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Services like iCloud or Dropbox are handy for sharing and accessing data, but they both require you to decide beforehand that you’re going to want to access your boring work spreadsheets and photos of your new puppy while you’re away from your primary computer. Plus there’s that whole deal about trusting a third party with all your stuff—not to mention the time it takes to upload gigs of data. Presence aims to change all that by putting your entire Mac into the cloud. And you can do it without wasting any time uploading data—or worrying about trusting your stuff to Apple, Amazon, or anyone else—because it all lives on your connected Mac.
Despite its sheer awesomeness, Presence is remarkably easy to set up. Pick a name for your Mac, and you’re in business in a matter of seconds. If you have a UPnP-capable router, Presence will connect your Mac to the interwebs without needing to configure anything. It works like magic. If your router or network configuration can’t be set up automatically, there’s an optional $5 per month service called EasyConnect that will let you connect your machine via Flying Mac’s servers, greatly simplifying the process.
Presence’s Finder-like web interface is surprisingly quick and responsive.
Connecting to your Mac via the internet is as simple as visiting your custom URL. Presence displays the contents of your Mac’s hard drive in a Finder-like browser window. From there, you can browse folders, download files, and create Shares, which allow you to send a direct link to specific files or folders. Shares can be unprotected, allowing anyone with the right link to access them, or they can be locked down with your default Share password or an individual password for each one. Choose from offering Shares as downloadable ZIP files or browsable folders; in the latter case, folders can be set to allow uploads as well. The whole thing is remarkably simple, and to borrow a phrase from Apple, it just works.
If that weren’t enough, there’s also a free universal iOS app for accessing your data from your mobile device. Not only that, you can edit files on your device and re-upload them to your Mac for the ultimate in on-the-go convenience.
So yes, it’s great, but Presence isn’t perfect. For starters, there’s not much documentation beyond a few sparse webpages. While the app is simple enough, we’d feel a lot more comfortable if some features were more thoroughly explained—remember, we are talking about making your entire computer available on the internet. And on that note, we learned the hard way that there is no additional security baked into Presence. We ran it on our Mac for several hours before realizing that anyone who knows (or can guess) your Presence URL can access your data if the user account on your Mac doesn’t require a password. It was an oversight on our part for sure, but the Presence documentation should alert users to such a huge security risk. Lastly, sharing files via email links is convenient, but if you specify a password for a Share, the email interface defaults to including it in the message along with the link, rendering the additional security laughably (or perhaps tragically) moot.
The bottom line. Accessing all your data from a cloud you control is Jetsons-level futuristic. We just wish Presence did a better job of documenting its features—and of protecting users from their own (potentially disastrous) mistakes.
Presence Remote-Access Client
Mac OS 10.6 or later; modern web browser
Easy setup. More reliable than Back to My Mac. Shares your documents from a cloud you control. No need to upload files first.
Easy to accidentally expose all your data to the internet at large. Weak documentation. Only displays the first 1000 subfolders, limiting usefulness for large music libraries or document collections.