I’ve been using FTP (that stands for File Transfer Protocol) for a long time. It’s been around since before there was a World Wide Web, back when the Internet was text-only and computer monitors were monochrome and gave you retinal sunburn if you stayed up all night using BITNET Relay to talk to your fellow geeks. (I was a Classics major, but I’ve been online since 1985, and I have my freshman playwriting class to blame for it. Go figure.)
A couple of weeks ago I got an message from “the first and only ‘file sharing/backup’ company that is hosted using Amazon’s S3 technology and offers a cloud based server and FTP/Browser access that plugs directly into the cloud,” to wit, HostedFTP.com.
Frankly, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call HostedFTP a backup company, because while you can certainly back up your files to your account there, you have to do it manually, or via a backup program that lets you choose an FTP server as a backup destination. And I don’t know whether the fee structure (the charge is based on the average space used per month, plus bandwidth fees for downloads) particularly favors backup, which is likely to need more storage space over time. A web host that increases your quota each month might be a better bet.
The file sharing aspect of the service, and the simplicity of the web-based interface, however, are definitely interesting. Thanks to the ubiquity of digital video and 12-megapixel cameras, more and more people need to send large files to each other. E-mail certainly doesn’t cut it, and I have actually encountered some people who found receiving a file from YouSendIt too confusing. (Yeah, that is right up there with how a Classics major gets to be a mainframe user.) And in any case, the free version of YouSendIt tops out at 100MB, which is small for a video file, or even uncompressed audio.
HostedFTP is very easy to use, though I did notice that in their “Your account is now active” message, they didn’t actually tell me that my FTP username was the e-mail address I’d signed up with. (It wasn’t that hard to guess, however.) There doesn’t seem to be a QuickStart guide for using an FTP client; they either haven’t written it yet, or assume that anyone who can use an old-fashioned FTP client can figure out which of the three directories there to put files into.
The terms of service, like those of all online backup providers and all backup software makers, state clearly that they take no responsibility for loss of your data. Just so you know. I don’t think any company could afford the insurance premiums if they volunteered to take on that kind of liability. And they’re using Amazon’s web services, which means their infrastructure is probably considerably more stable than that of a lot of start-ups.
The thing that gets me a bit is the name. The user-friendly interface of the personal account, and the emphasis on file-sharing, make this seem like a service oriented toward consumers who want to send videos and the like to one another, or professionals who have massive presentations to send back and forth. In either case, people who weren’t online before the Web, people who never used FTP, people who relate much better to names like YouSendIt.
But the other market HostedFTP wants to reach is the enterprise. They have a whole fact sheet on why their hosted service is more secure and has more features than traditional FTP directly into the company website (which is not usually permitted, because there’s this little thing called a firewall). Corporate IT Directors and CIOs certainly know perfectly well what FTP is. And maybe, if the end users of the FTP solution are going to be non-tech-savvy employees, they too would want something with an extremely user-friendly UI. The problem those people have is with anything “hosted.” So HostedFTP.com might have their work cut out for them in the branding department.
Based on my still-fairly-cursory examination, I’d say HostedFTP.com is a decent service of its kind. It might grow into a great service. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on, and I’d definitely recommend signing up for a free trial if you have any large files you need to send to anybody. (You can send the files to anyone—just fill in name and e-mail address.)
Next week, DriveSavers answers questions about data recovery!