Sharing A Hard Drive Online
I have photos, MP3s and some Word documents on my hard drive. How can I share my hard drive online so that just certain people can access my files? My colleagues have Internet access but we do not share a computer network. Can I share my hard drive folders and files over the Inernet?
Put Your Hard Drive Online?
Yes, there are a variety of ways to share your hard drive, certain folders, or just a handful of files using the Internet. One fairly simple way would be to install a free FTP server like FileZilla, and give certain people access to your files through an FTP client or web browser. The FTP server allows you to control which folders are accessible to remote users, and you can also set permissions to alllow read-only or read-write access to files. Run with FileZilla, or check out this list of FTP servers for Mac and Windows. Linux has FTP support built in. Of course you'll have to tell people your computer's IP address so they can connect. Go to myipaddress.com to see your IP address.
To access the files and folders on the remote FTP server, you can use an FTP client program such as Smartftp. If you'd rather not download and install any new software, you can make a link to the FTP server in "My Network Places". To do so, click Start, My Network Places, Add a network place, then click on "Choose another network location". Enter the FTP server address (ftp://example.com or ftp://ip.adr.re.ss) and specify the username to login to the server. Give your new network place a name, and finish the wizard. Now you can click on the new icon in My Network places to view the files on the remote FTP server in a Windows Explorer window. You can drag and drop files between your hard drive and the FTP site, rename, delete, etc. If you want to access the FTP site with a drive letter, try Webdrive.
However, there is a potential downside to making your hard drive accessible via the Internet. If permissions are not set properly, your privacy could be compromised. And there's always the possibility that Evil Doers will find a crack in the file server software, making your machines a target for viruses, spyware and other computer mischief.
Remote Access Solutions
Another solution is to set up a Remote Desktop session, which allows another user to access your computer's desktop and resources, just as if they were sitting in front of it. (See this article for help setting up Remote Desktop.) The only problem is that while the remote user is accessed, you do not have control over what they can access on your computer. Remote Admin solves that problem by allowing multiple sessions, so Jill can be on her machine while Jack is remotely connected to it.
See also Remote Access to Your Computer for other methods of accessing a computer via the Internet.
Online Hard Drives and File Storage
There are also plenty of web-based services that will give you access to a virtual online hard drive. Gmail Drive offers a virtual hard drive for Windows users that allows you to save and retrieve files stored within your Gmail account. Gmail Drive will create an virtual drive for you under My Computer, so you can manipulate files like you would on any local, physical drive.
You should also look into Google Docs & Spreadsheets for some nifty online tools that help you edit, share, & manage online documents. You don't even need a word processor or spreadsheet program on your computer, since this service is entirely web based.
Free Drive is another online storage site, that lets you upload files, and share them with whomever you want. You can get up to 6 GB of storage.
Box is another online storage, file-sharing website. And, it's free up to 1 GB of storage. You can get more storage space for under $10.00 per month. Once you have uploaded your data, you can send friends, family and colleagues a link to download any files you want them to access.
Are Traditional Hard Drives Obsolete?
There has been a lot of buzz lately about whether the hard drive is becoming obsolete. Sure, you need a system drive to install your OS, but do you really need it for personal file storage and management? With sites like Flickr that lets you share photos, and online storage solutions like the sites mentioned above, does anyone really need to store files to their local, physical drive?
Even if you are a hold out, and want to store your files locally, there are advantages to using virtual online drives. One is redundancy -- if your hard drive goes kaboom, you can still access your most important files from these websites. Another is security -- it's much safer to pick and choose the files you want others to access, then upload them to the web, rather than giving them direct access to your hard drive.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Sep 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Sharing A Hard Drive Online (Posted: 5 Sep 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved