We’re moving to the cloud with cloud storage for working files. Old news of course, haven’t we had cloud storage for years already? Of course… let me count the ways:
- Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries
- Apple iDrive
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Microsoft Azure
- Amazon Web Services
- Google Drive
A quick Google search also shows up some open source solutions that you could install on your Linux server. But today, we’ll take a look at Box.
The wonderful TechSoup has an offer for Box at the “starter” level for 10 users for $84.00/year. This is just about right for our workgroup; we currently have 8 full and part-timers on our team, which leaves 2 additional slots available for what we hope we have for growth in the next year. While we do have an office, we are a distributed group. Each full-timer spends a minimum of one day per week outside the office, and our part time employees either work from home, or come in during only part of their week.
What we’re trying to replace here is is an in-office rack-mounted physical server. (remember those?) which sits in a corner of the office roaring away, much as it has for at least ten years. This is a Linux server running the Samba file-management system which is solid and reliable, but a pain to manage. We typically map to drive letters on each person’s workstation:
Drive F: – This letter is mapped to the user’s personal folder on the server. So, my case, my F: drive is mapped to //server/home/larry
Drive U: – This letter is mapped to our “Main” shared folder, under which there are about a dozen departmental or functional sub-folders including Admin, Creative, Editorial, Grants, etc.
On Linux if you know how Samba works; (and a GUI interface is really helpful…) you can restrict each of the folders to groups of appropriate users. So, for example, you can restrict the HR folder to your bookkeeper, HR manager and your E.D. There is an additional complication with Samba in that you have to maintain a parallel set of Linux logins and home directories for each Samba user. Box provides the ability to maintain a similar set of permissions and file restrictions within a web interface. Even thought the “starter” version isn’t as versatile as their full version it still allows you assign individual users as “collaborators” for individual folders.
Other user requirements:
- Cross-platform availability, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android
- Native applications for each platform.
- Available from anywhere with an internet connection
- Ability to sync between the cloud and the device.
- Butt-simple interface that passes the five minute test.
Next time we’ll get into more detail about Box.