Dropbox alternative that's actually good at file organization
January 3, 2018 12:40 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to sync a subset of my cloud-stored files to my laptop, back up the entirety of my cloud-stored files to a 1TB external drive, and easily view and organize the directory and file structure of these files, ideally via some kind of tree view. What do I want?

My issues with Dropbox boil down to two things: the problem outlined in this Dropbox forum post (no support for syncing selectively to a laptop drive and non-selectively to a large external drive), and the fact that the web browser interface is absolute garbage for doing any kind of serious file re-organization because I have to navigate into a directory in order to see its contents. My renewal date on my personal account is coming up, and I'd like to make a switch, but I haven't explored enough about Box, Google Drive, or some of the other options out there to know if there's anything better. Is there?
posted by deludingmyself to Technology (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
SpiderOak does this well. I've used SpiderOak off and on for years and it's easily the most flexible cloud storage/sync and backup option. The only downside to that it's not mobile friendly--if you don't need mobile it's great.
posted by quarterframer at 12:59 PM on January 3, 2018


I may not be understanding the question, but on linux I just softlinked the ~/Dropbox directory to the external hard drive, and it seems to work fine. On any flavor of *nix system including OSx it's relatively easy to sync different directories/parts of directories using rsync and a script, but if you're wanting something that just works out of the box I've generally found Dropbox better/more flexible/cheaper than anything else; Drive sucks and tends to helpfully change files, Box doesn't work on all three big OS's, btsync is promising but doesn't sound like it would really fit your needs . . .
posted by aspersioncast at 1:03 PM on January 3, 2018


I may not be understanding the question, but on linux I just softlinked the ~/Dropbox directory to the external hard drive

What I have is a Dropbox directory that lives on my (small) laptop drive, and is thus selectively synced to the cloud to contain only a subset of my data locally. So symlinking to that doesn't help me any (unless you're doing something different and I'm misunderstanding the answer).
posted by deludingmyself at 1:11 PM on January 3, 2018


The question might hinge on how that "large external drive" is mounted on your laptop, and whether it's just a USB drive, or some kind of NAS/SAN (network attached storage / storage area network) type of thing.

Would the external drive be something that you intend to carry with you? (e.g. to a cafe or other remote location) Or would it be something that you plug in only at your desk?
posted by theorique at 1:49 PM on January 3, 2018


I've heard good things about SpiderOak, but their current website - gah. Not even a list of features. Just "click here to start your free trial account!" Whatever their data storage software is, it's not clear from their list of products/apps down at the bottom of the page.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:06 PM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Would the external drive be something that you intend to carry with you?

No, the external drive is plugged into the laptop roughly 5% of the time. As is often the case, articulating this problem for Ask MeFi has led me to another possible workaround: make another user account on the laptop, set the Dropbox account for that user account to the external hard drive, sync everything there, and then all my files will be accessible locally if and only if I'm at home and connected to my extra terabytes of local storage.

That said, this solution is not supported by Dropbox, who officially claim not to support use of external hard drives at all, which is hilarious/sad.

I'm also looking at pCloud, if anyone has any good or bad experiences with them.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:11 PM on January 3, 2018


i've been using pcloud for about a year because i was able purchase a 'lifetime' account (initially 500gb but upgraded to 2tb when i decided i liked it).

i like that it maps to a drive letter (p:) in windows so everything is readily accessible, even if it's not synced. i have never used it as place where i open and edit documents but it's worked just fine as a place to back up my music, video and photos. i also use it as a shared space with a friend and that seems to work well too.

moving files to/from pcloud seems slower than dropbox (although maybe it's mental- with all the space i'm moving bigger files). pcloud seems to want a bunch of space on my c: drive even though I swear i told it to use my larger second hard drive (not external).

my cloud issue is always storage space. if pcloud offered a 10TB lifetime account for $700-1000 i'd probably buy it in a heartbeat.
posted by noloveforned at 3:44 PM on January 3, 2018


not supported by Dropbox, who officially claim not to support use of external hard drives at all, which is hilarious/sad

The main issue will be that if you start the Dropbox client on your second user account at some time when the external drive isn't plugged in (which would be easy to do unintentionally, Dropbox usually being set to start automatically at login) then the Dropbox client will see the directory the external drive usually mounts on as empty, and react as if all the files inside it had been deleted by propagating those deletions to your cloud account; probably a scenario worth avoiding.

then all my files will be accessible locally if and only if I'm at home and connected to my extra terabytes of local storage

What I'd do in your shoes is acquire a low-end Synology or QNAP NAS and run a Dropbox client on that.
posted by flabdablet at 4:23 AM on January 4, 2018


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