Thank you to Connected Data and Drobo, maker of the Transporter, for sponsoring iPhone J.D. this month. Last year, the company sent me a review unit to check out the product when it first sponsored iPhone J.D., and now I use it every day and recommend it to other attorneys all the time. It is a great solution if you want many of the advantages of Dropbox — such as having your files available online 24/7 and the ability to have your files synced between all of your computers and mobile devices — but you also want (1) to have a lot of storage without paying the high fees charged by Dropbox and (2) you want the security of knowing that your data is only stored on hardware that you control, not on a server located who-knows-where controlled by others. I wrote extensively about how the Transporter works in a three part series last year (1, 2 and 3) and I also talked about the product last year when Connected Data was nice enough to give away two free Transporters to two lucky iPhone J.D. readers (Nashville attorney J. Britt Phillips and Maryland attorney Jack Sturgill, Jr.).
But as much as I wrote about the Transporter during the first half of last year, a lot has changed since then. First, the company expanded the hardware line. You can now buy the original Transporter (the cone-shaped device) that I reviewed last year in three sizes: $199 for 500 GB, $249 for 1 TB or $349 for 2 TB. Additionally, the company sells the Transporter Sync, a small device that costs only $99 and to which you connect your own USB drive of whatever capacity you want. The Transporter Sync looks like the Transporter with the top part chopped off — which actually makes some sense because the top part of the Transporter is where the hard drive is stored.
New hardware is nice, but what really makes this a better product now is the improved version 2.0 software that came out in the middle of 2013 and has been updated many times since then. The new software is much easier to use and is similar to using Dropbox. You simply have a folder on your computer in which you can store your files and folders. Files are stored on your local hard drive (so that they open and close quickly) but are also copied to your Transporter hard drive and from there are shared to your other devices — just like Dropbox, except that the online version of your file is stored on a hard drive located in your secure office. Or if you want, you can use a folder on the Transporter called the Library. If you put a file in the Library, a local copy is not kept on your computer. You can still access it whenever you want from whatever computer or device that you want (more slowly because you are accessing it from a network) but it doesn't take up space on your computer's hard drive. For example, if I have a large video file or a huge number of large exhibits that I might want to access in the future but are so large that I don't want then taking up space on my work computer and synced to my home computer, I just put them in the Library on my Transporter. Note that the Library function currently only works with the Transporter, not the Transporter Sync, but the company announced that this feature will soon be added to the Transporter Sync.
In my practice, I use both Dropbox and a Transporter. I use Dropbox to store my not-so-confidential files, such a complete copy of pleadings (in PDF format) for all of my cases, papers I am working on for CLE conferences or other presentations, miscellaneous pictures, etc. I like that so many apps can easily sync with Dropbox, such as GoodReader on my iPad. (I'd love to see GoodReader add direct Transporter support.) But when I want to sync documents between my office and home computer and my iPhone and iPad that are more confidential, I put them on the Transporter. I can easily access those files by just opening up the Transporter folder on any of my computers or by using the Transporter app on my iPhone and iPad. I feel secure knowing that no third-party has access to any of my confidential documents. I also use my Transporter to use lots of other large documents that I probably could put in my Dropbox but I have so much space on my Transporter drive that it is just as easy to keep it there.
Which reminds me — before I used a Transporter, the size of my Dropbox went over 20 GB, the limit of the free Dropbox service, so I had to pay $100/year to upgrade to a 100 GB a year Dropbox Pro account. But I now have hundreds of GB of space on my Transporter so frankly I no longer need the Dropbox Pro account. If you are thinking about getting a Transporter, as you consider the price — $100 for the Sync up to $349 for the 1 TB model — remember that if you have a lot of files you will be paying between $100/year for the 100 GB version of Dropbox up to $500/year for the 500 GB version of Dropbox, so the Transporter (which has no recurring fees after you purchase the hardware) ends up being less expensive at the same time that it is more secure and offers more storage space.
If you own a single Transporter, you have multiple copies of your files — a copy on the local hard drive(s) of whatever computer(s) you sync to Transporter plus the copy on the Transporter itself — so that if any one hard drive crashes you still have a backup elsewhere. I actually have two Transporters — one located in my office and one located at my home — and they are set to automatically sync to each other so that even if the hard drive in one Transporter fails (and remember, all hard drives eventually fail, so backups are essential) the other one is ready to go. This is also a good way to have a backup copy of the files in my Transporter Library because remember those files only live on the Transporter so as to not take up space on your local hard drive.
As you consider your online storage options, I urge you to take a look at Transporter and Transporter Sync. They are great products that have worked very well for me. You can buy them from the company and pay $10 shipping and handling, or if you are an Amazon Prime customer with free shipping, it might be cheaper for you to get one through Amazon.