Dropbox today released Smart Sync, its tool that allows users to access files stored online in Dropbox accounts automatically on a desktop without having the file stored locally.
Previously dubbed Dropbox Infinite, Smart Sync gives businesses a way to share and access files without needing to have massive ones stored on their desktop. The idea is that businesses regularly deal with piles and piles of large files which can quickly overwhelm local computers, but still need to find ways to work with teammates on what to do with those files. The files behave like you would normally expect on a desktop — a photo opens into a photo on preview, and so on.
“Everything users need for whole team or company is right from desktop system,” group product manager Genevieve Sheehan said. “Users have a ton of information, all of which they don’t need to keep on their device but need to have access into all of it. They can quickly get wherever they need without having to bounce across to web apps, it’s all where they expect it to be. This gives teams simplified teamwork more power, and less overhead.”
The files aren’t “streamed” per se — as in, you’re not viewing a photo or something like that in some container that is running a program that allows you to interact with it in a low-bandwidth way. Instead the file is synchronized, opened, and after editing it is delivered back up to the cloud and then cleared out.
Naturally this requires an Internet connection, but in a demo the product looked pretty seamless. That might be different with even larger files (such as ones that are hundreds of megabytes to a gigabyte or more), but the intent is to ensure that hard drives don’t get overwhelmed. One part of Smart Sync even allows employees to look into the basic data of the file, which will be identical to everything the file would be normally — just with a tiny amount of space it’s taking up.
Sheehan stressed that an important part of the launch was to ensure that employees across a business could collaborate across multiple different environments. In that way, a user on a windows device can access and manage a file, and synchronize and show up exactly as you might expect on a Mac. Smart Sync uses available kernel extensions and has been thoroughly vetted for security,Sheehan said.
“You can have a team with different devices and geographies,” Sheehan said. “They have the same access and same features without having to all upgrade their system and make sure everyone is on the same Windows or Mac version.”
Smart Sync will be available for all Dropbox Business and enterprise customers today for early access. Administrations can still opt-in to Smart Sync if they determine they still want to ensure these files are stored locally.