If you have been reading any of the Apple magazines over the past few years, you have probably read about or are using a service like DropBox or Google Drive to provide file and photo synchronization between your laptop and desktop or to share files with employees or clients. These services are absolutely wonderful and stable, but there is of course one drawback, you need to pay for these services and that payment amount is directly tied to the amount of disk space you use from the service. While all these types of services offer anywhere from 2 - 20GB of free disk space to start using their service, if you produce audio or video you can eat up that amount of space in no time at all.
So what if you’d like to set up a similar service for your organization on your own servers? Enter SparkleShare, a free open source set of server and client tools that provide very similar functionality but run on your own equipment. That being said, it does take a little bit of technical expertise to get SparkleShare installed, so if you are not comfortable with the terminal (command line) in OS X, you may want to seek a consultant or friend’s help with this. The paradigm for SparkleShare is a little bit different than the pay for tools. SparkleShare works on a project paradigm, whereas you create a project and put files into it and anyone subscribed to that project will get those files sync’d to them. So make sure you don’t accidentally put personal files in a project you have shared with other folks.
On the server side of the picture, you will need to install one open source projects called Git and make sure that Remote Login is enabled on the machine that is going to act as your SparkleShare server. Then open http://sparkleshare.org/set-up-a-host/ and follow the nine commands you have to issue on the machine acting as the server to get it set up. Not too bad or too difficult!
Once that is done, you have location to send your data too, now you will need to go to http://sparkleshare.org and download the client software for the platform you are going to install the client too. That’s right, SparkleShare will allow you to share/sync files between your Windows or Linux machines and your Mac or your friend/business associates machine regardless of their platform.
Now that you have the client and server installed, it’s just a matter of linking your client to the server. This is done by clicking on the SparkleShare status icon in the menubar, Selecting “Add Hosted Project”. Select “On my own server”, enter your server address in the Address field and “/home/git/MyProject” in the Remote Path field. Click Add. You are now linked and can store files to to the server.
Now that your project is all set up on the server and client, you can point folks you need to share with to the download section of sparkleshare.org and provide them your server address and project name. This will be simplified in an upcoming version that will provide a web interface for you to send out invites from, but until then these manual steps are required and are, in my opinion, a fair trade off for a free, secure, private sharing tool like this.
Hope you enjoy using SparkleShare as much as I do. And if you use it professionally, please consider donating to the project to keep it going.