Time to Share?
Has your e-mail message ever bounced back because the file attachment was too large? At one time, a CD-ROM disk sent via carrier pigeon might have been the fastest way to circumvent this problem — especially if a file transfer protocol, or ftp, site wasn’t available. Fortunately, several Web sites now offer file-sharing services. Ranging from feature-laden project-collaboration platforms to simple file-hosting sites, they provide a more-efficient, effective way to share a variety of digital media.
Send in the Clouds
During the last few years, cloud-computing platforms, which provide Internet-based storage and services including secure file sharing and syncing, have become indispensable to professionals in many collaborative industries, including commercial real estate.
Most of these platforms offer the same basic features. Users can share files by giving others access to a file folder via invitation. Invitees can view and modify files in shared folders or add their own files to the folders, which are automatically backed up. In most cases, the folders also can be synced across multiple computers and operating systems, allowing users to access and modify their files from almost any computer or mobile device.
An informal poll suggests that DropBox is the cloud of choice for many CCIM members, including Allan M. Lee, CCIM, senior associate with NAI Capital in Los Angeles. “I use DropBox to share complete transaction information with my clients from start to finish,” he says. Lee recently sent marketing brochures, property photos, videos, sales comparables, and other information for an Irvine, Calif., office transaction through DropBox. “It saves me time because I don’t have to create a Web site and organize it each time I add a file,” he explains.
Upping the time-saving ante, DropBox recently unveiled apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry mobile devices. The apps allow users to sync photos and videos to their folders, share links to files, and export files to other mobile applications.
DropBox’s free basic version provides 2 GB of online storage. The Pro 50 version, which costs $9.99 per month, and the Pro 100 version, which costs $19.99 per month, offer 50 GB and 100 GB of storage respectively.
A cloud-computing platform “must be easy not only for the account owner to utilize but also for the client,” says Dave Lewand, owner of CreGrow, a commercial real estate marketing firm. Lewand’s projects include corporate Web sites and property brochures, which both require daily collaboration with clients. After researching a variety of platforms, Lewand chose Box.net because it lets his clients customize file and folder structures so they can collaborate comfortably.
“Throughout the Web site development process, my client has real-time access and the ability to comment upon all creative work,” Lewand says. “And our communication occurs within a protected environment” that users can access on desktop computers and mobile devices, he adds.
Like DropBox, Box.net offers a free basic version, which provides 1 GB of storage and has a 25 MB file-size limit. Additional storage space is available with the Individual and Business versions, which cost $9.95 per month and $15 per user per month respectively. Box.net’s Enterprise version provides unlimited storage and custom integration with several applications and Salesforce.com. Contact Box.net for additional cost information.
Cloud-computing platforms are useful when collaborating with a team or regularly sharing files. But when a large file needs to be transmitted quickly, there’s often no reason to spend extra time signing up for a service that you might never use again.
Drop.io allows users to upload up to 100 MB files and create sharing points, or drops, with unique URLs at no cost. Guests can use the links to download or modify files.
But don’t start uploading top-secret files willy-nilly: Though drops can be customized to include a password, expiration date, and guest permissions, file encryption only is available with Drop.io Manager, which offers paid subscription plans that include additional features and storage space.
Senduit, another free file-sharing service, has an even simpler interface. After selecting a file, users are prompted to choose an expiration time — from 30 minutes to one week. Senduit then provides a private link to the file that can be e-mailed to whomever users care to share with.
But this time, the e-mail won’t bounce back.