Collaboration

Site-ings: FreeDrive and others offer free rides

Running out of disk space? Turn to the Web for your file storage needs. Lauren Willoughby's found hundreds of megs of disk space just awaiting your data on the net.


Got a project with many hands contributing? Need to share files not only with in-house staff but also among consultants and outsourced talent?

Instead of trying to coordinate everyone on the network or corral everyone into exchanging files via FTP, you might take a look at some of the friendly file-sharing solutions available on the Web.

Free storage space abounds
FreeDrive is probably the best known of the sites that allow users to store and share files online. Its name says it all—the Web site acts as a free virtual "hard drive" you can upload files into and download from. But it's by no means the only "free drive" available on the Internet.

This category of service, which works best with current browsers, is seeing a boom in offerings. New companies come online seemingly every day. One, Driveway.com (formerly Atrieva), is gaining attention with its humorous TV ads featuring the alien "Lord Insidious."

What the services get out of the deal is eyeballs: most are advertiser-supported.

So what's the big deal with a "free drive" on the Internet? Well, it makes a great way to "transport" large files to and from the office. It makes it easy to share files among a group of people—avoiding the inevitable problems of e-mail attachment compatibility glitches with people using varied systems and e-mail clients. And account managers can determine exactly who is allowed access to the files.

Working with a Mac?
Got an iMac? Then you're well aware you don't have a floppy drive. But if you have Internet access and use of a site like iMacFloppy.com, you won't miss the physical drive as much.

Or how about this—it doesn't matter if you caught the flight but forgot the floppy. If you've uploaded to your virtual hard drive, you can retrieve an important file from your laptop or a borrowed system.

There are plenty of advantages to having an extension of your hard drive on the Internet, and I'm sure you're busily thinking of ways to put one to use.

Free storage for everyone
While you're pondering, take a look at these:

FreeDrive, which I mentioned earlier, allots a generous 50 MB of data storage per account. FreeDrive likens its service to a "virtual briefcase: it helps end the storage medium juggling act so your files are accessible from anywhere."

IMacFloppy.com supports both Macs and Windows computers. The storage space allotted is a skimpy 3 MB, but the Apple-oriented site will please Macophiles. Many other sites do not offer Mac support, though most say they are in the process of adding it.

I-drive offers "infinite Internet space" for files you download off the Web, MP3 files, and so forth. Plus you get 50 MB of space for your "real" files (things you upload). A neat feature called Filo lets you clip Web pages into your storage files. Another neat feature is a utility called Sync, which can be used to keep hard drive and Internet drive files congruent. And another i-drive plus is that the transmission between your hard drive to the virtual drive is encrypted using 128-bit SSL. It also seems to offer Mac support. While I couldn't track down Mac support in its feature list, it does have a Mac help file.

Here's a site that not only supports Macs—it supports Linux and PDAs in addition to Windows PCs. The flexible FreeDiskSpace.com offers 25 MB of storage for a standard account—or 300 MB disk space if you're willing to fill out a survey about yourself and disclose some personal information to help its advertisers target you. Imagine adding 300 MB of storage to your Palm!

The claim to fame for iBackup is its ability to function either through its Webbish interface or with your regular FTP client. Plus, Windows users can map it as a network drive and drag-and-drop to copy files to it, schedule backups, and search files that are backed up. IBackup offers 100 MB of space a sign-up, but users can earn an additional 100 MB by referring new members.

Driveway gives you 25 MB to start, but you can increase the amount to 100 MB if you take surveys and refer friends.

StoragePoint.com, like i-drive, uses SSL to let you transfer files securely. Though it offers only 20 MB of space, it does offer another big bonus: the downloadable program WebDrive for Windows, which "plugs directly into Windows Explorer on Windows 95/98 and Windows NT/2000 as a virtual disk" for copying files and making backups.

And that's what I've seen worth citing this week.

Lauren Willoughby is a Web editor at The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, KY, where she also writes the weekly "Technophobe" column. At night, she turns into an online auction junkie. When she's not spotting deals on refurbished 486s, she's reading a science fiction novel.

If you'd like to share your opinion, please post a comment at the bottom of this page or send the editor an e-mail.

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