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Egnyte: Business class file server in the cloud
Benjamin J. Higginbotham
Putting your main company file server in the cloud may seem like a strange idea, but stick with me on this one.  A small/medium sized business (SMB) may not have the resources to purchase and maintain their own file server.  While to us IT geeks a file server is drop dead simple, there are things such as security, backup and sharing outside of the LAN that needs to occur which can be complex and cumbersome to the average SMB.

Enter a file server in the cloud.  For $15.00/user/mo you get unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth in the cloud.  Let me say that again:  $15.00 per user, per month gets you unlimited file storage in the cloud!

There are many advantages of putting the file server in the cloud. Egnyte does a great job of utilizing exactly how you would expect cloud based storage to work as well as expand upon it in unique and new ways.  The basics are all there, WebDAV connection so you can have a mounted drive on your Mac, Linux or PC desktop right in your file explorer, web based interface to upload one or multiple files, the ability to link to large files so you can e-mail out items, document revisions, user management and frankly quite a bit more.  Heck, you can even customize the interface and add your company logo just to get that added feeling of personalization.

Egnyte has two levels of accounts, power users and standard users.  The $15.00/user/mo is for a power user account which gets you the WebDAV access, a backup program so you can backup your computer to the cloud.  Power users also get a private folder on the system for their personal stuff that they want in the cloud.  Basically power user accounts would be for each employee in the company.  The second type of user is a standard user.  Standard users can only access the file server via the AJAX web interface and don't have things like computer backup, the personal folder, or WebDAV.  Standard users can read, write and delete to folders that you specify.  You can have unlimited standard users in your account for no additional cost.  Think of standard users as contractors you work with, or people who may need to have access to certain specific folders within your file server, but not access to the whole thing.

Each folder has permissions based on groups or specific users, but at this time you can't go down to the file level.  It would be nice if I could share a folder with a contractor and hide certain items from them, or give them read/write access to certain files but read only access to other files in that folder.  Hopefully we'll see that in a future version.

Additionally Egnyte has released an iPhone optimized version of the web site.  This is not an iPhone app but rather a specially formatted version of the web page that renders very well on the iPhone.  This can be extremely useful in scenarios where you may be on-site and need to send a contractor a file.  Right from your iPhone you can log in to your Egnyte account, find the file you need, click on the 'Send' button and you'll be prompted to send the file as a link or attachment (in my case a link since the file is 200MB).  No need to VPN back to my building, create a reminder note or anything.  I can just send the file right then and there.  The iPhone web site for Egnyte is a very cool feature, and one of those things that makes having your file server in the cloud all that more powerful.

The biggest drawback to cloud based file servers is speed.  You won't be able to emulate a file server sitting on your 100/1000Mbps LAN via your public Internet connection. Files that may have taken only a few seconds to copy over could take several minutes.  While Egnyte tries to do their best to keep the system running as fast as they can, the simple fact of the matter is that you're limited to your Internet connection speed.  I would love to see a program similar to what uses where it automatically downloads/uploads any files or folders created in a specific directory back to the cloud.  This would allow me to have my personal directory in sync on all of my computers while the revisions of these files are kept in the cloud to restore at any time.  The issue of transfer speed goes away and I get the best of the Egnyte and GetDropbox world all with one product. 

One other thing worth mentioning is that it is $15.00/user/mo but you need to have at least 3 users to get the unlimited bandwidth and storage.  That means the minimum cost per month is $45.00, but that also means that you have three users with their computers getting backed up to the cloud *and* a company file server for less than $50.00/mo.  From my point of view that's an amazing deal.

I like the service so much that I use it for my personal videocast,  Since we have huge files that we have to sling between editors scattered across the country, I purchased 5 seats at $75.00/mo and allow advertising firms to upload their material directly via a standard user and my editors (the great group called Max Q) to work on the material, upload revisions, and keep different copies of the media/graphics in sync.  There is no way a tradiitonal file server could do this.  Hopefully my success will help others in some way as well.  Egnyte solved a huge storage problem I had, and is probably one of the best investments I have made in tech thus far.  You may think you have your file storgae needs taken care of, but try the free demo of Egnyte and see what you're missing out on!


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1. Posted by: sarah on October 12, 2009 1:41 PM:

can i please just drop a note saying i had a chage of name but stil didnt take place on weblearn

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