Tech Blech

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dropbox and SendSpace: useful and reliable file services

There are so many ways to move files around, and to back files up, that it can make one's head spin.  I work across several different computers in various locations.  I've ended up relying heavily on both the Dropbox and Sendspace file services.  Both are free for a limited file size and bandwidth, and both are worth paying for if you need to transfer or backup a lot of files.  I've now been a paying customer of both services for a couple of years, and I've found them both to be reliable and easy to use.  That said, they are not identical.  Dropbox is useful for backups and sharing regularly-used files across my many different work computers.  Sendspace is useful for transfering very large files among computers, either mine or belonging to other people.

Dropbox will store your files "in the cloud" (that is, on a server, or servers, somewhere on the internet).  You access the files via a special "Dropbox" folder on your computer, which is created by the Dropbox installer.  Dropbox will automatically copy any files you deposit in its folder up to its servers.  Then, you'll be able to reach those same files on any other computer where you've also installed Dropbox using the same logon account.  To get started on a given computer, you just download and install the Dropbox client, run it and logon to your Dropbox account in the client.  The client program manages your Dropbox folder.  It is very smart about syncronizing local and server files, and it gives a good visual indication of when the syncronizing is done.

Sendpace will allow you to transfer very large files.  I generally zip, or compress, one or more files into a single huge file before uploading to the sendspace server.  Sendspace is drop-dead simple to use.  You don't need any coaching from me--just go to the site and follow instructions.  When a file is too huge to move around by any other means, Sendspace can nearly always move a file between any two computers as long as they both have access to the internet. Sendspace's free service offers the sender a link to delete the file from its servers, but if the sender doesn't bother, the file will be deleted automatically after two weeks.

Paying for Sendspace will increase the maximum allowed file size from huge to humungous.  It will also allow you to keep files up on their servers indefinitely (as long as your account is paid up).

To send a file to someone else, you do have to give Sendspace their email address; Sendspace then emails the person a link which they can use to download the file.  As far as I can tell, Sendspace does not mine the emails and never spams any user or recipient of files.  That the service has remained spam-free is unusual these days, and that makes it one of my favorite internet companies right now, and one of the few I can recommend whole-heartedly.

Good services deserve good publicity; hence this blog entry.  Give them a try!  It won't cost you anything to try them out.  However, I don't recommend that you send any sensitive data using these (or any other "cloud-based") services.  There is never any guarantee that a third party company won't look inside your data.  Thankfully, though, the kinds of files I'm sending around are not likely to be desirable to anyone but me or my immediate co-workers, and they don't contain anyone's private information.

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