Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Treasure hunt on the Internet

Online File Sharing / Storage and Collaboration

Being secretary to a local woman’s’ association, I found that administration of, and tending to a huge database needed a plan B. I wanted a virtual place where I could squirrel away files so that they could be reached from any interface, in case our house burnt down (heaven forbid). That way the data files would still be retrievable even if the furniture wasn’t. Yes, backup CD’s or flash drives are good, but a burning house is no place for backup CD’s either. I wanted a Swiss bank account, of sorts, an offshore investment.

I trawled the net and thought that Google could help, but for once, they were not the front runners. I found a local survey which recently put it out to the users to vote for their favourite online file sharing services. There are various offers out there, amongst them Windows Live SkyDrive, FolderShare and FileFront. I investigated what came back as their favourite: Box Net.

www.box.net has a rather apt byline of “Store here, access anywhere”; you immediately get the general picture.

I’ve also watched too many action thrillers where the hero sends important files via email to a safe and secret place, or retrieves it likewise. I signed up with Box Net and chose the “Lite” option which allows me 1Gb of online storage space for free. If you sign up, too, beware that Box Net will try and urge you into the paying version, but if 1Gb is plenty space for you, don’t be fooled and stick to Lite.

Once the account is set up, click on the My Files tag and create a new folder or several folders or even subfolders. Via an easy-to-use interface, you’re able to upload any type of file to that folder, be it zipped files, photos, spreadsheets, documents or presentations.

The most important concept I had to wrap my mind around was that of “Collaborating”. Box Net has evolved according to users needs since 2005, and beyond the immediate virtual safety deposit box functionality, the website offers different users the ability to update files, too.

For example, a think tank document can be edited online by anyone with collaboration rights. These collaboration rights are assigned by the owner of the folder and hold true for all information within that specific folder. Of course you do not hand out your username and password to people who you want to view your files, you don’t need to. Let them set up their own username and password (for free) and you just rope them in as collaborators via an email invitation. Updating one document online eliminates the annoying “out-of-synch” upshot that a document would be reduced to that has been emailed backwards and forwards between a number of people. As soon as an update occurs, an email is sent out informing all collaborators. Comments and tags can be added and the online document edit feature is called Zoho, which allows you to open and edit the documents even if the computer you are working from hasn’t got MS Word or Excel loaded.

In this way you can share one folder with your work colleagues and another with your fellow stamp collectors and a third folder that you create can be for important family documents or address books.

Further uses of Box Net can include photo sharing or a place to plonk files that are too big to email. Also, if you have dabbled on eBay or bid or buy, you will know that you are expected to upload a photo of your goods, and Box Net is a perfect suppository for these photos. Box Net has an easy button which generates the URL, that you place as the link in Bid or Buy.

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