For the past year, one of my projects has involved transitioning Window’s Server networks to Egnyte’s cloud hybrid network. It’s called a hybrid network since it involves an on-site/local server or storage device as well as a remote server. The two servers sync with each other so you’ve essentially got two copies of everything – one on the office server, another on a server in “the cloud.”
The synching software can be installed on a standard Windows server or selected network attached storage (NAS) devices. If you don’t need the features of a full-fledged server system – just networked printers/scanners, for example - you can save on software licensing fees/upgrade headaches by using a NAS.
You could rely solely on the cloud server, but I don’t recommend that. There’s no easy way (if any) to back-up files from the cloud server. If you don’t have an internet connection, there’s a problem with the cloud server, or the provider goes belly-up, you’re out of luck. Plus, accessing files from an on-site server uses less network resources than uploading/downloading files to/from the cloud server.
I liked Egnyte so much I decided to get my own account. Instead of a NAS, I use something called the Personal Local Cloud. The PLC software is installed on my computer and whatever files I place in it are synched with the cloud server. You get to set the sync schedule – continuous, once a day or hourly intervals – and the data transfer rate. I’ve been trying out various schedules/rates since the sync does affect my computer’s performance (your results may be different). But that’s my only complaint.
For access outside of the office, Egnyte has a terrific the web interface and mobile apps (I’ve used both the Android and iOS versions). The mobile apps integrate with most other apps so it’s easy to send files you create or view in one to the Egnyte cloud server.
On the collaboration front, you can create public folders and/or send links for files/folders. Each account also comes with “standard” users – people you can specifically invite to collaborate/share folders. There’s also file versioning, file access history and set a trash folder that you can schedule to empty.
Sounds a lot like DropBox, right? Besides much better security, Egnyte has a lot of other features that DropBox doesn’t:
- When sending a link, there’s a “notify” option you can check to receive an email whenever someone accesses/downloads a folder/file.
- You can set a link to expire after a certain date or number of accesses.
- You can add notes to files.
- In the cloud interface, you can see when another user with an account has accessed a file.
- A file activity summary can be sent daily or at an interval you set so you don’t have to log in to see what’s going on with a collaborative folder.
The primary reason I gave up on DropBox for personal use was because too many people don’t understand how it works. I had so many conflicted file versions, unknown files in shared folders and folders deleted by clueless users – it was a nightmare. I still use the free version for some purposes, but Egnyte gives me the same/more functionality and total control.
Just a few caveats if you’re thinking about a plan for yourself or your company:
- Since I’m on the “cheap” plan (about $300 a year), files over 1 GB won’t sync. If I can’t zip the file I’ll use an alternate method (I use a Sugar Sync paid plan) to back these up. Luckily, I can just check the Egnyte sync report to see which files weren’t synced. Higher priced plans raise the file size limit as well as provide more storage space and offer even more features.
- Many cloud services choke on Outlook PST files and Egnyte is no exception (at any plan level). To get around that, when creating your Outlook backup, just change the file extension to something else.
After working with Egnyte, I highly recommend it for both businesses and personal use. The companies using it have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of support tickets and users don’t need any special operating system – or even an “up to date” computer – to have network access. You’ll have no change in basic office work flow plus thanks to the web interface and apps, easy mobile access to all work related files. Best of all, it’s fairly easy to implement and use. When a self proclaimed technically challenged 70 year old agent downloads the app to his mobile phone – and actually uses it… Well, that’s easy.