How can we share our files accross several laptops?
July 21, 2006 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out the best solution to this problem: File sharing between 3 laptops and 1 pc (no server software).

Here's what we have:

3 laptops running Windows XP
1 PC running Windows XP (our "server")

We don't want to spend the money to purchase any type of server software (and don't want to run linux either).

Basically, we envision that the PC will have the latest version of our price sheets, templates, etc. And we need to make it easy to access and share these files, even when not in the office.

We're running into a problem because one person will update a file, and the other two are either left with an older version, or the file has to be e-mailed to them.

Ideally, our laptops would have a "drive" on them that directly connects to server PC. We want some kind of way we can just drag and drop files to get the latest versions.

I thought about VNC or remote desktop, but I don't think that's exactly going to do what we want it.

Any other ideas or software suggestions?

posted by andrewdunn to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hamachi

"Hamachi is a zero-configuration virtual private networking application.

In other words Hamachi is a program that allows you to arrange multiple computers into their own secure network just as if they were connected by a physical network cable.

Hamachi is fast, secure and simple. Its core version is also free. "
posted by jackofsaxons at 1:32 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could set up an FTP server (here's a great free one). Here's another free utility that will let you map your ftp server to a drive. The FTP server could be installed on the server machine and the other program on the laptops.

I'd suggest this over windows file sharing because it'll let the laptops connect over the internet.
posted by null terminated at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2006

Is there something wrong with using a shared folder on the PC?

Are these machines all in the same LAN or not?
posted by utsutsu at 1:34 PM on July 21, 2006

jackofsaxons: that looks like a great program.
posted by null terminated at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: Awesome - I was having a mental / google block and couldn't find anything.

Utsutsu: No that would the easy way, but with our 3 laptops many of us are roaming and not connected to the LAN.
posted by andrewdunn at 1:37 PM on July 21, 2006

Check out FolderShare.
posted by JohnYaYa at 1:50 PM on July 21, 2006

All of this stuff should be built into Windows XP. Try setting up the Microsoft Client/Server package, and use a shared folder. This way, each user of the server can 'mount' the folder remotely and access files from it. According to MS, this 'Simple File Sharing' is already on, and your computers just need to be on the same 'workgroup' (argh, windows).

Don't want to use a shared folder? Enable access to the whole hard drive. Beware this opens your computer up to some attacks, though. Be sure to check out the permissions of folders, and what IPs you allow to connect to your computer.
posted by triolus at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2006

I second foldershare. Point it to a directory, it makes sure the directory is synched between all the subscribed computers as soon as they are connected to the net. Plus, it works through firewalls.
posted by Good Brain at 3:20 PM on July 21, 2006

First of all, networking is built into every WindowsXP machine. You can't create a domain without server software, but Windows allows the creation of peer-to-peer networks out of the box.

Managing the shared document(s) is a little harder. Since you are concerned with differing versions being created, why not create a Subversion or CVS (version control) server? I've never done it, but the software is free and essentially involves a web server and procedures for checking in and out a file from a central repository. Might be worth paying for some consulting time if you can't figure it out.
posted by lhauser at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2006

I am, personally, a big fan of Gmail Drive, a shell program that allows you to use a Gmail Account just like a hard drive in a Windows envrionment. The best thing about this solution is that not only can you make the files accessible to everyone on their computers... You can ALSO access the files from anywhere by simply logging into your Gmail account.

Here's the wikipedia entry on the software, with links to places for download.
posted by lucidreamstate at 10:51 AM on July 22, 2006

My vote is also for Foldershare. It has been a lifesaver for me.
posted by coolin86 at 7:01 AM on July 25, 2006

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