There ought to be an easy way to access all your important files on all your computers and share those files with others, whether they use a PC or a Mac -- and there is. ByteTaxi FolderShare offers flexible tools for realising that dream, though it may take a while to master its Web-based interface. Once you do, FolderShare opens up new possibilities of cross-platform collaboration.
FolderShare's Satellite client downloads and installs easily and is compatible with both PCs and Macs, although you may need to tweak your desktop firewall settings to get it to work properly. Unlike competitor BeInSync, which limits you to just three PCs, a single FolderShare license entitles you to install the software on all your computers -- pretty cool.
Like BeInSync, FolderShare comes in three flavours: The free version lets you share up to two folders in Read-Only mode and limits the number of simultaneous transfers. For US$49.95 a year, the Personal version gives you Web-based remote access and lets you share or sync up to 100 folders. For US$99.95 a year, the Professional version offers compressed data transfer and syncing of up to 250 folders.
Once installed, FolderShare places an icon in the system tray and runs quietly in the background. Right-click the icon to view a list of shared folders, to monitor activity, or to configure specific settings for each computer. Most of the configuration and setup, which involves designating shared folders and inviting people to share your files, takes place via a browser-based interface hosted on the company's Web site. On the one hand, FolderShare is convenient because it lets you control all your computers from a single interface; on the other hand, Web-based tools can be confusing at first for someone unfamiliar with remote administration.
Once you've mastered the process, it's simple to share folders across all your computers or invite other people to share folders. FolderShare automatically updates files, so once a file is changed on one system, all the other linked computers automatically use a direct, peer-to-peer SSL-encrypted connection to download the updated file. The Professional version allows you to set permissions for guests, limiting them to read-only or contributor access or even allowing them to invite others to view the folder -- something competitor BeInSync does not offer.
FolderShare's Web Download feature allows you to use any Web browser to download a file from any of the logged-in computers on your account; however, a lack of data encryption mars this potentially powerful and useful feature. If security is a concern, you should avoid using Web Download to access sensitive data. Fortunately, you can completely disable it on individual PCs as needed. You can also configure FolderShare to download only file placeholders, letting you view the contents of a folder first, then download only the specific files you need. This is especially useful for PCs with dial-up or other slow Internet connections. In our informal testing, FolderShare quickly transferred large numbers of files.
The company offers technical support via an e-mail form on its Web site, where you can also find detailed documentation.