbox.
A lot of problem reported every hour when I checked, problems with no syncing and even worse deleted files.

Dropbox support is virtually non existent, so of little help when you run into a problem and no way to contact them except online (no chat no phone calls)

Use Dropbox at your own risk, being aware of the problems it has.

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User Error????
by waytron / June 17, 2012 10:23 AM PDT

I can only guess that these problems are probably due to either user error, virus infected computers or other issues unrelated to DropBox. I have not seen ANY problems with the installations with my clients. I don't see what the big deal is with deleted files. Dropbox keeps deleted files for 30 days so if someone deletes your files by mistake you can still get them back. But in the end, you should have your own backup anyway.

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Free Services
by waytron / June 17, 2012 8:15 PM PDT
In reply to: User Error????

It always surprises me when people complain about not being able to talk to technical support when they are having problems with a product that is being supplied to them for FREE. What do you expect? Just try talking to someone about problems with free accounts such as gmail, AOL, Yahoo or AVG. Does that mean that all of these services are no good? If you need or want phone technical support you have to belly up and pay for it. I have had no problem talking to technical support for clients that are paying for DropBox for Teams.

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Actively sharing data files
by Wolfmont / February 24, 2012 9:46 AM PST

Honestly, Tim, there are multiple resources out there, but one that I have found to be both economical and really easy to use is Dropbox. I have Dropbox, and it's a free account, yet I still have 4 GB of storage there that I can use for online storage AND sharing of files. It works seamlessly between Mac, Windows, and even Android tablets or smart phones. I can't recommend them highly enough as a great resource that seems tailor-made for this particular need of yours.

For $99 a year you can get 50 GB of storage space, and if you just want to try it out, you can start out with a free account that gives you 250 MB... AND if you recommend it to others and they sign up, you get 250 more MB per each of those who signs up. I'd suggest try it for free, and see how you like it. I think you'll like it a lot.


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file sharing
by calleggra / February 24, 2012 9:46 AM PST
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How structured are what you're sharing?
by Doh_1 / February 24, 2012 10:29 AM PST

Yes, you can use something like dropbox. You can also use Google Documents to share spreadsheets, documents, etc. Be sure that you understand all the security issue, though. I'm not really up on them, but at my work we use Google docs to some extent to share some things. It's all accessed via https, so that's good, but you need to understand the full security picture, like encryption and other ways of limiting access as well.

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File shareing on one computer
by netsiu / February 24, 2012 10:52 AM PST

I do not know how to set it up but I do know that your computer can be set to accept networked computers.
Maybe some of the tech people can explain better and how.

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Sharing files
by chrismacgowan / February 24, 2012 11:15 AM PST

From the way you describe it, this seems a perfect task for Dropbox - as others have suggested. I use Dropbox across four computers on my network including on my iPad. It is so simple and the first 2GB is free. It is the sort of programme that makes you wonder how you ever managed without it! Christopher Macgowan, London, England.

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Sharing files.
by wayneepalmer / February 24, 2012 11:33 AM PST

If your partner is also using windows 7 it is pretty easy. There are tutorials in 7 for this. Basically you just go into "control panel", select Network and Sharing, and just set up a homegroup/workgroup, create a password for both of you, give permission to "share" the folders he needs or even pretty much the whole hard drive and so long as your work pc is on, he can get into anything he needs so long as the work pc is turned on. It can go two-way as well if you need to get into something on his pc. I don't even think he needs to bring his pc in to work although it might make the initial setup easier.

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comunicating with partner
by theplanman / February 24, 2012 11:40 AM PST

Hey Tim..
Don't complicate your life...or your partners.
Just use "Go to my PC" He can access his computer from anywhere, network with you if necessary, que print both at the office and at home on a wireless network..You just have to set up both of your computers at work for multiple users.


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But this is so limited
by Wolfmont / February 24, 2012 12:10 PM PST

But both computers have to be on at the same time that way. Ditto for using Windows 7 and sharing through a workgroup. That really limits things and takes away a lot of the flexibility.

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Turning PC off...
by Jerry W G / February 28, 2012 5:00 AM PST
In reply to: But this is so limited

Does anyone ever turn their PC off? My network PC's are never off, mainly because Carbonite backs them all up at night.

My son uses Dropbox and swears by it...not AT it. He has 250 employees at the university and they all share files at will. He wouldn't have it any other way. Highly recommended.

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They go off every night ....
by Ted de Castro / February 28, 2012 7:16 AM PST
In reply to: Turning PC off...

Unless I'm running some long process - which is infrequent. The way I do things my data is backed up immediately after I generate it - to my NAS .... which of course is always on. With progressive electric rates here - its too costly to leave a PC on - the NAS uses far less power. PC also runs hotter - fire hazard.

There are two modes of "rough service" for a computer - frequent on and off and on 24/7. Do the math - even if you are a very heavy computer user you are only using 1/3 to 1/2 of its life if its always on (1/4 in a work environment - 5 out of 21 shifts per week). As a result I've had few if any machine failures - they run for YEARS and YEARS - well into obsolescence - which is usually the reason I upgrade or get a new one. This is how I've been using my PC's since 1980.

Mine go on when/if I need them - and off at the end of my day.

It WOULD be nice if Team Viewer would employ Wake on LAN - but at least it will wake the computer from sleep mode.

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Microsoft Office 2010 has this capability
by john3347 / February 24, 2012 1:04 PM PST

You can use Office to do what you are describing. You both can have access to the files and both can modify them. I don't have need for this feature so I cannot give you details of how it works, but it saves the file online and you have access to it from anywhere as long as you have the password. As someone has pointed out, this function is also available in Windows 7 without the need for Office if you don't need the other features of Office.

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File sharing
by mal_aus / February 24, 2012 1:18 PM PST

There are a number of ways to do this out there including Google Docs and Drop Box and I use "4Shared Desktop" ( ) which similar to Dropbox has automatically updated on line storage as well as a folder on each PC which can hold files common to both PC's. The files are always up to date no matter which PC makes changes. They also have a free amount of on line storage.

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Yes -- you can set up some old computer with Linux
by pcardout / February 24, 2012 1:25 PM PST

There is a ground-swell for Dropbox -- so that option is well covered. However, you also asked if you could repurpose a desktop as a server. The answer to that is easily! You could use almost any computer you have laying around. If you have any friends with any Linux savvy at all, have them set it up for you. If I were in your office and you handed me an extra computer that had Windows on it, I'd have the hard-drive wiped and the machine serving files within an hour (faster than you can install Windows off a CD). The Linux world is wonderful and is designed around networking.... and you don't need to buy "Linux Server" ... linux boxes are all servers if you want them to be. The only program you need to add to your standard linux distribution is called "openssh" or just "ssh". It is free of course and takes about 60 seconds to install. Once you had such a machine, you could use WinSCP or Filezilla or some other freeware program to move files back and forth between that server and your Windows computers. Windows does not mind connecting to a Linux box, whether in your office or on the other side of the world ... in fact, if you go in over a network it does not even know what is in the other end (that's just part of what's built into networking).

Unlike some of the other proposed solutions, this one is secure. Your fileserver would not be open to the world. You would be logging in to your own account and if your password is good no one else is going to get in. You could make your files read only (for your colleague) and read/write for yourself. So you get to change them, and your buddy can't. Of course he could keep a separate copy under his own account ... or you could set them up so either of you could modify them. I have been Windows-free in my business and personal life for six years, and I just keep getting more productive. This solution has a learning curve, but it pays dividends (if you are that kind of person). Alternately, hire a consultant ... like me. You could have a custom system that did just what you wanted in very
little time and is virtually maintenance free.

I read about Pogo-plug in Linux Journal. It is supposed to work very well and bypasses all that "learn some Linux" stuff I just mentioned. I would not be afraid of trying that. It's so inexpensive it would be hard to go wrong.

All this stuff you are reading about "the cloud" ... it's all just Linux doing what it does. You can either rent the service from someone else, or set it up yourself.

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