Share fold­ers over the in­ter­net

Use the lit­tle-known ‘Back to My Mac’ fea­ture to share files and fold­ers

Mac Format - - IMPROVE -

Use an Ap­ple net­work­ing de­vice to make your files ac­ces­si­ble any­where you can get on­line

The abil­ity to share files over the in­ter­net is noth­ing new, but the way files can be dis­trib­uted has changed enor­mously over the years. One ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion is to store your files in the cloud, then pro­vide shared links to those who need them, but even here there are draw­backs: the cost of stor­ing tens of gi­ga­bytes of data on­line, as well as the in­con­ve­nience of hav­ing to up­load them all to the in­ter­net in the first place. And what if you leave an im­por­tant file be­hind?

The an­swer lies with cre­at­ing your own per­sonal cloud: a space on one of the drives at­tached to your Mac (or di­rectly to your net­work). Sim­ply copy or move the files in ques­tion to a shared folder, and you’re done – when­ever a file is needed, it’ll be up­loaded through your in­ter­net con­nec­tion and trans­ferred di­rectly to the client re­quest­ing it.

The ben­e­fits of in­ter­net shar­ing are ob­vi­ous, then, but how do you go about it? It used to be a tricky process, in­volv­ing third-party util­i­ties and a trip into your router’s set­tings to open up ports, which left you po­ten­tially vul­ner­a­ble to se­cu­rity threats. Thank­fully, thanks to iCloud’s ‘Back to My Mac’ fea­ture, it’s now a rel­a­tively sim­ple task.

Set up Back to My Mac

Open Sys­tem Pref­er­ences on your Mac and se­lect iCloud. Scroll down to the bot­tom of the list of avail­able ser­vices where you’ll find Back to My Mac – tick the box and wait while it’s set up. In most cases, that should be it, but you may en­counter some hur­dles to over­come. If you’re run­ning a fire­wall, you may need to tweak its set­tings to al­low Back to My Mac to work prop­erly (look out for a pop-up win­dow re­quest­ing ac­cess, and grant it). You’ll also need to be con­nected on both sides through a router that sup­ports UPnP or NAT-PMP – most mod­ern mo­dem routers, in­clud­ing Ap­ple’s Air­Port range, should sup­port th­ese pro­to­cols out of the box.

When you next log on to your re­mote Mac, you should find your con­nected Mac is now vis­i­ble in the Shared sec­tion of a Fin­der win­dow. Se­lect it and click ‘Con­nect as’ to log in us­ing your user ac­count on that Mac. You’ll now have ac­cess to your per­sonal folder and any other shared fold­ers on your home Mac.

You can re­turn the favour too: sim­ply switch on Back to My Mac on your sec­ond com­puter, and you’ll be able to ac­cess its contents from the first.

Tighten se­cu­rity

Now that your Macs are ac­ces­si­ble from out­side your home net­work, it pays to tighten se­cu­rity – per­form the fol­low­ing au­dit on all your con­nected ma­chines: First, re­view both your iCloud and OS X user ac­count pass­words and strengthen them if nec­es­sary. Next, open Sys­tem Pref­er­ences > Se­cu­rity & Pri­vacy and se­lect ‘Re­quire pass­word im­me­di­ately af­ter sleep or screen saver be­gins’. Now nav­i­gate to Users & Groups and se­lect Lo­gin Op­tions (you may need to un­lock Sys­tem Pref­er­ences at this point) to set ‘Au­to­matic lo­gin’ to Off. Fi­nally, open Ap­pli­ca­tions > Util­i­ties > Key­chain Ac­cess, se­lect Key­chain Ac­cess > Pref­er­ences and switch to the Gen­eral tab. Se­lect ‘Show key­chain sta­tus in menu bar’ and a small pad­lock icon will ap­pear on the menu bar – you can click this to lock your Mac’s screen man­u­ally.

Ac­cess stor­age re­motely

You can also gain ac­cess to drives plugged di­rectly into your Ap­ple Ex­treme router. The step-by-step guide op­po­site re­veals how to ac­cess it two dif­fer­ent ways: the first us­ing Back to My Mac, which will give you ac­cess to the plugged-in drive through the Shared sec­tion in Fin­der, and an­other op­tion that will al­low you to share the drive se­curely with oth­ers with­out hav­ing to re­veal your pass­word. Nick Peers

The big is­sue with Back to My Mac is that it’s not geared to­wards shar­ing your drive with other users

Once set up, Back to My Mac al­lows you to ac­cess your Mac’s shared fold­ers re­motely us­ing Fin­der.

Switch­ing on Back to My Mac is of­ten as sim­ple as tick­ing its box un­der iCloud in Sys­tem Pref­er­ences.

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