file delivery

How to Sync All Your Cloud Storage to a Tiny SSD

The Backstory

When we finish a project and are ready to deliver files to a client, we used to burn CDs, then DVDs, then thumb drives, and eventually moved everything to the cloud. I've tried just about every solution out there and we always come back to Dropbox. I like that I can easily copy a folder of images from our server, and drop them in a client's folder via the Finder on Dropbox. From there I can right-click on the folder and get a link to the folder which I can email to my client. The client simply clicks the link and is greeted with a clean interface for browsing the files and has only one option . . . download the files (unless they're Dropbox users as well, in which case they also have the option to add to Dropbox). No passwords, no pages to navigate through, just a big button that says DOWNLOAD. That's about as easy as it gets! 

A Few New Features

Recently Dropbox added the ability to set time limits which files are accessible, kind of a nice feature (although not something we really use much) if you want to give your client the opportunity to download the files and then clear the space on your Dropbox account.

Another feature they've added is the ability for WebDAV access. Why do we care? Let me explain (this is where it gets geeky) . . .

The Problem

I have a 1TB Dropbox account. When you install the Dropbox app on your computer, the Dropbox folder on your computer syncs with Dropbox in the cloud. This is what makes it so easy to drag/drop client files from the server to Dropbox in the cloud. The problem is, that some of my computers have small-ish SSD drives (128, 256, or 512GB) and I end up filling the entire disk with Dropbox items that I'd rather just keep in the cloud. Fortunately Dropbox gives users the ability to perform Selective Syncing, which basically allows a user to define which specific files/folders they want to sync between their computer and the cloud. I can easily deselect my Client Downloads folder (the place where I drop all finished files for delivery), but then I lose the ability to drag/drop from my server to the cloud, instead having to resort to the Dropbox web interface for uploading client files. That defeats the whole K.I.S.S. process.

What I'm Looking For

What I've been looking for since I started using Dropbox years ago, is a way to have instant access via the Finder to my Dropbox files, giving me the freedom to drag/drop files between my server and the cloud, while not taking up any space on my hard drive (SSD). Additionally, I'd like the ability to get a link which I can share with my client without having to use the Dropbox web interface.

The Solution (almost)

Enter DropDav. This $5 monthly service harnesses the newly released ability to access Dropbox via WebDAV protocols. I don't even have to install proprietary software to make it work. This means I can use a desktop client like Panic's Transmit which offers the ability to connect to WebDAV services, such as Dropbox. With Transmit, I can automatically mount a WebDAV server to my desktop like any other connected drive, giving me complete access to Dropbox via the Finder, without taking up any room on my internal drive! I even went a step further and created a shortcut to this remote location in my Finder's sidebar, giving me identical functionality that I had with the native Dropbox app . . . almost. With the native Dropbox app, Finder gives you the ability to right click on a file and generate a link which can be shared with clients. This functionality is not part of the DropDAV solution, which still requires me to access the Dropbox web interface in order to fetch that shared link.

A Better Solution

I don't mind paying a small monthly fee for a valuable service, but if at all possible, I'd rather pay for something once and be done. And while DropDav solves my space issues for Dropbox, it does nothing for my other cloud storage services like Google Drive, box, and the many others available. I knew I couldn't be the only one dealing with this issue in this day of SSDs, so I did some searching and found an app called ExpanDrive. This is the solution I was looking for! You can connect multiple accounts, even the same type of accounts . . . for example, I have two Google Drive accounts, and I can connect them both! Backspace, Copy, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, SFTP, FTP, and more can all be connected using ExpanDrive. The software will automatically mount each of these connected cloud storage services, making them instantly available like any other connected drive on your computer. Best of all, there's no monthly fee!


Ultimately, DropDav solves a large part of the problem I've been facing since the migration to cloud based file sharing. While I'm not a fan of monthly fees, it works well and is a solid solution for anyone looking to mount Dropbox to their machine and save the space normally eaten up by syncing. I think the better option is ExpanDrive, with no monthly fees and the ability to connect a plethora of services. Unfortunately neither of these options offer the ability to share links directly from the Finder. In order to avoid using the web interface, I found a little (free) app called App for Dropbox that does only one thing . . . it rides up in the toolbar and allows me to grab the share links for any file/folder in Dropbox. Problem solved!