Over the last 5 years, as we helped our clients move their critical IT systems to the cloud, most ended up with a single server still in their office – the fileserver. Sharing files that you work on via local applications (QuickBooks, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, etc.) is painful if your fileserver is in the cloud. Unless, like us, you are fortunate to work in a building with a gigabit internet connection, moving your fileserver to the cloud will result in file access that is at least ten times slower than having your fileserver on your local network.
Nevertheless there are very good reasons to use cloud-based file sharing. Enabling easy collaboration with a geographically diverse team, sharing files with people outside your organization, enabling folks to be more productive from home (or anywhere), and mobile access are all benefits to cloud-based file sharing. Not to mention disaster recovery and prevention; your data is safer in a datacenter than in your office.
So let’s talk about our favorite option for company file sharing in the cloud, Egnyte. Box and Dropbox for Business are also good, but Egnyte’s big advantage is the plethora of ways you can access your files.
All cloud file sharing systems have a web interface, of course. This is where you manage user accounts and permissions, preview files, see version histories, and send links. And when you’re on a network that might restrict other types of access, web access will almost always work.
File Transfer Protocol is usually the fastest, most reliable way to transfer files. When you have a large file or batch of files you need to upload or download, your best bet is FTP. Box also offers FTP, but Dropbox doesn’t.
WebDAV stands for Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning and is a protocol specifically designed for internet file sharing. Once you have configured the Egnyte Map Drive app, a single click mounts your Egnyte drive on your computer, enabling you to open and save files as if you were connected to a local fileserver. The speed of this is dependent on your internet connection, of course, so it won’t be as fast as a local fileserver. Box offers WebDAV but it isn’t officially supported because it doesn’t offer 2-factor authentication. Dropbox does not offer WebDAV.
Caching some or all of your files on your local computer was Dropbox’s original selling point, and of course that is still part of their Dropbox for Business service. Box also offers this and they call it Desktop Sync. Egnyte has it too, and calls it Local Cloud. The beauty of this access method is that you can pick the files and folders you want to cache on your local computer, and Egnyte will keep those in sync with your cloud files. Because the files sync in the background as you are working, when you access a file it will be super fast because it’s right there on your computer. Some of our clients actually have no local servers anywhere, each person chooses their active project folders to cache locally, and as one person creates or edits a file, that files gets pushed to the cloud and then down to anyone else who also caches that folder.
Unlike Box and Dropbox, Egnyte offers the option of having a local server or network attached storage (NAS) device that syncs to the cloud. While you’re in the office, you access files on the local server at local network speed, and those files sync up to the cloud for access everywhere else (using any of the methods above). If you already have a VMWare virtualization environment, the Egnyte virtual machine (VM) is a free download. If you don’t, Netgear offers a wide variety of network attached storage (NAS) devices that run the Egnyte app, and they are very reasonably priced.
Nobody really wants to edit files on a mobile phone, but having the ability to preview and share files from your mobile phone or tablet can be very handy in a pinch. This isn’t unique to Egnyte, Box and Dropbox also offer this.
Integrations and Extensions
Box and Egnyte offer Outlook plugins that can take your attached file and move it to your cloud fileshare and replace it with a link in your email. Cloudwork offers Dropbox integrations for Freshbooks, Basecamp, and more. All 3 have prebuilt integrations with other cloud-based applications like Salesforce, Netsuite, DocuSign, and more. And because all 3 contenders offer a robust API, other services and developers offer additional extensions and integrations. You can even build your own with an API integration/automation engine like Zapier or Kevy.
Want to learn more about cloud file sharing and see if it’s right for your business? Contact us any time.