FTP to Google Drive

Let’s be clear that Google Drive does not provide FTP access to your content. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. I’ve been playing recently with a wireless security camera that can send images to an FTP server fairly easily. But, I didn’t have something reliable in the cloud handy and for the right price. Google Drive seemed like an excellent storage solution, but there was no way for the camera to utilize it… Directly.

At some point, I remembered I had a 2006 Mac Mini sitting around. The older versions of OSX make it really simple to get an FTP server up and running, which is the boat I found myself in:

  • Open System Preferences
  • Go to Sharing
  • Enable File Sharing
  • Modify permissions and paths to your liking
  • FTP will now be available on port 21

If you want to use a Mac for this exercise and you have a newer OS installed, you may need to follow these steps.

First half of your work? Done. The next step is pretty simple: Download and install the Google Drive app (tip: limit the folders Google Drive will sync if this will be a single-use computer/server). Google Drive content will be accessible at /Users/username/Google Drive. However, if like me, your camera or other client doesn’t play nicely with spaces. A symlink (or a shortcut in Windows) took care of this. I ran a command like this to create a space-free symlink:

ln -s ~/Google\ Drive/ ~/googleDrive

The backslash (“\”) escapes the space in a *nix environment. Now, anytime you write to /Users/username/googleDrive, you will actually be writing to your Google Drive folder. That means, if you use this path in your FTP configuration, you are essentially writing to Google Drive using FTP. Sneaky, sneaky. It worked beautifully for me. In fact, it worked a little too well. I didn’t quite nail the security camera’s sensitivity level and woke up to more than 10,400 images synced to Google Drive.

But, are there downsides? Of course. First and foremost is that, at least in my setup, it means one more device powered up. The Mini isn’t the worst thing to have going, but it also isn’t your only option if you want to be a little more green. You could setup something in AWS or Azure, use a Raspberry Pi, etc., but keep in mind there is no official Google Drive app for Linux yet. The second downside is that Google Drive only runs, and therefore only syncs, when you are logged in. That means, my Mac Mini is setup for automatic login, never goes to sleep, and starts up immediately after a power failure.

It’s not a perfect setup, but it worked in a pinch. My next task is setting up a secure proxy to the camera’s web interface. Another need the Mini can easily fill.

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