Many times our clients run into the problem of sharing files with people outside the company. Sometimes it’s just a simple matter of needing to send large files that cannot be attached to e-mail due to attachment size restrictions. One simple (not highly secure) way to handle this is http://www.yousendit.com/. I like this service because it’s the fastest and simplest way to send attachments up to 100 mb for FREE. (Thanks to Shimi Ben Baruch for letting me know about this service) You basically fill in the sender and recipient address and then upload the attachment. The recipient receives an e-mail with an http link to the file. SIMPLE.
A more challenging scenario is when you need to share an entire folder tree with outside users. This is especially a problem when the files are being updated on a regular basis. There are several things to consider here:
- Transport security – All companies need to always think about security. It’s just foolish to move unencrypted files over the internet.
- User and password security – You want to be able to control and log who has access to what files and control that with individual usernames and passwords.
- End-user Simplicity – If a solution isn’t simple, then it won’t get used.
- Thin client – Web based solutions don’t require any installation or upgrades which make them cheaper from an admin point of view.
I’ve investigated a bunch of services and my favorite by far is http://Filesanywhere.com. Here are some of the cool things you can do with this service when you purchase an account:
- Send large attachments – This is not as simple for the sender as yousendit.com, but there are many more features than yousendit’s free version, such as message tracking, password protection, etc. (Not an apples-to-apples comparison, I admit. I might add a full comparison chart at some point.) To send a large file, the sender logs into their filesanywhere account, uploads the file into their tree, then clicks on the share file link and fills out some parameters (limit number of downloads, limit time file is available, other cool features)
- Synchronize files – you can even install a thick client on a file server and synchronize files between your filesanywhere account and the file server. I know what you are thinking, there are several problems with this.
- Is this program going to crash and bring down my fileserver? – Probably not: I’ve run it on several systems for almost a year now and it’s never crashed. Also it has been well maintained and updated several times during that period.
- Is this a security hole? – Depends: I usually allow HTTP out from the file server to get windows updates,etc. This can be a fully encrypted and user/password protected connection, so I like the security.
- Will files get wiped by accident? – This is one of my primary concerns: I like to set up staging folders that are used to mirror data. You can set it up to push only, pull only or synch (based on size, newest, etc.)
Here are some scenarios to consider:
- Data room – share due diligence with investors. In this case, you can assemble the data to be mirrored into one tree and push to filesanywhere only. No need to pull and all files are set to read only. There is very little risk of server files being lost. (I can’t think of how that would happen.)
- Project teams – share project files with partners and contractors. In this case, you would want to make the filesanywhere files read-write and the files on the server read-write. Probably the only way to really do this safely is to implement file versioning (oh, didn’t I mention that was available through Filesanywhere?) as well as performing periodic backups throughout the day. Also, you can use Windows Volume Shadow Copy if you have the disk space.
You can also use this service as an online backup – but I generally disapprove of online backup and don’t think that this is the best service for this anyway (I hear mozy.com is good, but I haven’t tried it yet). I will rant about that separately, but for now let me say – differential backups are great – how do you do PST files, SQL databases, or Exchange Information Stores? Also, what do you do when a real disaster happens and you need to restore EVERYTHING? How long does 150 GB of data take to download over a T1? anyway – I’ll save it for another time.
Filesanywhere claims to be: HIPAA, SOX, PCI, GLBA, ISO-27002, SAS-70 compliant and is independently audited. I like the Multi-User Web Advanced workgroup plan.
*As with all services that I promote, I don’t receive kickbacks. However, I might become an advertising partner at some point just because I like them and don’t mind making a buck here and there..