Think Inside The Box

Our documents and dog and pony shows move from laptops to DVDs  to thumb drives and back, changing to new revisions as they go. So how do we share and collaborate on multi-megabyte presentations and how do we get our stuff back, when something happens to our previously trusty gadget? A still common practice is carpet bomb email. Send attachments of everything to everyone and repeat whenever someone modifies on comments on anything. To the extent such an approach works, it does so by ignoring many of the comments and modifications as the project deadline approaches.

There are far better ways and a range of solutions for collaboration and back up. We might even used one, if it is convenient and easy enough.

To forestall disaster, as well as enhance collaboration, I’ve been looking for a better way. There are a plethora of them – as if you had time to learn a new system, when the presentation is this afternoon. In fact, there are some light weight useful tools. Here’s my take on some of the leading options.

Services such as Live Mesh, Sugar Sync, and Mozy require you to install local software. My tests of these found them with more features than needed and therefore more complex, less intuitive, and slower performing. Their costs include a learning curve.

I found three utilities, which were elegant, simple and sufficient for storing, sharing and collaborating on documents. Like Google Docs and, my preferred systems are “No Software” software. That is, there is nothing for you to install or maintain. In the current buzzphrase, they are in the Cloud. They work through the web browser. This means that they work with PC, Mac, Linux, smartphone and tablet. I list them order of my preference.

Box is simple, fast, and elegant. Everything you need to know is on one clean screen. Create an account, upload and share files, collaborate and comment. A 5 GB personal account is free, while a 3 user account with 500 GB of working storage is $15 per month. The site was quite usable on a web-enables smart phone through its standard browser, but a bit easier through the free app.


Amazon’s Cloud Drive, looks and works like the file management system on a computer. If you can find and save a file on your computer, you more or less know how to use Cloud Drive. The free version includes 5 GB of storage. If you buy music from Amazon, it is automatically stored on your Cloud Drive for free in addition to the 5 GB. Additional storage costs $1 per GB per year. It’s a breeze to use on a computer, but awkward to use on the very small screen of a smartphone. Cloud Drive is not currently accessible through any of Amazon’s apps.


OpenDrive is a hybrid service. Online storage and file sharing are available over the web, but advanced collaboration and backup features require downloading  software to your own computer. A 5 GB account is free and multi-user paid accounts with 100 GB start at $50 per year. The interface is clean and intuitive. In my tests, uploading PDF and Word files took longer than with Cloud Drive or

Any of these services are handy for storing and sharing content. Now your thumb drive can have a thumb drive.