FolderShare, (Like) DotMAC for everyone

Peer to peer networking is normally associated with illegal music and movie downloads. Napster and Kazaa are largely responsible for that image, as was AudioGalaxy. Now, the creator of Audiogalaxy, Michael Merhej, is going legit and has developed a new application that puts power of P2P to good use – syncing folders and files between various different computers that you own. Merhej, heads up FolderShare, an Austin, Texas-based company that has developed an application of that name.

Here is how it works – you download the application – it works both on a PC and a Mac and install it. On the first run, the application goes to FolderShare’s website, where you basically register and mark which folders you want to sync. You repeat the process on another machine. Then you can set-up, when and how often the folder should be syncronized. The syncing can happen either over the local area network (WiFi) or over the Internet. The syncing service can basically handle most of the common formats – digital photos, word documents, excel spreadsheets, MP3 files.

I have been playing around it for a couple of days and it works as advertised. With an average US home having more than two computers, not to mention work-issued laptops, the program makes a lot of sense. Come home, turn on the laptop, and let the folders sync. God knows how many times I have come home and discovered that file is on a folder in the office, and have to basically wait till next morning to get to work. It also creates access to share files with colleagues and friends. Kiss that USB drive goodbye. Its like dot-mac for everyone. “Authentication happens through a RSA certificate,” says Merhej, “which basically ensures that you are the right person syncing to the right folders.”

Merhej says that since there is no storage-service involved in this, it is not right to compare it with dotMAC. “Its a p2p application so there is no managed storage in the middle,” he says. And unlike dotMAC it syncs between a MAC and a PC. Merhej says that while the service works over the Internet, the best performance is when you sync over the LAN/WiFi network because there is ample bandwidth available. The program, he says is free for use on two machines, and upto 5000 files. However beyond that, you can pay $50 a year for 20,000 files and two computers. The Pro Account that costs $100 a year allows you to sync upto five computers and unlimited files. FolderShare was till recently self-funded by Merhej, but the company took in some venture capital ivnestment from disk-drive market Iomega, which has started bundling the FolderShare software into its network drives.

But here is the best part – the program comes with a meta local search – which allows you to search through all connected computers, and all the files, and then displays the results on a browser. To me that alone is worth the price. Imagine five computers with 10 gigs of music files on each of those machines. Looking for Bob Marley’s Jamming will never be such a chore. Now someone should come up with a way to use P2P to network/stream music from one machine to another, in a manner as simple as FolderShare.

You can download the software here.