With the advent of intelligent one-to-one file sharing solutions such as Streamfile and the increasing popularity of great cloud storage and sharing solutions such as Dropbox and Syncplicity, FTP’s days are numbered. Why bother with unsightly FTP software and annoying server settings when a solution like Syncplicity will allow you to securely share any directory in about five seconds? The answer: You don’t have to. Massachusetts-based ExpanDrive offers two solutions, one for Mac and one for PC, that will make you look at FTP in a whole new light and think twice before shelling out big bucks for a trendy cloud storage solution.
ExpanDrive offers two products that essentially accomplish the same thing: sexify the way you interact with FTP. For the purposes of this post we’ll focus on the Mac solution though the Windows solution accomplishes the same thing on a PC. In a nutshell, ExpanDrive allows you move files to and from FTP servers as if each server was an individual remote drive. By making use of the standard Finder UI on a Mac, there’s nothing new to learn – transfer files simply by dragging and dropping just as you would anywhere else in Finder. You’ll have access to FTP drives on your desktop (as seen in the image at the top of the post) and from within the Finder sidebar just like you would with a network drive or iDisk:
There is also no limit to the number of simultaneous connections you can have. In other words, unlike a standard FTP client you can maintain an active connection to your FTP site along with clients’ FTPs, software company FTPs and any other servers you want.
Beyond the Finder interface, the only other piece of UI is the Drive Manager where you can connect to drives as well as add and remove drives. You can also choose to auto-connect to a drive within the settings which is awesome when using FTP as a remote storage solution. Green lights indicate connected drives, yellow disk icons represent standard FTP drives and red disk icons represent secure SFTP drives (FTPS is supported as well in the Mac client, coming soon to Windows):
ExpanDrive places an icon in your taskbar as well, so you can easily connect, disconnect and see the status of each of your drives:
Apart from standard FTP functionality wrapped in the Finder UI, ExpanDrive gives you a terrific front end for as many iDrive-like remote storage drives you can stomach. The obvious benefit over other remote storage options such as iDrive however, is the cost. iDrive gives users 150 GB of storage for $49.50 per year and a slightly sexier solution, ZumoDrive, will run you an outlandish $450+ per year for 200 GB or a still-ridiculous $240 per year for 100 GB. For real?
These days just about everyone has a website and even the cheapest hosting plans typically come with free secure FTP access and a massive amount of storage. For example, the base plan from HostGator offers unlimited disk space for just $4.95 per month. Unlimited. So if you already have a decent hosting plan like HostGator’s, ExpanDrive gives you a ridiculous amount of remote storage for absolutely no additional monthly or yearly cost — just a one-time software purchase. If you don’t already have a hosting plan or an FTP account somewhere, plenty of services provide them for pennies compared to Amazon S3 front-end solutions like ZumoDrive.
We still say there’s no better sharing / auto-sync / remote back up service than Syncplicity – but where files you don’t need hogging up local space are concerned, ExpanDrive literally trounces the more expensive options mentioned above. Plus, it removes the need to use cumbersome and tricky FTP clients; ExpanDrive is actually a front end solution and can use any FTP client such as CyberDuck or even Firefox to move data (don’t worry, it will chose from available FTP apps on its own when you install it). As far as cost you’re looking at a one-time purchase price of $39.95, or $34.95 if you first join the ExpanDrive group on Facebook. Not bad at all. Don’t take our word for it though — ExpanDrive offers a free full-featured 30-day trial on both applications.