Windows Live FolderShare

I just came across a post today on LiveSide that talks about some of the problems faced by users of FolderShare. I have to be honest, even though FolderShare appears to be part of Windows Live, I haven’t heard much about it. It’s not advertised on Windows Live betas and hasn’t been talked about much by any of the Windows Live bloggers.

For those of you who don’t know:

FolderShare allows you to synchronize files across multiple computers and access or share files with colleagues and friends. You no longer need to send large files via email, burn them to CDs/DVDs and mail them, or upload them to a website. FolderShare allows you to share and sync important information instantly with anyone you invite, making it the perfect solution for personal or small business use. FolderShare allows you to share with other people, sync folders between your own computers, and remotely access your files via a web browser.

What that really means is that FolderShare allows you to securely keep files synchronized between your devices, share files, and remotely download files from any web browser. It consists of two pieces: My FolderShare and FolderShare Satellite. My FolderShare is the web-based side of the service and allows you to:

  • Setup devices to sync or share with
  • Invite others (via email address) to share your files
  • Manage your account - upgrade your subscription, change your email address or password
  • Get help
  • Download the latest software

The FolderShare Satellite is the software you need to install on the device you want to sync or share files with and provides the following features:

  • The FolderShare Satellite will run in the background when you are online.
  • As you update shared or synced files, it will automatically update them on the other devices connected.

What is interesting about FolderShare are it’s similarities and differences to the Windows Live SkyDrive service. The biggest noticeable difference is the user interface. Windows Live SkyDrive features the Windows Live UI while FolderShare still sports a very utilitarian interface that leaves much to be desired. The other big difference is that FolderShare automatically shares all of your local hard drives through the secure My FolderShare site while SkyDrive only shares files that you explicitly upload.

I would really love to see FolderShare and SkyDrive merged together where I can have a single sign-on experience (right now you still have to register on FolderShare separately) using my Windows Live ID and have the Personal folders in SkyDrive actually use the FolderShare Satellite services. Then, if I share a folder I have the ability to share it securely (the SkyDrive Shared folders) or publicly (SkyDrive Public folders). Additionally, since FolderShare already requires a client component it would be great to have some additional options in the Windows File Sharing dialog box. While we’re at it, the default public folder that is created when you setup your SkyDrive account should mirror the Windows Public folder by default as well.

I know the FolderShare team is working on a lot of improvements that will be seen over the next few months, mostly centered around the UI. I hope that those changes will also see a tighter integration with the rest of the Windows Live services and specifically with SkyDrive.