Cloud

Try online storage to protect your users' data

Have you thought about ways to secure user data? The catastrophe at the World Trade Center has many IT pros thinking about offsite storage options. Virginia Dobson offers one online alternative called fileTRUST.

It's difficult for a business to guard against all types of disasters. But there are precautions you can take to limit your losses. Online storage facilities allow businesses to store documents in a virtual Web lock box. You can store any kind of document or image without the worry of unwanted intruders. Many types of data can be archived, such as transaction files, client records, brochures, payroll records, wills, and contracts. I have discovered a popular online storage facility called fileTRUST that just might be what your company needs.

Why online storage?
Moving your data to an online storage facility makes sense if you have documents on your hard drive that you do not need to access immediately. This action frees up disk space on your hard drive and provides additional security. You can give permissions to guests to read and/or modify certain files or all files or assign read-only permissions in order to make your documents tamper-proof.

Using an online storage facility does not require any special settings on your computer or knowledge of programming. You only need a Web-enabled computer with e-mail capabilities and authorization from the online storage facility from which you choose to store your files.

Advantages of online storage
With online storage facilities, users can set up an online conference with clients in multiple locations. They simply create a folder at your online facility, upload an Access application, add the names of the clients working on a project, give them Store/Retrieve privileges, and then message each client that a project is waiting for review. Each authorized guest to the folder can go in and make changes to the Access database or Access project and then save them. The online facility saves each version of the file and marks it with a timestamp showing which guest worked on the project and when. As the administrator, you can go through and survey the changes each client made and either accept or reject them.

Users can also store their presentations online instead of carrying a briefcase loaded with bulky transparencies that can get out of order, or worse, stolen. This also allows them to travel without their PCs. All they need to access their presentations is a Web-enabled computer and permission to enter the storage facility. Users can even password protect their presentations for added security.

Using a Microsoft Office partner to securely store your data
Now that you know some of the advantages of storing files at an online storage facility, you need to know how to find the right facility. There are many facilities out there, but when you're investigating the right one for your organization's needs, ask the following questions:
  • Can this facility protect my users' files from intruders using state-of-the-art encryption?
  • Will they set up firewalls between themselves and the Internet to thwart illegitimate messages before they are able to enter the online site?
  • Can the storage facilities diligently monitor their system for unwanted files?

Microsoft was faced with those same questions when looking for an online storage facility partner that it could offer to its Office users. Initially, Microsoft partnered with three online storage facilities: Xdrive, Driveway, and FreeDrive. As of this writing, Microsoft has exclusively chosen the facility of fileTRUST by Fleet Bank. They chose fileTRUST above the other online services because:
  • The fileTRUST service is owned and operated by Fleet Bank, a company that has been in the business of securely storing documents for more than 200 years.
  • Fleet Bank works diligently with other institutions and security agents to keep abreast of the latest security devices.
  • The fileTRUST service acts as an electronic safe deposit box.

Security is a given
The fileTRUST service uses 128-bit SSL encryption. This means that each time a FileBox owner signs in to fileTRUST, they are assigned a key. All messages are coded based on this assigned key. The bank has the only decoder that allows entry into its storage facility. Each time a fileTRUST box owner logs off and then on again, he or she is assigned a new key combination. So before an intruder can figure out the first encryption algorithm, fileTRUST has already assigned a new key. Additionally, the fileTRUST service does not use cookies.

To fully understand the use of encryption at the fileTRUST Web site, view its security information site. Security is available only to Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 or higher for Windows, America Online 4.0 or higher, Netscape Navigator 4.6 or higher, and Internet Explorer 4.51 or higher for Macintosh. The fileTRUST service does not guarantee protection against attack if you use a browser other than those listed or an earlier version of the browsers listed.

This security is available at a nominal cost, starting at $7.95 for 20 MB per month per FileBox and increasing to 600 MB for $143.95 a month per FileBox. You can have up to 100 guests per FileBox, and each guest can be assigned levels of privileges in a folder within a FileBox. You can assign a guest Store/Retrieve privileges in one folder and Read-Only privileges in another. You can also have a private box, which acts like a special folder within an overall FileBox, that no one can enter unless you have given him or her a password. You can store any kind of document from the Microsoft Office environment in your FileBox, including Word, Excel, and Access files such as snapshots of Access reports, data access pages, and fully functional Access databases. You can also store images for engineering drawings and presentations as well as audio files.

Uploading files to fileTRUST
To sign up for fileTRUST and start loading files to your FileBox, just go to the main site and follow these directions:
  1. Click on the Sign Up Now link. Registration is free if you’re signing up as a guest. However, if you need to store data, you will have to purchase FileBox space (explained below). You are required to read and accept the terms and conditions of fileTRUST to continue.
  2. The next page requires you to enter personal data as the FileBox owner. When selecting a user ID, you can choose any alphanumeric combination.
  3. The registration process prompts you to input a security question to which only you will know the answer. You will be asked this question if you forget your password or user ID.
  4. Once you’ve answered all required fields, click Submit. You should then see another screen with all the data you entered. Click OK.
  5. At the next screen, you will be asked if you would like to purchase a FileBox. If you are registering as a Guest, click No. However, if you want to own a FileBox, click Yes, which would take you to another screen where you can choose how many megabytes of storage you want to start out with. You can still add more space once your site is operational.
  6. Next, choose your payment method and how you want to customize your site. When entering a name for your FileBox, you can't use spaces. You can also opt to have your files logged. If you plan to allow guests to make changes to any files inside the users' folders, it is a good idea to keep a log of who makes changes and when they were made.
  7. At the next line, you will be asked who can send e-mail messages to your FileBox. You might want to set up a folder that specifically pertains to one project where users can meet and work. In that case, you would choose both Owners and Guests.
  8. Click Submit and then click OK.

Tip
It might be a good idea to print the Personal Data screen and store it in a secure location.

After you sign up, a confirmation key will be sent to your e-mail address. You will need that key code to log in the first time only. When you receive your confirmation key, go to the home page and log in. Enter your temporary key code and user ID from the e-mail. You should see a blank screen containing a hyperlink that takes you to your folders.

Before adding files to your folder, take a quick look at the features fileTRUST offers its FileBox owners. The first heading is called Box Info, which is where you can update or delete your current FileBox or share folders within a FileBox. If you click Share Folders, you can assign guests and privileges. The next drop-down menu is called My fileTRUST. Here, you can buy another box, review your file boxes (if you have more than one), and review your billing. The other drop-down menus are fairly self-explanatory.

Adding files to your folders and subfolders
Whatever name you gave your FileBox during setup will show up as the hyperlink available for adding new folders and subfolders. After clicking the hyperlink, the next fileTRUST display resembles a Windows Explorer hierarchy. Across the top is a toolbar that lets you add a folder or share a folder. You should see your folder name and two empty subfolders called Inbox and Private. Highlight your main folder and click Add New Folder at the top of the Options bar. This action generates another subfolder for adding files. Each time you highlight a subfolder, the list in the next window changes accordingly. The options on the toolbar across the top of the window include the following:
  • Add A File allows you to add files into your subfolders for the folder highlighted in the main screen.
  • Move lets you move files from within one folder to another.
  • Copy is used for copying files from one folder to another.
  • Delete allows you to delete files or folders. You cannot delete the FileBox, Inbox, or Log folders. As I mentioned, a FileBox can be deleted from Inbox information, located at the fileTRUST window.
  • Download lets you download files that you previously uploaded from your hard drive to your FileBox.
  • Properties shows information on the files you uploaded into your folders.

In addition, you can e-mail files to registered users or alert a guest that they can come to the storage facility to work on a project.

We are now ready to move files into our FileBox folders. Choose the folder to which you want to start adding files. For this example, I chose my Inbox. Next, click Add A File. At the Storing Files In Folder Inbox screen, click Browse and choose the directory from which to extract a file. (I selected C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office10\Samples\Northwind and uploaded a fully functional Access database from my computer to the Inbox under my FileBox.) You can upload several files at one time; however, your upload times depend on the size and number of files you transfer from your LAN to your FileBox.

After the file loads, you can assign guests and privileges by clicking on the Inbox under your FileBox. This action opens the Preview screen to show the files available. On my screen, there is a check box next to the Northwind file that I uploaded. By selecting this check box, I enable the options across the top of the toolbar (see the preceding bulleted list).

When you want to e-mail a copy of a file to one of your guests, you can only send one e-mail at a time. However, you can send several files in one e-mail. The built-in fileTRUST menus walk you through the process of sending messages. The way you alert other users about files you want them to access depends on their status. Nonregistered users can receive content as attachments to e-mail messages. Registered users receive messages saying there is a file available for them on the site.

Adding guests to your FileBox
To add a guest to your FileBox, select the Inbox. Next, click Share A Folder, which opens a display to add guests and assign privileges. You have two options: View By Folder or View By Guest. If you choose View By Folder, you can add guests and select the folder you want your guests to access. Make sure the guest is already registered with fileTRUST. (It is free for a person to register as a guest and access files. Only box owners are charged monthly fees.) The guest must have a user ID and e-mail address. To invite someone who is not a guest to become a visitor to your FileBox folders, you must click on Invite A Guest. When you enter the guest's name and e-mail address, fileTRUST sends a canned message inviting that person.

When a registered guest receives a message that a file is available, he or she only needs to log in and then enter his or her user ID and password. When the page appears, he or she will see a link to the file(s) available.

Once you have your guest registered, click OK. You will end up back at the Share Folder screen. There, you will have two ways to assign privileges:
  • You can make an across-the-board share level for all guests in that folder. The choices are Store/Retrieve, Retrieve Only, or No Access. All the guests in that folder will receive the same privileges based on the option you choose. You’ll receive a warning about changing privilege levels; however, the change is temporary unless you click the Update button.
  • You can also choose to assign privileges per guest. If you change privilege levels, a message is sent to all users in that folder of the change.

To return to your home page, go to the top of the fileTRUST window and select My FileBoxes. There, you can log out or perform any other task enabled by fileTRUST.

Conclusion
No one can predict disasters. However, using an online storage facility can provide peace of mind for your organization or company. The fileTRUST service provides this added security in an economical and safe online solution for storing and sharing your valuable company information.

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