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cloud sharing syncing files and folders

Posted on 2014-04-14
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I've gotten very confused with all the hoopla about syncing and sharing files and folders in the cloud. Our company wants to have that ability but I keep getting stymied by some of the programs features. For instance, some seem to be just for backups and not sharing. When I went to get the trial of Microsoft OneDrive, it kept taking me to a page to sign up for an Office 365 account, which we DO NOT want. I also couldn't find whether or not it could be used on Windows 7 machines; all references I found were for Windows 8, 8.1 or RT and while we do have one MS Surface tablet using RT, the rest of our workstations are using Windows 7.
And another thing: We would prefer to just cloud-sync existing files and folders and not have to drag and drop them back and forth to their "real" location which seems to be the way many (if not all) services operate. Is our idea of cloud file sharing a fantasy? I tried Google Drive but after several days, it still has all the folders uploaded but only a few of the files; some folders are totally empty. So I doubted its efficacy.
I found some articles about "the 10 best cloud services" but I found myself still not sure about which services did what.
Does anyone have any input that could help me with this?
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Question by:BobArnett
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by:quizwedge
ID: 39999471
You're right that some cloud services are used for backup (Crashplan, Mozy, Carbonite, etc.) and some are more geared towards sharing (Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, etc.)

I'm not familiar with Microsoft OneDrive, so I can't answer about that for sure, but most of the services should work with Windows 7. Personally, I've used Dropbox and Box.com the most. Both of these work by storing all of your shared files in a single folder on your computer, so you would have to move them. The idea is that your files in the cloud are similar to another hard drive, just at a remote location.

I've only used SugarSync a little bit, but from what I remember and based on their comparison chart at https://www.sugarsync.com/sync_comparison.html it looks like they may handle your requirement of sharing the folders as they are. From what I remeber, SugarSync tries to be both backup and file sharing in one.

It may be worth checking out SugarSync - sadly, they no longer have a free plan that I know of - but you may also want to consider changing your thought on not having to drag and drop. If you use the "additional hard drive" way of thinking, then you only have one folder that everyone looks at to see the shared files. If everyone can share whatever folders they want on their computer, it might get confusing to figure out where all of those folders are.

Note, it's been a while since I've used SugarSync. If not having to move files to a new folder structure is a required feature, I would contact them before purchasing to make sure that you can do that for sharing and not just backup.
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by:BobArnett
ID: 39999534
Thanks so much for the input. I probably wasn't clear about the sharing. The folder that I was hoping to cloud-share is actually on our server which everyone does already share but only on our LAN. Maybe this is where I'm not getting it.
So does each computer have copies of the files on their workstation/tablet/phone and they're just kept synchronized? or are they just on the server and in the cloud? or maybe they could just be available for viewing and we would just forego the editing.
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quizwedge earned 500 total points
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If everyone who needs access to the files connects to the LAN regularly, you may just want to setup Offline Files (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/understanding-offline-files#1TC=windows-7)

If you're trying to give remote people access to the files, then a cloud based solution is going to work better. For that, you would sync the server with the cloud service. Then, everyone's computer would also get a copy of it on their computers and the cloud based service would regularly sync those files. A quick warning though, if the service syncs every 15 minutes, the following could happen.

At 10AM, Alice opens a file and starts making edits. At 10:01AM, Bob opens the same file and starts making edits. He does not see Alice's changes because she has not saved yet. Alice saves at 10:03 AM and Bob saves at 10:05 AM. The cloud based service would, I'm fairly certain, only have Bob's changes at the end so everyone would get Bob's changes and not Alice's.

Another thing you may want to consider with cloud based services is encryption. There are two different ways that files can be encrypted. First, the files can be encrypted while they are being sent to the cloud service. This means that they're vulnerable and unencrypted on your server and on the cloud service's computer, but if someone was listening in on the connection between the servers, it would be encrypted.

The second way files can be encrypted is what is called "at rest". This means that the actual data on the cloud based server is encrypted on their hard drives.

Most, if not all, of the cloud based services offer the first type of encryption. If you're not worried about someone hacking the cloud based service and stealing your files, then that should be sufficient. If you are concerned about that, then you'll want the second type of encryption as well.

Hope I'm not giving too much information here, but there are two ways the second type of encryption can be done. The first way, used by many of the services is the easier way. The cloud based service chooses the "password" that is used to encrypt the files. This means that you don't have to remember the password, but it also means that the cloud based service can decrypt your files. The second method is for you to choose the password. With this method, if you forget the password and something happens, your files are gone. The benefit is that the cloud service cannot decrypt your files.

Also, files can be encrypted before they are sent or once they are on the cloud service's server. The first one means your machine runs slower, but it is the only way you can use your own password. The second way means that at some point the files are unencrypted on the cloud service's computer.

Security and encryption is always a balance between usability and security. You know the value of the files and where you fall on the usability vs security scale.

Hope that helps. If you need any clarifications, just let me know.
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Author Closing Comment

by:BobArnett
ID: 40004518
Thanks for all the info. It will take me a bit to go over it and consider my options but it gives me some tools.
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