Storage Made Easy Improves Its Unified Web Cloud File Manager

Today we have upgraded the Storage Made Easy Web Cloud File Manager.

The Storage Made Easy Web File Manager is different to a lot of file managers that you see today as it is hierarchical in nature and resembles a true file tree (akin to windows explorer). It’s hierarchical nature enables it to easily work with and manoeuvre around large data sets.

Over the years we have had a lot of feedback from companies and users about how they would like to see the File Manager work and what features they would like and we’ve used this feedback to make improvements, which are outlined below:

Large Layout in inline Mode

The File Manager layout is now larger in inline mode taking more advantage of the screen space.

SME Cloud FIle Manager

 

The File Manager has been optimised for iPad / Tablet

A number of optimizations where done for working with the desktop Cloud File Manager on a tablet. The first is that it opens in full screen mode when being used on such devices. The second is that there are optimizations that make it easier to use such as being easily to widen / constrict the view on each pane. Also interactions have been optimized to work with touch events. The selection of files has also been made easier with checkbox selection options (these selection options are also available when using the FM from a PC).

Cloud File Manager iPad

 

Easier File Selection

A lot of feedback has been made to us about making file selection easier. To that end we have made it easier to select files by using a checkbox paradigm. Check boxes appear so that a file can be selected when the mouse is placed at the left hand side of a file.

Select Cloud Files

 

Image Previews

Image thumbnails can now be previewed as the File Manager is browsed.

Image Previews

 

Help Inline

The File Manager now contains help guides showing how to action the most common functions such as copy/paste:

Cloud How To Guide

 

 

Default PDF Viewer is now native

The default PDF viewer is now a native viewer rather than Google Viewer (although Google Viewer can still be used and be setup to be the default). This means the viewer sandboxes any data viewed in this way just to the SME service.

Cloud PDF Viewer

 

New Themes / Custom Themes

There are two new large themes for the File Manager a blue theme and a normal theme. The existing themes have been rename to “tiny”. Also now, for Appliance users, custom themes can be created. This will be available in the next Appliance version.

File Manager themes

 

The File timestamp to be used can now be selected

As SME is an abstraction between the remote cloud it works with more than one timestamp. Firstly it has its own concept of time, based on UTC, as to when a timestamp was modified through the SME service. Next it handles what the timestamp shows on the remote cloud service, and lastly it can show the local file time of a file uploaded to a remote service via SME (this may be different to the remote cloud time as some cloud services ignore the local file time and simply timestamp the file at the time it was uploaded to their service). Although all three are handled the user can now set which they want shown by default.

Cloud Timestamp

 

Edit on Hover

When hovering on a file, certain options are displayed for easy access. This has been enhanced so that files that can be edited, such as documents, text files etc can be edited by clicking the edit icon on hover.

Edit on Hover

 

Comments view is now collaborative / real time

When working in full file / comments view, if another user is also reviewing the same file and making comments then the comments will appear in real-time like an instant message

Cloud Collaboration

Search inline

The File Manager now features an inline folder search (rather than having to move out to the tabbed search). This is a quick search mechanism to search for files in folders and sub folders.

Cloud Search

 Favourites and Quick Upload placed at top of file tree

Favourites and Quick uploads have been placed at the top of the file tree for easy access. These can also be configured to be hidden.

Cloud Favourites

 

New way to copy / move files

Copy and Move can still be done by selecting files and drag and drop but now there are buttons and a wizard to make copy and moving files between folders or cloud services even easier.

Cloud Copy Move

There are also other numerous small changes and bug fixes but this post highlights the main functional changes.

 

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Sharing Folders Securely from a Cloud File Server for almost any Cloud Storage.

We have introduced a new feature into the Storage Made Easy platform which enables cloud users to share external folders to other users who will not need a SME Account to gain access to those folders. The feature enables the creation of a secure shared link that is password protected and can be time expired.

The video below shows the feature in action.

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Using Midnight Commander to work with Amazon S3, OpenStack, DropBox, OneDrive and almost any other Cloud

Midnight Commander is probably the most popular command line file manager in the world, and certainly for Linux distros. Its design was initially inspired by the classic two pane interface that was found in Norton Commander which was a DOS file manager (for those who remember !).

One of the unsung features of the Midnight Commander (also available on other platforms including phones (I used to use this on my old Nokia N900) and windows and mac) is that it can connect to server over FTP.

This is interesting from a Storage Made Easy viewpoint as although SME providers a full suite of Linux tools, SME also provider protocol interoperability as part of its Cloud Gateway features. What is this I hear you ask ? Well, simply put, it enables files you have stored on public or private storage to be accessible over any of the protocols Storage Made Easy exposes ie FTP, FTPS, WebDav, S3, SFTP.

SME Protocol Gateway

Midnight Commander supports the FTP protocol which makes it easy to get direct access to any storage that is added to a SME Account using the SME FTP cloud protocol adaptor. To do this:

Choose the Left or Right option
Choose FTP link
Enter connection to SME as follows:

username:password@storagemadeeasy.com

or if you are using the SME EU Server:

username:password@eu.storagemadeeasy.com

Midnight Commander FTP

The net result is a very easy way to bring the cloud into the linux desktop integrated with tools you already know and use. This can be used with the SME Personal CLoud plan, Business Team, and on-site enterprise editions of the product.

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Storage Made Easy New feature: Access S3, DropBox, Google Drive and other Clouds from SFTP

Cloud Storage SFTP

Storage Made Easy have now made live a new SFTP protocol adaptor. SFTP is one of the two primary technologies for secure FTP networking, the other being FTPS, which Storage Made Easy already supports (along with FTP, WebDav, Secure WebDav and S3).

The primary reason we investigated implementing SFTP is due to a government POC in which access was required to secure AWSGov Cloud files from medical terminals. This was the primary requirement, but because Storage Made Easy works with almost any back-end Cloud. once added, it can be used as protocol gateway for any cloud mapped to an account, note that the Port is 2200

Below is an example of using the SFTP protocol to access a Storage Made Easy account using Transmit (a Mac App).

SFTP Dropbox

Once connected, all data and mapped clouds are accessible.

SFTP RackSpace Cloud Files

Access can also be done directly from the command line.

Mac sftp google drive

Once connected we can do an ls to get a file listing.

Mac SFTP

Once connected the view of the files is similar to our earlier UI view.

Mac SFTP S3

To find out more about the SME protocol gateway feature that is part of the SME solution please check out the below video.

SFTP Cloud files Access is available for Storage Made Easy IaaS or on-site users.

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WebDav the interoperable protocol for file and document access

WebDav is an acronym for Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning and can also be referred to as just plain old DAV.

WebDav is an extension of the HTTP protocol that was originally designed by Jim Whitehead from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1996 when he was working at the World Wide Web consortium and it later became an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard.

WebDav was built as an interoperable standard to support remote collaborative authoring of Web sites and individual documents, as well as remote access to document based systems.

Today it It is the most popular network file-system protocol for use across the Internet, and although it has been integrated as a interoperable layer into many existing product implementations it is also notably missing as an interoperable API standard from many, such as DropBox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 and more.

The Storage Made Easy WebDav Gateway

SME provide a way to access any mapped cloud by secure WebDav irrespective of whether the underlying Cloud Supports the WebDav protocol natively. As WebDav is so well supported in many desktop and mobile Apps this means that Cloud Data can easily be integrated and accessible without having to move it to access the features of a particular Application that is WebDav enabled.

Connecting to WebDav Servers and Windows Shares

SME can also be configured to connect to servers that support the WebDav protocol. This use of WebDav from a SME perspective is using WebDav as a back end cloud to store data rather than exposing existing clouds to be accessible using the WebDav protocol.

Many existing NAS or SAN devices such as those as the NetGear ReadyNAS and the Synology devices range already provide WebDav as an access protocol to access data. Also existing web servers such as Apache can also be configured to use WebDav using the Mod Dav extension.

Many users of SME want to expose windows file shares and make them directly available through the SME service to all devices. The most appropriate and secure way to do this is not to expose such shares directly but to configure Microsoft Internet Information Server to expose these shares over WebDav.

Advantages of WebDav for Windows File Sharing

This has the following advantages:

Seamless integration with the IIS Manager

A secondary protocol provides a security DMZ with regards to direct access to windows shares

IIS WebDAV can be enabled at the site level, allowing IT administrators to restrict WebDAV access to specific sites on a server.

IIS WebDAV supports per-URL authoring rules, allowing administrators to specify custom WebDAV security settings on a per-URL basis. This fine-grained control gives administrators the ability to maintain one set of security settings for normal HTTP requests and a separate set of security settings for WebDAV.

IIS WebDAV supports both shared and exclusive locks to prevent lost updates due to overwrites

WebDAV supports secure connection as well. By enabling HTTPS over all WebDAV connections, security is fortified. SSL certificates can also be installed to increases security measures

Why WebDav as a Cloud Connector ?

WebDAV is an optimized protocol for document access over http. It is proven as being latency independent and is efficient over wide area networks especially in contrast to file protocols such as NFS and CIFS.

Using secure WebDAV ensures the data is encrypted during transmission and due to the optimizations that data is stored efficiently and quickly .

Why Not The Common Internet File System (CIFS)

CIFS is the standard way that windows users share files across corporate intranets and the Internet with a secure VPN connection.

To expose such shares directly to the internet or to other none windows PC’s it is needed to use a bridging technology. Samba is often used as such as technology. With Samba, the ports 139/tcp and 445/tcp are exposed over a public IP Address. Once this is done such shares are accessible.

The drawbacks of this are:

- The CIFS protocol used by Windows file sharing does not provide data encryption

The protocol itself is quite chatty.

No level of security indirection

CIFS is is an optimized protocol for access to data over a network that has been extended by VPN and has been used in this context by many companies for a long time. The disadvantage of this is that all devices have to support , be setup, and work with the VPN. preventing access by some devices and Apps and making Adhoc ‘on the fly’ access difficult.

Securing WebDav Servers

It is beyond the scope of this blog post to go into great detail on the steps required to secure WebDav servers but Microsoft has a very good guide on how to secure the IIS WebDav Service. This can be accessed at:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc778809%28v=ws.10%29.aspx

In addition to this you should note the following best practices:

Folder Permissions: Use non-anonymous authentication. Modify the NTFS permissions on the folder to only allow the access necessary to the users who require such access

Prevent File Execution: If you are only using WebDAV as a file store and not using it to display web pages, then execute permissions should be removed from that site or folder.

Apache WebDav servers can be configured to use LDAP authentication and also two factor authentication and any deployments should consider implementing these.

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Storage Made Easy made easy provides free WebDav access to Clouds that don’t support WebDav

We are now giving away 150MB of free WebDav access to mapped Clouds to all SME free accounts. This is enough to access around 300 documents on Mobile devices per month and is enough for the average use of WebDav into Clouds such as DropBox, Google Drive, SkyDrive etc.

If you want to access more than just pay a one time $5 fee and get access to 2GB per month of WebDav for the life of your use of our service. If you want unlimited use then just sign up to be a personal cloud or business cloud user.

Also, all free accounts feature 5GB free storage on Amazon S3 and the ability to add up to 3 other Clouds that you wish to access.

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New Storage Made Easy Google Chrome Cloud Unifier File Manager Extension

We’ve added a new Storage Made Easy Chrome extension to the Chrome Web Store. The sole function of this extension is to enable auto-login and launch of the SME Web File Manager for quick access.

The SME Web File Manager is a hierarchical file manager which makes it ideal to deal with large data set and also data from different on-premise or public cloud storage, which are unified in the file tree. A Storage Made Easy Account is needed but a free account can be signed up directly from the extension.

The reason for this extension was to make it a lot easier for users to be able to gain access to the Web Cloud File Manager for one of our business customers who had equipped their salesforce with Chromebook Pixel’s.

The Web File Manager enabled them to have a workflow which included editing and commenting of documents directly from the Chromebook on various clouds that they used which includes BaseCamp and Amazon S3.

The extension can also be used for securely sharing files which include setting passwords on files and/or time expiry.

The web file manager, from a single user perspective provides a very nice way to work with data between cloud providers and even collaborate with other people using Business Group WorkSpaces. For business users it provides a complete collaboration environment between user which includes files editing, file commenting, file versioning and file locking.

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How to password protect public cloud files for almost any public Cloud Storage

For over 2 years now we have had the Public Files page. When users sets a file public from any of the 35+ information Clouds they have mapped to their account then it is displayed on this public files page.  Users have always been able to make such files password protected by encrypting the files on upload through our platform, but we have had feedback that what users really wanted was the ability to have any files on this page password protected, whether they were uploaded as encrypted files or not.

We’ve now added this change to the service. To take advantage of it all that needs to be done is to assign a password to the public files page from your Cloud DashBoard after login to the web. This can be set under the “extended options” section (at the bottom of the DashBoard).

Password protect public files

Setting files to be public is easy, just right click on the file from the web and choose to make the file public:

Other desktop and mobile clients also enable files to be set as public, as in the Android example below:

Once files are set public they appear on the public files page that each user account has:

These files are also available as an RSS feed that can added to the foot of an email for example, or as a an iPhone App:

Once a file is then accessed when public file sharing is turned on then the user is redirected to a password page  when they try to access any file from the public files page:

This feature works across files from any Cloud and indeed Cloud Files from different clouds can be shared and protected from the same page in this way.

Business Cloud File Server users can take advantage of this or turn off file sharing completely for their users.

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Cloud File Manager for Windows Phone updated: Unify access to your Cloud Files

We recently updated The Windows Phone Cloud File Manager. Features include:

- Instant access to unified Cloud files anytime, anywhere direct from a WP7 device.

- Assign lengthy tasks and operations to the SME Platform Tasks Engine (PTE). Use your phone while tasks are completed in background. Check progress at anytime in cloud tasks.

- Manage multiple Clouds in a single view. Easily move files between different clouds, done in background.

- Advanced Cloud Search feature that can search for files across multiple clouds.

- Unique Cloud Clipboard feature enables file management from different clouds in batches, without downloading & then uploading.

- Unique Direct Upload uploads files from web directly, no need to download and then upload, just enter file address and our servers will upload it in background.

- Open files in the phone in Microsoft Office, MediaPlayer etc.

- Share and collaborate – share files to social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Windows Live, etc.), over email or with users groups.

- Record audio (even with screen locked), take notes and 2-way sync with chosen Cloud(s). No need for another recording App.

- 2-way sync pictures with different Clouds. Integrated with Pictures hub. Pictures can be uploaded (shared) directly from the hub.

We have seen a recent surge in business customers wanting to use the Windows Phone with our Cloud File Server SaaS and hosted hybrid appliance and expect this to continue with the recently announced windows phone business features.

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Integrating iAnnotate with Google Docs, Amazon S3, RackSpace, and other Clouds

The latest version of iAnnotate PDF, the iPad App that enables editing of PDF Documents, adds support for WebDav which means that you can use the SMEStorage ClouDav Protocol Adaptor, free with the iOS iSMEStorage App, to connect iAnnotate to many Clouds that it does not natively support. SMEStorage supports integration with more Storage and SaaS Clouds than any other service.

The steps to enable access to the Clouds mapped to your SMEStorage Account are simple:

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CloudDav is enabled with all Business Cloud File Server Accounts.

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