There are countless issues that we all have with sharing files outside of the comfort and speed of a local area network. Further, nothing will get me stirred up quicker than using systems for other than their intended purpose. My historical nemesis is EFS. EFS is not a technical term, but a moniker I've given to the "Email File System."
Now that you see where I am coming from, I recently saw a few things that caught my eye from ShareFile that help ease these issues. The critical decision point is not to simply have a solution that moves files between external parties easily, but hits all of the bases needed for a robust solution without making the entire process too complex. I zeroed in on ShareFile with their new ShareFile Sync tool.
ShareFile Sync works on a client or server capacity to move data to a ShareFile resource. Historically, ShareFile isn't used as a primary storage instance for file server data (see my earlier post on using Cloud Storage as the primary location for file server data) as it is intended to simplify the sharing process. The ShareFile Sync mode has two modes, a one-way sync from a specified local folder to the ShareFile cloud resource, and the other mode is a two-way sync between both destinations. The interface is very easy to configure, as shown in Figure A below:
The sync is file-based, so there is no block-based magic that can handle incremental changes within a file rather than re-transfer the entire file. To be fair, when files are compressed, blocks get shifted around a bit anyway, which will mitigate any block benefits in this situation. Once the sync is configured, the files are automatically uploaded to the ShareFile folder as shown in Figure B below:
Click image to enlarge.
The sync option can take in network drives and shared folders so that a file server is made available remotely over the Internet with ease. There are a lot of concerns with sending data out of your organization, much less to some form of a cloud storage company. ShareFile's approach is to have Activity Reports and transfer logs of what went up to ShareFile as well as what was downloaded and by whom (username and IP address) as well as file hashing capabilities. When I discussed some of the basic functionality with ShareFile, I asked if there were features such as a forensic read-only archive of all transfers; that capability is not in place. To be fair, that is probably overthinking the situation a bit; but nonetheless, it can have a use case. ShareFile does manage a backup of the data in ShareFile accounts, this is done behind the scenes to Amazon Web Services.
To my earlier point of the email file system, ShareFile has a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that provides a pretty straightforward archiving solution. Basically, the ShareFile account is configured for the Outlook installation to automatically upload attachments to a specific location within ShareFile based on policy. For the small Outlook and Exchange installation, this can possibly alleviate large Exchange databases that are incredibly large and hard to back up. The Outlook plug-in will fully manage the upload of the file and provide special URLs for the download of the file. ShareFile brings in other features such as a command line interface and mobile access.
There are a number of ways to get large files out to external parties or use as part of a distributed workforce. How do you tackle this challenge? What do you think of ShareFile thus far? Share your comments below.
Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.