Storage devices

How do I set up storage devices as a file sharing solution?

Like email, implementing a file share solution with storage devices doesn’t require any additional setup. However, you do need to take some time to consider what kind of storage devices you want to use.

Compare to Dropbox

Storage devices

  • Purchase the required number of storage devices
  • Make them available to your team

Dropbox

  • Sign up for Dropbox
  • Download the Dropbox application

Storage capacity is a key feature, but also keep in mind that devices will likely be passed around quite a bit. This makes devices with moving parts, like non-solid-state hard drives, susceptible to damage.

To get started with Dropbox, you only need to sign up for an account and download the Dropbox application. The convenience of sharing files over the Internet makes this overhead well worth it.


How do I share a file with a team member?

Using a storage device as a file sharing solution is a lot like FTP, except instead of uploading and downloading files, you’re physically passing around the “server.” Accordingly, they share FTP’s problem of keeping files synchronized.

Compare to Dropbox

Storage devices

  • Connect the storage device to your computer
  • Copy the file from your computer to the storage device
  • Safely eject the storage device
  • Walk over to your team member and plug it into their computer
  • Copy the file from the storage device to their computer
  • Safely eject the storage device
  • Repeat the process each time you want to share an update

Dropbox

  • Create a new folder inside your Dropbox for sharing documents with your team
  • Right-click the folder, and share the folder with team members
  • Place a file in the shared folder on your computer. The file will automatically appear in your team members’ Dropbox folders
  • Whenever anyone edits the file, everybody else’s copy will automatically synchronize

Storage devices are a much more intuitive option than a system like FTP, as they don’t require any special software (or even an Internet connection). However, storage devices can also be difficult to deal with in cross-platform workspaces. Because PCs and Macs require different disk formatting, it’s not always easy to share files across operating systems.

Configuring a shared Dropbox folder takes a little bit of extra effort, but after you’ve done so, it effectively replaces your storage devices. It also automatically updates your colleagues’ files whenever you make a change. This means you don’t have to get up and walk across the office every time you want to share an update.


How do I share a file with a client?

Storage devices can be a viable solution for collaborating internally, but their limitations become apparent when you try to share documents with a client if they’re not physically in the same place as your team.

Handing a client a thumb drive or SD card is easy enough. But if they need frequent progress reports, requiring their physical presence for every file transfer is incredibly inconvenient.

Compare to Dropbox

Storage devices

  • Connect the storage device to your computer
  • Copy the desired file onto the storage device
  • Safely eject the storage device
  • Give the storage device to your client

Dropbox

  • Right-click on the file in your Dropbox folder
  • Select the Share Dropbox Link menu item to generate a shareable link
  • Send the link to your client. It can be viewed or downloaded with any web browser

Dropbox makes sharing documents with clients much easier. Since files are transferred over the Internet, you don’t need to visit your clients to keep them up to speed.


How do I share large files?

Handling large files is one of the strengths of storage devices. Unlike email servers that impose file size limits or FTP servers that require dedicated software, sharing big documents via a storage device is a very intuitive process.

Compare to Dropbox

Storage devices

  • Devices formatted with a FAT32 file system have a maximum file size of 4 GB
  • The only other file size limit is the capacity of the storage device
  • Large files have to be copied in their entirety each time a change is made

Dropbox

  • There are no file size restrictions when uploading via the Dropbox application
  • When updating a previously uploaded file, only the altered portions are sent to Dropbox

With storage devices, no network connection is required, so file transfers are incredibly fast if the person you’re sharing them with is nearby. However, PCs and Macs require different disk formatting and each format has different file size and volume size limitations.

Dropbox combines the benefits of storage devices with the convenience of the Internet. Large documents are handled the same way as small documents, so you’ll be able to collaborate on big files without giving it a second thought. While the initial upload might take longer than copying a file onto a storage device, Dropbox only uploads portions of the file that have changed, so subsequent updates are more efficient.


How do I collaborate with others on the same file?

When two people are working on the same file simultaneously, this often results in a conflict: whose edits should be accepted? There are very different ways of dealing with this problem when working with storage devices versus working with Dropbox.

Compare to Dropbox

Storage devices

  • Storage devices do not support conflict resolution
  • The most recent copy of the file overwrites everybody else’s work
  • Solutions revolve around “checking out” files so only one person can edit them at a time

Dropbox

  • When a conflict occurs, Dropbox keeps both copies of the file
  • This lets you view both users’ edits and decide how they should be merged

Managing conflicts with a storage device is prone to human error. Since there’s only one “live” copy of the document on the storage device, it’s easy to lose changes by overwriting the file. Your team has to be very careful to make sure only one person edits the file at a time.

Dropbox’s conflicted copies behavior lets you forget about overwriting somebody else’s work. If two people happen to edit the same file simultaneously, Dropbox warns you that there’s a conflict and lets you decide how to integrate the changes from both copies.


How do I manage old versions of a file?

Like an FTP server, storage devices don’t track file revisions. This introduces the risk of losing important changes because there’s no way to go back and retrieve an older copy of the file if it was mistakenly saved over.

Compare to Dropbox

Storage devices

  • Storage devices do not support file versioning
  • A common solution is to copy the file and rename it to include the version number

Dropbox

  • Right-click on the file in your Dropbox folder
  • Select the View Previous Versions menu item to list the file’s history
  • Select the desired version and click Restore

Dropbox provides built-in versioning support so you don’t have to worry about losing information. Every saved edit is recorded behind the scenes, and you can pull up the complete history of a file with a few mouse clicks.