Organizations in search of on-premises alternatives to cloud storage and file-sharing services have a growing number of options to choose from.
The latest entry into the market comes from Novell, whose Filr product offers Dropbox-like functionality via a virtual appliance that sits in the corporate data center.
Such on-premises storage and file-sharing products help organizations avoid the data ownership, retention and compliance concerns that can come with cloud services, said Paul Pedron, senior network systems specialist for the City of Fresno, California.
"You never know where those [cloud data centers] are," Pedron said. "If they're on Google, they can be anywhere in the world. All those liability questions come into play."
Traditional file servers typically require Windows Explorer or a similar file browser, which makes end-user access from smartphones and tablets difficult, if not impossible. It's one of the main reasons that cloud services such as Dropbox and Box, which offer native mobile apps and Web access, have taken off among business users. But individuals' use of these services is a nightmare for IT professionals, who fear the loss of control over corporate data.
On-premises storage and file-sharing products offer the best of both worlds: mobile access for end users and peace of mind for IT.
Filr integrates with existing Novell and Windows file servers, as well as with network-attached storage. It also provides user access through apps for Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Mac OS X and the Web. Meanwhile, IT can still manage users' access to specific folders and files via Novell eDirectory or Microsoft Active Directory. In addition, users can control what the people they share files with can do with them: view only, view and edit, or view, edit and share.
Putting these controls in users' hands helps reduce the number of help desk requests for access to specific folders on file servers, said Pedron, a Filr beta customer.
The City of Fresno has more than 100 field workers using a range of employer-issued mobile devices, and they use Filr to access and store data when out of the office. For example, fire department inspectors use it to access permits and store photographs of violations. On follow-up visits, the inspectors can compare what they see to their previous photographs to make sure violations have been addressed, Pedron said.
Compared to cloud storage and file-sharing services, some of which offer robust collaboration capabilities, Filr only allows users to comment on documents they've shared and edited. Features such as version control are not available as of this week's release, but Novell will add them later, said Eric Varness, Novell's vice president of product management and marketing.
The company is also working with partners to offer a hosted version of Filr by year's end, Varness said.
Other vendors that offer on-premises storage and file-sharing products include OwnCloud, WatchDox, Oxygen Cloud and Accellion.