Experimentation of various file storage solutions

As a company, we need to store and share various files. We have experimented with various solutions but none of them matched our needs. So I wanted to give you some feedback on what we tested, what was great and what wasn’t.

Context

At Enalean, as you may know, we all love experimenting with new tools and this is what we did for file storage.

Marketing, administrative and software engineering people have different needs and level of file management knowledge. The file storage system is the link between these services and it should not only work well but also be adapted to our needs. From what we collected here is a small list of our prerequisites:

  • Simple and reliable
  • Sharing documents
    • With everyone
    • With groups of people
    • With nobody
    • Url generation with TTL for temporary shares (Optional)
  • Managing access rights is easy
  • File versionning is embedded
  • Access fom everywhere
    • Different places (At the office, at home or on a comet kilometers away from earth)
    • Different systems (My laptop, my smartphone)
    • Different OS (Windows, MacOS, Linux, IOS/Android, yes all of them)
  • Offline access

Tools feedbacks

We tested some tools but as of today, none of them fulfilled our needs and we were very disappointed with some of the solutions. Let’s have a chronological view of our experimentations:

 

At the beginning was SVN, and it was nice for engineers:

  • We have subversion experts
  • Versionning is robust
  • The commit mode allowed to work on a document and publish it when it was done (without working with temporary directories)

But it also had some limitations:

  • Not really user-friendly
  • GUI interfaces for non CLI users were really buggy (e.g. rabbitsvn)
  • Conflicts were hard to solve
  • Commit mode was hard to understand for non technical users
  • Renames of files and dirs were complicated
  • No access for mobile devices.

 

Then we tested Dropbox:

  • It works very well
  • It has hash URL for temporary shares
  • There are clients for every platform (including IOS and Android)

But:

  • It is pretty expensive depending on the size of your infrastructure
  • Access rights were only at the root folder
  • The client is single account only
  • What about confidentiality (US company)
  • No simple way to encrypt

 

Today we are using Google Drive (because we use google apps for our mails) with the Insync client and the native one for some people

  • It has a good windows and mac integration
  • Works out of the box with our emails accounts
  • Insync allows multiple accounts on clients
  • Access rights at file / folder level
  • Hash URL to share

But this is probably the tools that disappointed us the most and today we want to change.

  • Insync linux client sometimes goes completly crazy. For example it has recently removed all the shares on our internal public storage letting me as the only owner (and removing all the docs for other users)
  • Removing rights is a pain. If you add rights for someone to a directory it propagates to all files and sub directories, but removing rights does not propagate and you need to do it manually (so the previous point is pure magic/ bug)
  • You dont manipulate directories as in a file system but tags used to regroup documents. There is some kind of magic that generates unpredictable behaviors.

 

We also experimented with Sparkleshare, a solution of file storage based on your own git repo (so pluggable with Tuleap!)

  • It is based on git, so we know how it works very well
  • It is hosted on our internal tuleap
  • There is a build-in option that lets you to encrypt on the client-side.

But as it is based on git:

  • It is only good for small file storage (space usage on client will grow too much when marketing will upload videos and big images)
  • Access rights are at a repo level only (with gitolite)
  • Again, no mobile access.

 

This is where we are. No solutions satisfied us completly. For some time google drive seemed to be the solution but as we grew and our utilization increased, it all collapsed and deceived us.

We are currently testing Owncloud on a self-hosted server and we… well I am pretty ecstatic about it. But this time we don’t want to do the same mistake again so we will test it to be sure.

 

Let us know if you have any recommandations of tools we could test and enjoy!

 

About the Author

How great is the challenge of creating economic value for a company with a libre software. I enjoy this! It encourages me to think business and communication in a disruptive way. I believe in the core value of FLOSS and agile spirit: open minded listening, transparency and co-creation. I'm Marketing Manager at Enalean.

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