Transporter Sync Review: Your Very Own Dropbox

If you like Dropbox, but wish you had full control over the service, then the Transporter might be a product you’d be interested in.

As you may already know, Dropbox is a popular cloud storage service that lets you store files online and access them from pretty much any device. These files are stored in a remote location on a hard drive in one of Dropbox’s servers.

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This is dandy and all, but if you have sensitive files with personal information, it can be a bit daunting to know that these files are stored on some random hard drive somewhere unknown to you, just waiting to get hacked.

Furthermore, since you’re essentially renting out storage space from Dropbox, the company has rules on what you can and cannot store on its servers, just like with a lease when you rent an apartment, which means you don’t necessarily have full control over what you store. Plus, anything more than 2GB you have to pay a monthly fee for with Dropbox.

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Enter the $90 Transporter Sync, a device from Drobo that lets you turn any USB external hard drive into a cloud storage system that’s 100% controlled by the user without any monthly fees. It’s a lot like Dropbox, but instead of files being stored “in the cloud” within some random server farm, the files are stored right next to you (or wherever you have the hockey puck-shaped device set up). You can still access files from pretty much any device (just as long as you’re logged into your account), but the files themselves never leave your house, so to speak.

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To set up the Transporter Sync, simply just connect an ethernet cable to it and plug it into your router, connect a USB external hard drive, and plug in the power. From there, you don’t need to physically mess with the device, as everything else moving forward is done on the computer.

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Next, you simply navigate to the welcome page in your web browser where you create a Transporter account and finalize the setup. You can access the Transporter Sync within a web browser, just like with Dropbox, but the experience really isn’t complete without the dedicated desktop apps for Windows and Mac, as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.

This is where the Transporter sync really shines. It works almost exactly how Dropbox works, save for a handful of minor differences. You drag-and-drop files into the Transporter folder on your computer and they automatically sync with your devices that you have connected with Transporter, but nothing is stored locally on your mobile devices.

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That is where the Transporter Library comes into play, which is a folder within the main Transporter folder in the desktop app. Any files stored in there will not be stored locally on your computer. Otherwise, any files that you put into the main Transporter folder will also be stored locally on your computer.

One downside I’ve come across is the way files are viewed on your mobile device. When opening up a file (like a video, for instance), the app loads the entire video before playing it, instead of streaming it and playing it right away.

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It’s also worth noting that every file you view in the Transporter app on your mobile device is saved locally.

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To me, this is a huge drawback. If I want to view an album of photos that I have on my Transporter, my iPhone needs to download each one before I can view them. Then, once I’m done, I can either leave them locally stored or remove them from my iPhone one-by-one. It’s kinda of a nuisance.

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However, I really like the sharing abilities of Transporter. I can right-click on a file and create a share link instantly. Then I can just send that link to anyone and they can then download the file to their computer.

Unfortunately, sharing a folder isn’t quite as easy. In fact, if you want to share a folder full of files with someone who doesn’t use a Transporter, they’ll be required to create a Transporter account in order to view the folder that you’re sharing with them, which is a bit unproductive to say the least.

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One thing about this that seems a bit weird and strange is that when you go to select people to share a folder with, you can either enter in their name if they’re a Transporter user, or just type in their email address if they’re not a Transporter user. When you type in a name, it’ll bring up close matches of Transporter users, displaying their name and username, which isn’t a breach of privacy or anything, but it makes me a bit uneasy to know that someone can pull up my name and Transporter username if they wanted to.

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In the end, Transporter does a good job at attempting to be your very own Dropbox, but it unfortunately falls short. The way it opens up files on mobile devices is simply unacceptable, and to force users to create an account in order to view a folder full of files that was shared with you is pretty absurd.

Of course, not having to pay monthly fees for a ton of cloud storage is certainly a plus, but I’d reckon that usability is more important to users — it certainly is to me. With that said, I’d gladly pay $10 per month for 1TB of storage with Dropbox if it meant that I could easily view files on my iPhone and share files with other users without any strings attached.