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COTA: File sharer Drop.io is as an Internet team player

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Jim Cota

The problem started innocently enough. I answered a call from a client who asked us to send him a file with all the original documents, some of which are large and cumbersome. And they needed it right away.

Since the files were more than 20 MB, we decided that e-mail might not work. (Many companies have limits on how their employees can use email, and a common limitation is related to file size.) Another option would be transferring the files using FTP (file transfer protocol). With FTP, you log into a server, “put” the files in a directory, and then the other person can log into the same server and download them. It works very well, but it has a couple of limitations, too. Most notably, it’s not a technology that everyone understands, and getting a server set up to allow it—and manage all of the users—probably doesn’t move anyone’s fun meter.

So, for this particular job, we decided to go with drop.io (www.drop.io). Drop.io is a simple private file sharing service that works through your web browser. Simply visit the site, click the big “Add Files” button, and you can put up to 100MB of files into a “Drop.” Once uploaded, you can just send the unique link to whoever needs the files.

I’ve racked my brain trying to think of a way to make this simpler, but I can’t think of one.

You can create as many “drops” as you need, each up to 100MB. If you need to transfer something larger, you can use the paid service to increase the size. Otherwise, the service is completely free.

Need to send a bunch of pictures to Grandma? Need to transfer a video file to your sister? Need to get those Photoshop files to the client? Drop.io can do all of that and much more.

OK, so you get the file sharing... what do I mean by “more”? Well, how about real-time collaboration with others, regardless of where they happen to be?

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a couple of people on your team and you need to share the latest version of a presentation you’re working on with them. And, just to make it more interesting, one of them is on the other side of the building and the other happens to be sitting in a coffee shop in Bismarck, ND. You create a drop and send the address to each of them. The first opens it in their browser on their desktop, the other is using their iPhone app. Instantly, both are seeing a live, real-time version of the same page that updates automatically as changes are made. You add the new version of the presentation, and both immediately see it. One makes a note and adds a new photo to be used on the opening slide of the presentation, and everyone else sees both the photo and the note at the same time.

In fact, each and every interaction, whether it’s adding a note, or a photo, or a file, or conversing through the embedded chat, shows up immediately for everyone on the team.

But what if someone on the team wasn’t able to be there when all of this collaboration took place? They can simply log into the drop later and see everything listed in the order that it happened, allowing them to follow through the timeline and see what was discussed, shared, and decided. Drop.io also supports media files and conferencing, so team members can call the phone number associated with the drop and record a message. It is instantly converted to an mp3 file and uploaded to the drop for all the other team members to hear.

Because the system plays nicely with others, your team members have the option of interacting with your drops in a number of ways, including using the tools they’re already comfortable with: a Web browser, e-mail, a chat program, their mobile phone. Each drop created has an e-mail address associated with it, so files can be sent directly to the drop from e-mail without logging into a browser. Or you can subscribe to an RSS feed to be instantly notified of any changes that take place on the drop. The default interface is simple to use and understand, but also allows for customization. So if you prefer to see things in a different order, or colors, or layout, or with your company logo, etc., you can modify it on your end.

Drop.io bills itself as a “powerful, real-time platform for simple file sharing, collaboration, and presentation” and I couldn’t agree more. Once you get your head around the types of things it’s useful for, the possibilities really present themselves. Because it is so easy to use, you’re likely to begin depending on drop.io as a stable part of the team, regardless of the task at hand.•

__________

Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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