So you have a file server? How convenient is it for you to access your documents when you’re on the road or at home? How secure is it? I’ve done some legwork and found a few different methods for doing just that to save you time and headaches.
Google Docs. Those of you who read this blog regularly already know I use this particular solution myself and highly recommend it to my clients. This service gives you the ability to store and edit your documents from nearly any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Blackberry (if you’re really desperate) and more) as well as being able to collaborate live with co-workers and clients very securely. In addition, there’s a plugin called “Cloud Connect” that allows you to edit your documents right from Microsoft Office (Windows only, sorry). The only downside I’ve found is the lack of local file sync. It’s fairly easy to do local file sync with an iPad but very difficult for a PC. If you’re internet goes down, you’re hosed. But that should happen pretty much never.
Dropbox. This nifty tool allows you to sync all the files in a folder (called “Dropbox”) to any computer (Mac, Windows or Linux) or mobile device and backs everything up online for you. So if you’re using it as a file server replacement, it’s pretty efficient and hugely convenient if you’re away from the office and need to get a file. No editing capabilities online, but that shouldn’t be a big problem if you’re not using a public computer. It also restricts you to that one folder, which could be an issue, depending on your needs. Probably not the end of the world though.
Box.net. Probably the smallest feature set of any of these. It really is just a drive in the “cloud”. You can connect to it via webDAV ( mildly complicated network connection ), but that’s not really most people’s thing. It works really well for the road warrior that works off their iPad or laptop. This one also has a plug-in that allows you to open any file in Microsoft Office (Windows only, again) and there is also a plug-in in the works to allow you to edit ANY file off their website as long as you have the native editor on your computer ( including AutoCAD, Word, photos, really anything… ). It’s still very much a work in progress, but very well thought out thus far.
SugarSync. Really cool. Really really cool. I’ve been playing with this for several weeks now and not only does it sync local files, you can tell it what folders and files to sync. Think of it as a virtual network over the internet. If you have a client that needs to send you documents on a regular basis and vice versa, you can have a folder setup on their computer that syncs directly with your office. It takes about 5 minutes to setup. It also has a feature called “Magic Briefcase”. Anything you put in this folder is automatically sync’d to all the computers in your account. Instantly. Downside? Not really any, unless the only thing you use to edit documents is Office HD2 on your iPad. Works with Documents to Go and Quickoffice though.
So there you go. Do you really need a file server? Probably not. Do you need to use remote desktop to edit a spreadsheet? Goodness no. Want to save yourself time, money and headaches? I thought that might be appealing… 🙂 There are some other players in the market, Alfresco comes to mind, but these should be the first ones you check out if you haven’t done it already.
Hope this helps!
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