Sunday, October 25, 2009

DriveHQ FTP Service

Review: DriveHQ Online FTP Service - both Free and Paid versions. Keyliner.blogspot.com needed a way to store files for reader-downloads. The free version is adequate for personal use but not for the general public. The paid version ($3 per month) resolves the issues.






Note: This article is now dated. 
Although this FTP Service has performed well for the past three years, Keyliner has now switched to a public GDrive.  The original review follows.
  
 
The Need:


Until now, Blogspot had no way to sharing files with its readers. For example, I have needed to do the following:
  • Displaying and distribute Program Code
  • Distribute full-sized Photographs
  • Distributing Executable Programs

The Solution:

The solution is to use an FTP Server or better yet, an FTP Service -- where they handle all of the hardware. An FTP Server is basically a secured disk sitting on the Internet. Using a browser (or other specialized FTP tools), I can upload, folderize, and download files -- files of any type. Once uploaded, my readers can download the files even though this blogging tool does not support the feature.

Free FTP Servers:

Although FTP servers are relatively easy to build, securing them from hackers takes skill and most home users and small businesses have no desire to keep an FTP server operational. A better solution is to use another company the specializes in FTP services.

Although Blog, video and photography services are now mostly free on the Internet (blogspot, WordPress, Facebook, YouTube, Flicker), the number of free FTP sites seems limited and the ones I found had unworkable restrictions. I abandoned the search and decided on a fee-based FTP service, "DriveHQ".

DriveHQ.COM

DriveHQ.com has both free and paid versions. The free version is adequate for personal use but has one major restriction: Visitors cannot download files without first registering as a DriveHQ user -- making this part of the service almost unusable for my readers. Although this account is free, none of my blog-visitors would bother and neither would I if I were in their shoes.

However, with a paid account ($3.00 per month), DriveHQ opens the service -- allowing non-registered (anonymous) users to download without registering.  This is a reasonable expense and I use the service in this manner.

Paid accounts can be paid monthly or yearly; your outstanding balance is simply decreased by a monthly service charge. If you sign up for a year's service ($30), they give two month's free. Remaining funds can be transferred to other accounts or other DriveHQ members but they will not refund what you have not spent. Payment can be by credit cards, Paypal, PO, or personal checks.

One of the reasons I chose this company is they do not automatically renew the subscription. If your payment lapses, the publicly-viewable files become private -- but the account survives. You can still get to your data but the public will have to register, as described above. Renew and everything opens-up, as-before. This seems fair. They send a polite email to remind you, but never nag or hassle. This is a low-pressure operation.

Administering

The web-based tool allows you to upload files, rename directories, grant rights to other users, and other such details and does not require special software. Note the Upload and Download buttons on the top toolbar. Here is a sample screen (click to view larger image, click Back to return):

Public Folders:

Folders are private to your account, unless 'published.' Once published, you can choose which DriveHQ users can see the contents and who can update. With a paid account, the "Public Folder" can be exposed to the Internet for all users, including non-registered visitors.

In Keyliner's Public Folder, you will find Excel Macro files, full-sized photographs, and other content referenced in this blog and this is the way I can distribute content directly to my readers without resorting to Email or other methods.

Direct Links to Files and Folders:

Another benefit of this service are direct links to content. From this blog I can direct readers directly to the download file. With photographs, the webpage can store a smaller version of the file, making browsing speeds faster, while the larger version can be stored offline. For example, try these links. You do not need to register:

Example File - this is a 2.5MB file: Toxaway Falls.jpg Link; Other-mouse-click the displayed image and choose Save-As.

Or click this link to arrive at the parent folder: Wallpaper Link and download explicitly using the wizard-tools. This method lets you see other files in the folder.

Technical note: When building links to the FTP site, use this syntax:
<a href="http://www.drivehq.com/file/df.aspx/publish/Keyliner/PublicFolder/wallpaper" target="new window">Keyliner FTP</a>

Where target="new window" opens the FTP site in a new window.


Browser-based vs Fat FTP Client

I use a browser to maintain the site, but this means individual files must be uploaded independently, using the online wizard. This can get tedious with a lot of files.

DriveHQ provides a free FileManager, which I have not tried, but it is basically a full-fledged FTP client that allows drag-and-drop files and folders. Tools like this, and like WinFTP, FileZilla, WinSCP, have more grace than the browser-version (see this Wikipedia article) but these clients must be installed on the local machine. Casual users and most readers of this blog would never bother with these tools.

The DriveHQ browser-tool has weird idiosyncrasies, such as not being able to overwrite a previously-uploaded file and an oddly-disturbing messages during an upload: "Start to upload!" (Does this mean you have more things you need to click? Why is it so excited?). In any case, the browser tools are adequate for light-weight work, but if I had a lot of content I would consider using their FileManager.

1 Year Update / 2010.11:

DriveHQ's has performed as promised and has been a no-hassles service. At my 1 year anniversary, they sent a simple email reminding me of the service and I did not hear from them again. Very refreshing. Keyliner continues to use this FTP service for its readers and I renewed for another year.  Currently, about a 500MB of downloads happen monthly on Keyliner. 

I have two minor complaints:
  • I am unable to tell if the service is being used by my readers. How many times has a particular file been downloaded? Beats me. Update: 2011.06: I found a series of spreadsheets I could download -- these show the entire account history with all activity.  This is a detailed view.  It would be nice to have a simpler, graphical view.
  • Another complaint is when the public arrives at the site to download a file, it is not intuitively obvious about how this is done. There is a busy tool bar and I feel I have to explain the process to the readers with this comment: On the FTP screen, click on the filename and then "Download" from the top tool-bar. I wished the Public view was simpler.
2 Year Update / 2012.09:

Keyliner has now shifted to GDrive.  The download process is a little less cumbersome for my readers and copying files to and from GDrive is a bit easier.  Folders can be exposed to the public or they can be secured to specific users.  GDrive has some drawbacks, which might be written about in a future article. I would like to thank DriveHQ for many years of good service.

Related links:
Adobe Send Now: Keyliner Reviewed for one-time Transfers

4 comments:

  1. After using DriveHQ FTP Service for a bit, are you still satisfied? Any changes to your opinions in the article?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Reply to Anonymous:

    No complaints about the service -- but then again, I haven't been able to tell if it is being used. One of my articles (Excel name-address parsing) is fairly popular, and I uploaded the code to the FTP server, but I've not taken the time to see if any readers have bothered to download.

    ReplyDelete
  3. DriveHQ lost all of my files.

    I've cancelled my subscription but they still have some of my money which they refuse to refund, saying they have a no refund policy. Now I know why.

    Andrew

    ReplyDelete
  4. Further to my last post, DriveHQ have now refunded my money.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are moderated and published upon review.