I am hoping someone knows of an online storage/sync service like Dropbox that can meet the following needs:

I envision that each member of the family has a separate account to keep personal files. They log into the service with their own account. There would then be a shared space that the whole family shares, much like a family cell phone plan. All files need to sync to and from the cloud, and hopefully use LAN when possible.

Dropbox gets it close, but in order to share 125GB of data across the family, every single person needs an upgraded account or you exceed the limits. The only way I have seen to get around this is to run 2 dropboxes on each computer, one for personal use and the other for the whole family. But this is far from perfect; it creates a security issue (too many people knowing the master password) and violates the ToS of Dropbox.

Basically, I think there should be some sort of "family account" where things like music, pictures, videos, and other family-related documents would go. Things that people in the same household tend to share. Personal stuff and individual backups would remain in the account.

Mozy is great for backup, but not so great for live sync of files. Windows Live Mesh is limited to 5GB for cloud sync, or it would be nearly perfect. SpiderOak doesn't allow sync of the shared folders between users. CrashPlan doesn't have a shared storage area, it's mainly for backup.

Anyone have any pointers to some service that would get close to this?

Alternatively, is there an open source software that does Dropbox-style functionality that I could run on my own server?

  • More information is needed. How many people are accessing the device. Is it always on? What's your bandwidth? – surfasb Jul 6 '11 at 22:24

Have you tried SugarSync? You can share (and I believe sync) files across users. I'm not sure if it uses LAN when possible for shared folders however.

  • This looks quite promising already. I've installed it, and the 5GB free will help me make a much better determination if it will work or not. No Linux support yet, but I can mount another computer's synched folder as a drive in the meantime. Will update if this meets the needs, as it seems others are in similar situations! – drharris Jun 5 '11 at 18:58
  • Yes, the lack of Linux support is disappointing. I believe people may have it running on Wine. – John M. Jun 5 '11 at 18:59
  • Nice! Since they have an API I have discovered someone is making their own Linux client: mwillis.co.uk/projects/sugarsync-linux-client for anyone interested. This is looking better and better. – drharris Jun 5 '11 at 19:04
  • While that is true, I think I should note that the last commit on his GitHub project page is from December of 2010: github.com/markwillis82/Sugar-Sync-Linux-Client – John M. Jun 5 '11 at 19:13
  • Ah, indeed it is. It still raises my hopes it will eventually be used. After fiddling with SugarSync awhile, it's clear it doesn't meet my needs exactly. The lack of LAN sync is a huge oversight, as is the missing ability to sync ONLY on LAN. However, this is easily accomplished with Live Mesh. I think I will use Live Mesh for folders I only want outside the cloud (maybe Music), and then use SugarSync for folders like Photos that I'd prefer to be backed up in a remote location too. – drharris Jun 5 '11 at 20:12

What about using JungleDisk? You pay them a certain amount per month for access to the software ($2-4/user per month depending on the type of account), and then you get unlimited back-end storage on Amazon S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files. You will have to pay for the amount of storage you use, but the first 10GB is free, and on Amazon you will have to pay for network bandwidth in and out, but otherwise it seems like it might be a good fit for you.


Alternatively, is there an open source software that does Dropbox-style functionality that I could run on my own server?

You may find an ftp server and a good client sufficient for your needs if you're willing to run your own server.

The benefit of doing this is full customization for how it works and the limitations being your own hardware's limitations.

The downside is that setting up your own ftp server and showing the family how to use the client of your choice will require much more work and knowledge on your part than a cloud-sync software like Dropbox does.

Additionally, while most FTP software is intended for manual file uploading and download, there is software like FTP Synchronizer (linked below) that automates the process like DropBox does.

If you're interested in using FTP, take a look at Filezilla and FTP Synchronizer.

  • 1
    Yes, I have already tried the FTP route. It has many disadvantages, the primary one of course being as you mentioned, showing the family how to use it, and making sure they actually DO use it. It worked for me for years until I decided to start a family. ;) I'm more than willing to pay a fee for a service that makes it easy as Dropbox does. Also, FTP doesn't automate things like encrypting certain sensitive data, and I would then have to manage online backups for the FTP server. Definitely the cheapest option, but it has its definite pitfalls. – drharris Jun 5 '11 at 18:56
  • I wonder if you could setup a cron script to automatically backup to your FTP server? And if you used ftps or add a gpg encrypt it would be somewhat encrypted. – John M. Jun 5 '11 at 19:00
  • I've not used it, but BestSync mentions several security abilities, including SFTP and FTPS and the ability to automatically compress a folder and encrypt the resulting zip file. download.cnet.com/BestSync/3000-2242_4-10432269.html – Nich Del Jun 5 '11 at 19:22

Cloud Storage

Check out Amazon's S3 service (and a third party app like this to mount it as a drive).

Another option is to check out the Ubuntu One storage cloud.

There are various other similar services you can search for too. Try searching for something like "cloud storage windows drive" to find additional options.

You could also go old school and look in to getting FTP service from somewhere, though I personally hate FTP and think it should be deleted (along with IE).

Privately Hosted Storage

If you want to go more custom, then I'd suggest you setup a file server of sorts somewhere and use periodically called rsync scripts to keep everything in sync.

Strengths & Weaknesses

The nice thing about the cloud storage options is you don't have to do a lot and they can be quite cheap and reliable. The nice thing about going with your own server is you retain pretty good control over your data.


If you want, you could explore using something like TrueCrypt on top of cloud storage, though I can imagine there could be synchronization pitfalls.

  • Indeed Dropbox looks like a decent option too. – James T Snell Jul 6 '11 at 22:30
  • WhitePhoenix, your answer wasn't deleted - the question you flagged was merged with this question, preserving the answers and their scores. So your answer still exists, it's just in a different place now. – nhinkle Jul 7 '11 at 1:30

DropBox seems to be pretty popular right now, although you "only" get 2Gb for free. It supports Windows, Mac and Linux clients, as well as mobile platforms (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry).


DropBox is probably your best bet for automatic background syncing. Plans are available for up to 100 GB, and there is no file size limit for files uploaded via the desktop application.

Box.net and Windows Live Mesh are a couple other options, but would not meet your 5 GB file size requirement.

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