Today I am going to discuss what are the options available if you needed to share files on your work network. We share files for many reasons. Here are a few: a group working on a project to collaborate and share ideas, sales person accessing inventory/pricing data, data input into order entry system for generating sales reports, engineers working on a blue print design for an electronic device.
I'll talk about the pros and cons for each method available as well as costs.
I'll be making comparisons of the various options from the perspective of Windows based environment. Although many of the pros and cons still apply in other personal computing environments ie Apple, Android, Unix/Linux.
Network Attached Storage is a network device with built in intelligence for hosting single to several hard drives. Access to data stored on the NAS is through web based application interface ie web browser. This is a cost effective way to share files with users already connected to a network. It is possible to secure data using group and users' permissions.
· cost effective to purchase ie hundreds rather than thousands of dollars to buy
· can be configured and ready in a few hours rather than taking days
· easy to implement file and folder level permissions with use of users and/or groups
· can be used to implement own private cloud
· data can be accessed remotely from any device with a web interface
· allows use of RAID 0 and 1 to customise performance and redundancy
· cheap to run ie low electricity consumption
· does require set up and configuration. also router/firewall may need to be configured to enable Access Rules and Port Forwarding
· data can be lost if not backed up
· files can become out of synch as version control is not automatic ie one user's modification can overwrite anothers
· higher end NAS can cost quite a bit more than a few hundred
Peer to Peer Networking
In this model of networking, files are stored on workstation computers throughout the network. This is a decentralised way of accessing files. A key advantage to this method is its manageable for only small networks of up to a maximum of 5 workstations.
· may not require any further investment in hardware or software beyond whats needed for a desktop/laptop/tablet PC
· by its nature files are already distributed throughout various computers which creates redundancy ie no single point of failure
· relatively easy to set up and configure ie implemented using workgroups which is default setting
· access can be slow as workstations are not dedicated to file serving
· for every user that needs access to files on a given workstation, that user needs to have an account created ie administrative overhead
· does not scale well to larger networks with more than about 5 workstations due to significant administration required
· security can be compromised as files are stored throughout the computer network
Client Server Networking
This is the centralised model of network file sharing. In this model we have Server computer(s) which serve the file needs of the workstation computers. More suitable for larger corporate networks that need centralised control of files, better administration, and file serving performance.
· better performance as using dedicated hardware for file serving
· centralised administration of folders and files
· better control of uniformity of desktop rights and applications through use of Group Policies
· easier to implement back up systems
· higher security of folders and files compared to peer to peer and cloud based
· automatically limit access to files providing in built version control
· auditing and reporting capabilities
· cost of implementing a server with OS, options and applications plus installation & configuration quite significant ie typically looking at between $7k to $10k
· requires a space to hold the server computer & monitor
· cost of electricity to keep server up and running
· ongoing costs of administration, updates, maintenance plus fixing any issues can be significant
· potentially this can be a single point of failure ie if server goes down for maintenance or due to systems failure workers may not be able to access files ie cannot work
· the better the server system, the higher the cost. ie improved performance, upgradability, redundancy
This technology seems to be the new buzzword in computing as many companies take their data to the cloud. There are a number of advantages although it is by no means the be all and end all of file sharing for everyone.
· no need to make capital outlay. based on pay for capability/capacity as you go basis
· being on the cloud data can be accessed by any computing device connected to the internet
· easy to configure and set up
· saves space - no need for big heavy server computers plus associated options
· potential cost savings as no need to pay for updates in equipment or software and no general maintenance required by end user
· slower performance of apps compared to running using client server
· service shut off - if timely payment of bill is not paid
· security and data confidentiality concerns
· apps running using cloud based technology may not have full feature set of conventional thick clients'
· performance and availability dependent on reliability and performance of internet access
· cost savings can be overstated - when considering no. of employees multiplied by lifetime of server ( say 4 or 5 years )
· no automatic version control means data can be inadvertently overwritten
In this blog, I've talked about the major pros and cons for the four different file sharing technologies: NAS, Clous, Peer to peer and Client Server.