When you are looking at file sharing, there are a few things will come up time and time again. The crucial question for large file collaboration is do you want the files centralized and on one server and the remote users need to get to this server, or do you want the files distributed out to the edges, so each user has their own file on local servers so they can interact going at LAN speeds rather than WAN speeds.
Let’s do a brief overview of some of the technologies out there and how they may impact your office.
Sharepoint - Microsoft Sharepoint is a centralized file system which resides on one server. If you have Sharepoint, you may end up with data flow and file locking issues. You do gain the simplicity of managing just one file. The problem is the bigger the files, the harder they are to collaborate with using sharepoint as a peer to peer solution. Slow download speeds to the remote sites are the norm.
WAN Optimization/Acceleration — WAN Optimization/Acceleration products are typically used in conjunction with centralized file sharing applications. A distributed file system does not generally need this technology as the files are already local. If there are a lot of files passing back and forth (many projects). it is not completely uncommon to see a WAN Optimization product like Riverbed’s Steelhead, Cisco’s WAAS or Bluecoat’s iShaper. What these products do is compress data down so a data line improves performance. Files are generaly still centralized meaning each viewing of the files requires the whole file having to be downoaded. A distributed file system would not require all the data to pass over the data line since the files are distributed.
FTP Servers — FTP Servers are another way to centrally share files. FTP servers are nice in they allow very large file transfers to be done without hiccups. Access times to files can be cumbersome. FTP servers are also typically a pain to properly set up, however any good MCSE or Network specialist will have no issues setting up a FTP server. File revisions are tricky as there is not a good file locking built within an FTP solution.
We believe for most organizations, there are a myriad of methods to sharing files, a distributed file system is simply one method, it is simply a matter of deciding what is the most cost effective and efficiency relevant solution for your organization. We’ll be happy to help you navigate these tricky waters of centralized vs decentralized file sharing methodologies!