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I run a Windows workgroup environment of around 25 PCs (plus a couple Androids and a Mac), with files stored on Windows server network shares, mounted as drives. We work with lots of large complex documents and engineering data files, >1GB binaries. Connections are wired 1Gb ethernet plus some Wi-Fi.

I want to be able to use the network file resources seamlessly from remote locations (currently it is done via RDP or VPN), including clients' PCs.

So I try to work out a better yet simple collaboration/management system with the main requirement: that a resource (file or folder) should be available via the same link regardless of where the client is located, either locally or on the web. In a perfect system, I envision that if you click a link placed in a web app like Trello, Basecamp etc., it would open the remote target file/folder seamlessly, without having to download it. I understand that WebDAV allows this at least in part (same origin policy of the browser still denies the 'prefect' solution) but my trials have shown that is is horribly slow for our tasks.

I muse at using online storage like the private Tonido Cloud server for this. A distant target would be implementing a custom URI scheme to overcome the same origin policy of browsers. Since I have no experience with other distributed storage technologies, could you give me a clue what would work for me? I've looked at OpenAFS, DFS, NFS but not sure if it's what is right for our tasks. Or am I comepletely off the target and there are other standard solutions to this?

TLDR: What can replace SMB shares functionality while providing access from the web and, unlike FTP, without the need to download/upload?

Update: Is building a custom URI scheme a bad idea? I'm quite fascinated with the way it could work (for example, evernote:// URIs work from any context as long as there is a local client present)

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3 Answers 3

What can replace SMB shares functionality while providing access from the web and, unlike FTP, without the need to download/upload?

Nothing really. If a file is on a remote file share, you'll have to download/upload it to edit and save it. Even when you open a file from a network share directly, it's still temporarily downloaded to memory on the local machine and then uploaded back to the share when saved.

If you're working with large files and complex programs over a WAN link, what I would suggest is implementing Remote Desktop Servics (formerly Terminal Services) or a similar technology like Citrix XenDesktop. This way, the remote computer's available throughput only impacts RDP, which is relatively lightweight. You should consider setting up a RDS server or farm behind your firewall and enable access via VPN or a Remote Desktop Gateway. Then, working with these files is limited by your LAN speed and not your WAN speed. This is the industry-standard way of handling this problem.

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Thanks for the answer. Yes, remote desktop is definitely an option, except for situations like people out in the field with bad connection or a client that just needs to access a publicly shared folder. I will also look into synchronization technologies since as regards the large files, they need to be available locally –  Alex Bausk Oct 19 '12 at 15:24

You can instead of online storage move to offline syncing on all client machines, and use something like a VPN connection to do the sync for remote clients.

If properly configured, this will not sync the entire file, just changes.

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I've been playing with Tonido (and possibly ownCloud is an option too) in order to see if it is feasible. Still have to figure out if they do block-level sync. –  Alex Bausk Oct 19 '12 at 15:40

If you want to avoid the download/upload you have to look for online applications. Google docs is very good for office documents.
Your main requirement (having the same url for a document everywhere) is solved.
This also solves your cross-platform problem and access problem (you need a webbrowser).
For large documents you could work with multiple smaller ones. I know a book publisher who is doing this for the editing phase using Google Docs. Once the manuscript (made by several coauthors) is ready all files are downloaded and the book is assembled (design, typeset, ...). Maybe you could find a similar solution for the large engineering data files?

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