I love Dropbox. Having a central place to store all of my files – one that is auto-magically synced across all of my computers – is pretty central to how I get stuff done. It just plain makes my life easier. (And knowing that my critical files are all automatically backed up off-site lets me sleep a little easier at night.)
But, like all great things in life, Dropbox does have its drawbacks.
- The files are hosted, and controlled, by someone that is not you. This may not be a big deal to many, but can be a deal-breaker for some.
- Downloading (and uploading) to Dropbox can be a bit... slow.
- Cost. In order to obtain the ability to work with more than a few gigabytes worth of files, you'll need to pay a monthly service cost. Granted, this cost is fairly low – and certainly a good value for many – but if you need Dropbox access for multiple members of a team, this cost can grow rapidly.
So, how do we fix those problems? The Sparkleshare.
Having just now hit 1.0, Sparkleshare, is a lot like Dropbox in some critical ways. You set a folder, and then all files in that folder are synced across all other PCs (Linux, Windows or Mac) that you have setup to share. But that's really where the differences end.
Sparkleshare utilizes Git (the source control solution) for storing files. Here's what this means for you:
- You can utilize almost any Git service (such as GitHub). Simply point Sparkleshare at a Git host and you're off and running.
- You can host your own Git installation on your local network or on a remote server. This gives you much more control over the security, available storage and speed. (You can find instructions and helper tools for setting up your own Git installation on the Sparkleshare site.)
- Because you can host almost anywhere, the cost can be much more reasonable (and even free).
All of that is awesome. But what I find even more awesome is the fact that Sparkleshare can utilize multiple Git installations.
Want to have a server at home for your personal files, a GitHub account for your Open Source projects, and a company-hosted Git to handle work documents and project files? No problem. They can all coexist peacefully on your machines. This is, to put it mildly, hugely awesome.
Any downsides to using Sparkleshare instead of a solution like Dropbox? Yes. Absolutely. There is one, key, downside: You need to know what you're doing. Dropbox is a turnkey solution that allows you to not have the slightest clue as to what sort of technical-magic shenanigans are happening behind the scenes. With Sparkleshare, you need to at least have a mild knowledge of setting up a free GitHub account and be able to configure Sparkleshare with that information.
It's not rocket science, by any means, but if you don't consider yourself a “pro computer user” I would take the easy route and stick with Dropbox.
That said, the benefits of using Sparkleshare far outweigh the drawbacks. Saving money, more storage, more speed, more flexibility. It’s certainly enough to get me to switch over myself.