Online file storage services such as SkyDrive and Amazon S3 are becoming increasingly popular, and many of us additionally save documents and other files online daily with webapps like Google Apps. Here’s how you can integrate these storage services with your Windows PC and access them just like your normal hard drive and flash drives.
Cloud computing promises to make file organization simpler, since you can save your files online and access them from anywhere. However, often the web interfaces are slow and difficult to use, which makes it hard to keep all of your files online. Gladinet is a free tool for Windows that lets you access many different online storage services directly in Windows Explorer. It mounts these accounts as networked storage devices, and lets you save, move, and rename files just as you would on your standard hard drive. Here’s an overview of how you can use Gladinet with the services you use to keep all of your data organized the way that works best for you.
Download the free Gladinet Starter edition (link below) and install as normal. Note that both 32-bit and 64-bit editions are available, so choose the correct one for your system.
During the install you’ll be given the option to customize Gladinet. We recommend leaving the Start WebClient service and Register Gladinet Cloud Desktop to Windows Firewall boxes checked, as these will ensure that Gladinet works as its supposed to.
Once its installed, you’ll need to do some preliminary setup. Select the bullet at the top to continue using the free starter edition, and click Next.
You can enter your email address if you wish to receive updates; otherwise, just click Next to continue.
Gladinet offers a wide variety of online storage accounts that you can add. We’re adding Windows Live SkyDrive in this example, but feel free to select any online storage accounts you have that you’d like to integrate with Windows Explorer. Click Next again to continue.
Finally, confirm your settings, and edit if anything is incorrect. Click Finish when you’re done.
Mount SkyDrive in Windows Explorer
Microsoft offers 25Gb of free online storage with their Windows Live SkyDrive service, but unfortunately, they don’t offer a way to integrate this storage directly into Windows. Gladinet, however, lets us mount SkyDrive as a local network drive, so you can open your online files and folders directly from Explorer, or drag-and-drop new files directly into your SkyDrive.
If you chose SkyDrive in the initial setup box as above, you’ll be all set to start using your 25Gb of free online storage in Windows. Open Computer and select the new Z: drive. Double-click the SkyDrive link to get started.
Enter your Windows Live ID and password in the dialog, and click Next.
Click Finish to get your SkyDrive account linked to your computer.
A popup will open making sure you want to load the SkyDrive plugin. Click Yes to accept and continue.
Gladinet will now mount SkyDrive in your new virtual Z: drive. This may take several minutes, depending on your internet connection speed.
You may see a popup offering to setup automatic backup to your cloud storage. This is a professional feature, so if you wish to just use the free version click Cancel to continue.
Using SkyDrive Directly In Windows Explorer
After a few minutes, an Explorer window will open and display the contents of your SkyDrive directly in Windows Explorer. Now you can browse the contents of your SkyDrive directly from Explorer! You can even use native Windows features such as breadcrumb folder selection.
You can access more functions from the right-click menu. In addition to the standard file and folder operations such as rename, copy, and delete, you can also choose Glaidnet-specific features. These let you get the URL for a web folder, or simply open the folder directly in your browser. Note that Explorer may appear to freeze while it is accessing your online storage; using online storage can be slow, especially if your internet connection is slow.
And you can quickly access your online storage directly from the Computer view in Explorer. Note that the amount of storage reported available was strangely just copying our C: drive’s storage; your SkyDrive only contains 25Gb of storage space.
You can add new files by dragging and dropping them into folders in SkyDrive. This will open a small popup from Gladinet showing the upload progress. Adding new files may take some time, depending on your internet connection. If you’d rather not see the popups every time, check the box at the bottom of the dialog.
Additionally, if you’re uploading or downloading large files or a large number of files at once, Gladinet will warn you that the process may take a long time. If you’d like to backup a large number of files to or from your online storage, you may want to let your computer upload during the night or some other time when it would otherwise be idle.
You can also select your online SkyDrive storage as the location to save new files from any program.
You can open any of your files directly from your SkyDrive by simply double-clicking them as normal. Again, they may take a few moments to open as they must download first. If you open a Microsoft Office file from your SkyDrive in Office 2010, it will recognize that the file is stored online at SkyDrive and will take advantage of the versioning support in the Office Web Apps. Your Save button will change to show that it is refreshing the changes with the copy saved on the cloud.
Do note that SkyDrive only allows you to store files that are up to 50Mb large. If you try to upload a larger file, Gladinet will offer to split the file in smaller pieces for you; however, this is a professional feature, so if you’re using the free version just click No and upload a different file or split the file in pieces yourself.
Additional, sycronization tools such as SyncToy did not seem to work with online storage accounts in Gladinet. So if you want to backup files to your online storage, you’ll need to either purchase the professional version of Gladinet which includes a backup utility or simply drag-and-drop the files manually.
Add Another Storage Account
Gladinet isn’t just limited to one online storage account; you can add as many accounts as you need, including multiple accounts at the same service. To add an account, browse to your networked drive (usually Z:\) and double-click the Click to mount [cloud storage] link.
Select the storage provider you wish to add from the drop-down list. We’re going to add our Google Docs account, you could add an FTP account, Amazon S3, Windows Azure, or even a second Windows Live SkyDrive account.
Enter the account information for this account. If you’re adding your Google Apps account, enter your email address and password.
Now click Finish to setup the account, and Gladinet will automatically add this cloud storage account to your computer.
If you haven’t used this storage service yet, you may be prompted to load the correct plugin. Click Yes to continue.
After a few moments, your new cloud storage account will open in Explorer. Here we have our Google Docs account open, and we can open and edit individual documents in Microsoft Office on our PC. You can even add new documents to your Google Docs account, or organize your documents into folders. This is a great way to quickly add new documents to Google Docs, or backup your existing documents. We were able to add other files, including an .exe program to our Google Docs account, but remember that your Google Docs account only has 1Gb of free storage.
If you upload a document to a Google Docs account, you may be prompted that the file will be converted to Google Docs format. You can click Yes to disable the conversion and upload the original file, or click No to proceed with the file conversion.
Here’s our new files in our Google Docs account. Too bad you can’t edit the exe’s source code in the cloud!
Extra Gladinet Features
You can access extra Gladinet features from its tray icon.
One especially nice feature is the Task Manager, which lets you see the progress of current uploads and any errors that may have occurred with previous transfers.
You can also access other Gladinet settings from the left sidebar, such as the amount of offline cache Gladinet will keep on your computer. Note that most of the additional features are marked as Pro, so you won’t be able to use them with the standard free version.
If you regularly use online file storage services, Gladinet can be an extremely useful tool to help you pull all of your storage options together and organize both your online and offline files the way you want. This lets you quickly edit Office documents in SkyDrive or Google Docs in native desktop applications, or copy all of your important files to a secure online folder in a variety of services. Accessing files and folders was often fairly slow, but this will depend on your internet connection. Still, it was a much more convenient way to manage online storage than web-based interfaces. It is also a great way to migrate files from one online storage service to another. For instance, you could move your Google Docs to SkyDrive or vise versa, or even move all of your files to a secure Amazon S3 storage account.
Gladinet Starter Edition is free, and contains all the features we’ve covered here, while the Pro version costs $49 and offers encrypted, compressed, and mirrored folders in the cloud, as well as a cloud backup utility that can backup to multiple online storage locations at once. Either which edition you choose,
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