A random Weblog


File Transporter – hey it’s V1
May 2, 2013, 10:11 am
Filed under: Technology | Tags: , ,

Some of the people behind Drobo have gone to start a new business called “Connected Data”.  Their first product is called File Transporter and the simplest description I can give to it is that it’s a DIY version of Dropbox (or a self-hosted version of Dropbox if you like).  From their website they say;

Transporter is a private “off-cloud” storage device for syncing, sharing, accessing, and protecting your digital life. No cloud, no fees, no privacy concerns. Your files are only stored on your Transporters and computers and mobile devices that you authorize.

Access your digital life from any computer or mobile device, back it up, collaborate on it with colleagues, share it with family and friends and sync it across multiple devices. Transporter let’s you do all of that with no monthly fees. It’s 100% private. It’s 100% secure. It’s your digital life.

The idea is you buy this small device (with or without drive – laptop sized, easy to plug in).  Then you can set up folders and add files on the drive and in turn make some of these available to others (and/or access folders on File Transporters belong to others anywhere in the world).  Why? Well as we’ve seen some things die online – Google has closed down 60+ businesses, and frankly if you were relying on some of these you’re left in limbo. Secondly, for journalists, lawyers and others – you don’t really want to put confidential data on someone else’s server (in fact many businesses forbid the use of Box or Dropbox for these kinds of reasons).  Thirdly there’s a potential cost saving if you’re  a heavy user of these cloud services. Lastly, if it’s not on someone else’s sever, well they can’t snoop at it. I think a low risk, but it’s a selling point I guess.

Offices

So, I purchased a File Transporter and it arrived a few days later.  I don’t give a fig about “unboxing experiences”, well at least I thought I didn’t, but this was plain weird, as I opened the box everything spilled out onto my desk as though it had just been dumped in the box.  Kind of the opposite of an Apple experience.  Then I noticed the two stickers that act as seals on the box had been cut. I assumed by the vendor in order to install the 1GB hard drive, so I dropped them a line. Not so they said, it was shipped as it arrived. Hmm, maybe customs opened it, but I swear the outer shipping box was unopened. Oh well, moving right along…

Set up was not incident free. It took some mucking around to get things going – in setting up an account I had to ask the system to re-send the verification email to me as it failed to arrive first time.  However it was soon going and I then set up some folders for three photo-retouchers that I work with.

I then loaded some test files to the fist folder and used the management website to grant folder access to the first retoucher and send a system email to invite her to create an account.  She soon responded that she was having difficulties, but we persevered over a couple of days (major time zone differences slowed our communications down). Eventually she got her account set up but could not see her folder, so once again I had to get the system to re-send the email. Success.  We swapped files just fine, but where it was a near instant upload/download for me, she reported slow speeds akin to dropbox, yousendit etc.  Not a deal-breaker as that’s what we were used to, and at least it was working.

Next I sent some urgent retouching of a different nature to a specialist service I use in Europe. Sadly they had all kinds of problems installing the client, and just before giving up they managed to access their folder of files (however they have since insisted I use wetransfer or yousendit and returned the completed edits via one of these services and not through the share folder as intended).

Lastly, some catalog edits that I have photoshopped in India by a company that does an excellent job with this kind of repetitive edit.  Once again, a headache and they gave up in frustration – as a result we used wetransfer.com and had the work completed and returned without a hitch.

Is this a Fail? Well yes. Certainly not the result I wanted.  But it’s version one, so I’m hoping they’ll make the sign up and access a lot smoother on the next release.  The web portal is where you can add folders and invite collaborators, but there is no way to access or transfer files on the web, that’s a job for your File Manager – good and bad. Good because drag and drop file management is easy, bad because there is no access from a remote computer or kiosk – sure you can log in and see the folder and users, but that seems to be it. Which is not so helpful.

I sent a ticket to their online support, and while I have not heard back on that (apart from the automated acknowledgement) I figure that’s OK as it was more a case of me giving critical feedback than asking for help.

It feels like “three strikes and you’re out” to me.  And no this is not a bandwidth issue, I have some of the fastest bandwidth available in the country – rocking speeds, so there’s simply no congestion as this end.  File Transporter has enormous potential, and I think there is a very real market for a product like this, but for me there was a case of “Version 1” friction here.

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