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Using iFolder to deliver a File Service: from an ISP Perspective

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Karen Lawrence

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Posted: 6 May 2002

The challenges that businesses are faced with today in our continuously growing mobile community are immense. Business users are no longer sitting at the same desk each day, saving their work to a central file server, knowing that their data is securely stored. The reality today is that a growing number of users no longer have a permanent desk in their regional office. They could be on the road, working remotely from their home office, or they are just working from more than one office. In Novell alone approximately 30% of the users of yesterday have become the mobile users of today. Thus accompanying the general shift in habits of the workforce is the challenge of meeting the needs of this ever-growing mobile community.

The problem is understandable: In today's world, businesses have become much more mobile, dynamic and reliant on remote connectivity, partnering, outsourcing and collaborative commerce. The aim is ambitious: to firstly, provide mobile users an increased level of flexibility in how and where they work; plus, ensure they retain the security offered with the simplicity that was previously possible on the inside of the company firewall.

Today's PC, networks and the Internet have enabled large amounts of information to be sent and shared electronically. Much of this information is confidential and critical to the businesses that use it. The challenge, then, is how to allow data to be accessed and updated efficiently, while protecting the integrity and confidentiality of that data. To address this challenge, many business people find the tools that are available today inadequate for the following reasons:

  • Virtual Private Networks -- Virtual Private Networks provide businesses a measure of security for sharing files. These networks are however, complex and expensive, and place a burden on IT to configure and maintain additional hardware. When people need to share files quickly, they don't necessarily have the time and resources available to set up and wait for a VPN.
  • E-mail -- Sending attachments over e-mail is quick and easy; yet difficulties tend to arise when many people are sent the same file, change it and reply; nobody has a current version of the document. Sharing files via e-mail becomes increasingly difficult with larger files and a larger number of people. In addition, e-mail is insecure. Anyone tapping into the network with simple equipment can capture a company's confidential information.
  • Internet storage systems -- Numerous products are available that provide storage services on the Internet of which most are free services aimed at consumers. Internet storage allows single users to store data accessible to any system with a browser. Many people use these services to share data for access from their home and office. A single user must manually make a local copy of the data, work on it and then publish it back to the storage site.

The objective of this paper is to take a look at Novell's iFolder; a file synchronisation product that addresses the shortcomings mentioned above. The following points will be encompassed:

  1. A technical overview of iFolder.
  2. Why iFolder is an interesting product for ISPs.
  3. An overview on the administration of iFolder.
  4. Making profits from selling iFolder as a service.

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