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How do small office or agencies use share resources, client files, and so forth effectively to collaborate? Do they use local network attached storage, Dropbox, Google Drive, or something else?

I am from South Africa and our internet is not very fast, so I am specifically looking for a local storage or network attached network attached storage (NAS) workflow.

How do you do it? What is the most popular way to do so?

  • This is a question for SuperUser. There's no 'best' way to handle this. – DA01 Apr 24 '15 at 22:13
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I don't do much collaborating at my workplace (single in-house designer), but I still use BitTorrent Sync to sync design files across multiple devices; namely my NAS, dedicated server, and my primary machine.

I have also used it for collaborative projects in the past and have found it to be very convenient. Our network consisted of 5 machines for 3 people: 3 work machines, 1 NAS, and 1 dedicated server. The NAS and dedicated server served as "backbone" machines to help distribute files (especially the DS due to its higher network transfer speed).

BT Sync is particularly useful for projects (video in particular) where file sizes can be enormous. However, it is not a solution for everyone. It has its pros and cons.

Advantages

  • No storage restrictions (limited only by the amount of disk space available)
  • Free (pro version with extra features available)
  • Widely supported cross-platform

Disadvantages

  • No third party backup - the more devices you have in your network, the less likely this is to be an issue.
  • No version control (though there is an archive folder for recently deleted files)
  • Reliability - no central server
  • Bandwidth - you'll use up extra traffic synching between multiple devices; moreso than if you used Dropbox or similar.
  • Closed source
  • Thanks. I am mostly looking for software / hardware on a local network. We use Google Drive for the most part as far as the cloud is concerned but due to our slow internet speeds we can not upload or backup our design files (ranging from print to web) to the cloud. I know that dropbox has a local/lan Sync ability. Perhaps that is something we should look at. – Samuel Sampi Kamffer Apr 24 '15 at 15:07
  • @Samuel BT Sync will use the local network if possible so it sounds like it may be just right for you. I didn't know Dropbox had LAN sync, I'll have to check that out – JohnB Apr 24 '15 at 16:23
  • @JohnB Dropbox has LAN sync, however it only syncs via the LAN AFTER it uploads to the internet.. so it won't cost you extra bandwidth, but it won't be any faster – user2813274 Apr 25 '15 at 2:19
  • you know you could use version controlled disk system when bit synching and youd get version control. You can also backup offsite with this setup no prob. – joojaa Apr 25 '15 at 17:16
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Where I work, we work across network using a central hub (switch system) and Virtual machines hosted on the network. I don't know much of the IT behind it, but what we use is akin to a basic windows folder structure. It's fast, but it isn't great for organization or security.

I wanted to add, that while we use VMs and a central file system for storage, we do have our own work stations that connect to the VMs and file system. So version control is extremely difficult because it is just a windows folder system...

Pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages that @JohnB posted, but centrally controlled. It's really dependent on your needs and output I would suggest. If you're running web, you're going to want something cloud based. If you're only doing print, something like Printer Presence for files receivable and a central network to host your print engines and in house designers is going to work as well.

  • Hello Kvasir, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your answer. If you have any questions, please see the help center or ping one of us in chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site! – Zach Saucier Apr 24 '15 at 13:47
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We have a small design practice (2-3 people at the moment), and have tried some systems / services that may be of help for your situation:

AeroFS
Tried it for some time, worked well, but it kept giving errors on startup (mostly on Windows) and I would have to stop it and restart it after rebooting.
On the other hand is free for local sync up to 30 users, and you get a smartphone / tablet app if you pay a fee. Versioning and conflict resolution implemented, as well as selective syncing. No server needed but you can set up one for backup / archiving purposes.
https://www.aerofs.com/

OwnCloud
Never fully implemented it but it seemed perfect for local file sharing / syncing. You need a server or NAS (Freenas works great, it has an OwnCloud plugin and it's relatively easy to set up). It has a free smartphone / tablet app. It also has versioning and conflict resolution.
https://owncloud.org/

Dropbox
Not cheap but works great, all of the time. The LAN Sync feature is very powerful and perfect for fast updates on big files, so your low bandwidth does not slow down your workflow. The problem in my opinion is the price, although last year's price war with Google multiplied their space offering tenfold (100GB > 1TB) for the same fee –USD$ 99 / year last time I checked. This is for personal accounts though, they charge USD$ 750 a year for 5 users and 5 TB.
It has versioning (for 30 days, or more as a separate payed service), conflict resolution and selective sync.
https://www.dropbox.com/

Google Drive
Good pricing –unlimited storage for USD$ 10 / month which is kind of unbeatable and it's why it is our current setting. Ease of use, selective syncing (so you won't have to carry all of your archive with you all of the time but you can still access it anywhere if you need it), file versioning or history; I'm not sure how it handles conflicts. No LAN syncing so implementation is painful and sharing a big folder with a new collaborator is slow. With Calendar, Tasks and Docs it's a good candidate for collaborative working. It has an offline mode for flaky connections.
https://drive.google.com/

We do have a NAS (Freenas), but I find it a nightmare not being able to have some kind of version control; also, on our current setup it would be difficult to access from different locations (i.e. while not in the office), so we use it for backups –it has a Time Capsule plugin.

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Great answers so far, but I'd like to point out there's two main different sorts of solutions (from the user's perspective):

1. Cloud based storage applications.- these are designed to share storage over the internet (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, etc.). They require a half-decent internet connection (more so if you're talking about huge files such as raw video). The benefits are that there are free versions for some of them (for limited storage), they don't require you to deploy any sort of infrastructure, they offer version history to recover an old version of your files, and they sometimes have useful mechanisms for handling concurrent changes (what happens if two users change the same file at the same time). It's worth noting that even though most applications provide some sort of encryption/security, there's still concerns about privacy since your files are physically stored on someone else's servers and this is the reason why you don't see many banks, or large companies using these apps (some apps like SpiderOak provide client-side encryption for better security).

2. Private file sharing.- this is basically just some sort of network accessed storage, users access a file through the local network (on NAS, SAN,

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