Access Files on your Computer from Anywhere
The problem: You have documents, photos, music and other important files on the home computer. How can you “remotely access” these files from your office computer or, when you are travelling, from your mobile phone?
The solution: The simplest solution would be that you copy all your data from the home computer on to a portable hard drive and carry it around but this is obviously a bit cumbersome approach as it requires you to manually sync the home computer and your portable disk.
There are couple of ways by which you can retrieve files stored on your home computer from anywhere else using a regular Internet connection.
Option 1: Using Online Backup
You can use an online backup service like SugarSync, Carbonite, SkyDrive or even Dropbox – they provide desktop utilities that will automatically upload files on your home computer to the Internet and you can then access these files through the web browser of any other Internet connected computer.
The upside is that your files will always be available to you even if the home computer is not running. SugarSync and Carbonite have a mobile optimized website so you can access files from any mobile phone as well.
The downside is that if you are using any of these services for the first time, you’ll to wait until they upload all your data to the cloud and this process may take long if you have too many files on the home computer.
Option 2: Using Desktop Sharing Software
There are free desktop sharing software like TeamViewer and UltraVNC that also let you remotely access your computer files from anywhere else. LogMeIn Pro is another good option for transferring files from a remote computer but these are paid services.
If all your computers are running Windows, you can use the built-in remote desktop connection feature of Windows (available in XP and later) to access your home computer from another Window computer over the Internet.
With Desktop Sharing software, you’ll always have access to all your files but one big limitation is that it requires that the remote computer stays on. Also, none of these options will help you access files on a mobile phone except LogMeIn which has an iPhone app.
Option 3: Access Files Directly through the Browser
Online backup services, discussed above, will copy files to their own servers before you can access them for anywhere else. Screen sharing services are often slow and they won’t work on most mobile devices. Let’s now explore another set of services that allow you download files directly from the home computer.
Copernic, like Google Desktop, is a popular desktop search software that you may use to find emails, documents and other files on your Windows computer. They have a paid component called myCopernic on the Go that lets you remotely search for content stored on the home or office computer. You can preview the search results and then download them to your mobile phone or remote PC.
With Opera Unite, you can easily turn your computer into a web server and instantly access files and folders on that computer from any other web browser (including that of mobile phones). Opera Unite is a standard web server and therefore you’ll be downloading files directly from the computer – they’re not uploaded anywhere else.
Another option is GBridge that lets you setup a virtual private network using your existing Google Account. Companies use VPNs to let employees access corporate data over a public network (Internet) and with GBridge, even home users can build their own VPNs to access remote files more securely.
Windows Live Sync at sync.live.com is another great choice for remotely accessing files over the Internet. Just install the Live Sync client on your computer and you can then access the entire hard drive of that computer simply through the Windows Live Sync website.
Finally, you may also want to check out HomePipe – this is an extremely easy and free service that lets you access your home files and media from any other computer or mobile phone. Install the HomePipe Agent and all files on that computer will instantly become available through the web. They also have apps for iPhone and Android phones.
Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion
Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.