Hacks to use dropbox as a local server?
March 29, 2016 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Dropbox cannot be shared locally on a network, and this is a big problem for our team. We rely on external people sharing files with us, and for that Dropbox has been great, however due to file sizes, we can't sync them locally, as our tiny macbook airs can't store all the files. At the same time, we need to be able to access them constantly. Is there some sort of workaround that we can put into place?

Just to clarify, we're all on Macs using OS X Server on a mac mini. Dropbox is running a pro account on that Mini, and our various partners all share with that account.

When we need to access a file, we have to do it from the web interface, and download and then re-upload all via the web. It's a huge pain.

In a perfect world, we would be able to go into our server in the finder, and dropbox would appear as a folder, and then we could add/modify/delete files as we wish, and it would update on the mac mini accordingly.

Because of the reasons stated in the help file above, this doesn't work. We have tried adding the dropbox folder or subfolders to sharepoints etc, and no dice.

I considered making a duplicate folder on our server and running some sort of two way sync program hourly, but that level of confusion is a bit above my level of technical proficiency.

We would consider changing platforms to something like BT Sync etc but we can't because all our partners etc are using DB so we're sort of tied to it.

Apart from buying everyone an external HD, are there any other solutions that I'm not considering?

Thank you!
posted by LongDrive to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could your team simply run dropbox on their laptops, and use selective sync to only sync a smaller specific subfolder relevant to their work at that moment?
posted by kickingtheground at 12:21 AM on March 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

You could run OwnCloud in a MAMP environment on the Mini.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:44 AM on March 30, 2016

What kickingtheground said.
posted by canine epigram at 3:12 AM on March 30, 2016

Just to clarify - Selective sync unfortunately won't work for our case. We're talking very large video files mostly, and even with LAN sync it's not very efficient, especially if we need to search for things.

Furthermore, we are tied to dropbox because our partners use it with other businesses. I.e, in some cases we are just one of many companies who are being shared with, so we really can't go out of that ecosystem unfortunately.
posted by LongDrive at 3:12 AM on March 30, 2016

In that case SMB file sharing via OS X and some sort of version control/check out software.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:32 AM on March 30, 2016

Sorry to threadsit, last post here, again just for clarification - You can't share dropbox files or folders with SMB. They will just appear empty on the client end.

A version control/check out system is definitely along the lines of what I was thinking - I.e, you clone the dropbox root folder, and share *that* via SMB, and then use some app which can simply copy modified files to the actual dropbox folder. This would have to work both ways though - i.e, if a folder or file changed on the actual dropbox folder, it would need to be copied to the cloned folder.

Now, I don't know what app would do that, and if it did exist, how to set it up, or if there is an alternative solution, as even that sounds like it could potentially be a bit dangerous.
posted by LongDrive at 3:38 AM on March 30, 2016

That’s weird. You ought to be able to share the DropBox folder - it’s just another directory on the underlying filesystem like any other under isn’t it? I wonder if DropBox is playing games with virtual filesystems?

If so, you could use MacDropAny to create symlinks from a directory in your DropBox folder to a different one & share that second folder instead. Worth a try?
posted by pharm at 3:59 AM on March 30, 2016

You can synchronise two folders on OSX using rsync if you have a little bit of command line knowledge: set up a script that calls (roughly)
rsync -aP dropbox/ SMB
There is a synchronisation problem: what if two people change the same file at the same time. This requires some thought to get right.

There are lots of wrappers to rsync.
posted by katrielalex at 4:45 AM on March 30, 2016

I am confused by why Selective Sync won't work for you though. The LAN sync should be limited by the network bandwidth; in particular, it should be as fast as the Samba share. As long as the large video files are neatly organised into different folders, it should be possible for an employee to switch on Selective Sync just to receive one file, but to do searches in the Web GUI.
posted by katrielalex at 4:48 AM on March 30, 2016

however due to file sizes, we can't sync them locally, as our tiny macbook airs can't store all the files.

Get large external hard drives, so team members can sync.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:18 AM on March 30, 2016

Synology NAS servers can sync with a shared Dropbox account, making the files available for access (via SMB and the Finder) over the network as opposed to syncing to everyone's laptop directly.
posted by eschatfische at 5:41 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you need to be continuously syncing with Dropbox, or could you just sync a couple times a day? Then you could just mirror the Dropbox folder to another folder on your server using rsync or something (I'm not sure how well rsync handles video files for incremental sync? It works well for other large files), and everyone could just use that one locally. You could sync that folder with the Dropbox folder at certain times. External hard drives is probably the most stable, but I think staying away from continuously syncing could work as well.

Also, I've never had a problem mounting Dropbox folders as SMB shares on OS X 10.8-11.
posted by bluefly at 6:09 AM on March 30, 2016

i had a survey from dropbox over the weekend where they were asking end-users for help. they were working out terminology and logic for accessing files through your local dropbox that aren't synced offline. i'm pretty sure this feature is coming soon...
posted by noloveforned at 7:52 AM on March 30, 2016

The Synology solution works really well.
posted by bradbane at 12:27 PM on March 30, 2016

What katrielalex said. I just shared my DropBox folder using this: How to connect with File Sharing on your Mac and then connected to it from another laptop. It seems ok.

What might be confusing is that when you goto share (ie, clicking the + in that 1st screen shot of the support article), "DropBox" isn't there initially... you have to go to:
machine nameHD -> Users -> account name of the user running DropBox -> DropBox

(that being said, I usually use the Synology thing eschatfische mentioned.)
posted by Spumante at 9:39 AM on March 31, 2016

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