Cloud Computing Use Case: Automatic notifications of new or changed iWork Numbers documents stored on Google Drive

We had an interesting Use Case recently in which the requirements were as follows:

The Company in question had a Google Apps Account and therefore used Google Drive for their Storage. They had a number of iWork Numbers documents that were modified by their team members whilst on the move using iWork and iPad’s. Currently their process was editing the files, and then trying to send the resultant file via email to other team members. Due to file size some files were not received and in general the email server was quickly eating up storage. What they cam to SME for was to figure out how they could refine this process.

With Storage Made Easy the process became much simpler. Firstly the company subscribed to a Cloud File Server SaaS Account. The SME Cloud Admin then added the companies Google Drive account to be accessible via SME and invited other team members to be part of the Cloud File Server. On the Folder(s) in question the Cloud Admin simply set permissions so that relevant team members had access and added a notification rule specific to keynote file to ensure that all subscribers to the shared folder received an email notification on new files or updates to existing files. As per our prior article on Twitter and SMS Gateways on these changes to file events SME can easily generate instant SMS notifications.

As Storage Made Easy enables WebDav above any Cloud added to it then Google Drive becomes instantly accessible via WebDav. For the Company this means that they can simply open and create new keynote files directly in Keynote from their shared Google Drive folder and then on completion simply save them back. The very act of doing this generates a file event on completion which send an email and/or SMS to users subscribed to the shared folder vastly simplifying the process.




Another added benefit to the company is the complete end-to-end joined up audit tracking they get on all Google Drive documents:

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Cloud Computing Use Case: Annotating PDF files on Amazon S3 (and other clouds) from an iPad with audit tracking

One of the legal companies that use the Storage Made Easy on-premise Cloud File Server Appliance had a recent request that we felt was worth exposing as we can see it could be a common use case.

The company has legal and para-legal resources that had the need to be able to annotate PDF’s whilst away from the office using their iPad’s.  The legal data is stored on an EU Amazon S3 instance  and the SME Cloud File Server Appliance is used to provide  single sign on with the internal Active Directory Server whilst also providing granular permissions and auditing services for full document tracking.

A key point for the company was that any PDF document editing would be able to be done on the move from an iPad, saved back to the S3 Cloud from the iPad, and also that any changes were audit trackable. and users were instantly notified of changes. The SME Cloud on-premise Cloud Appliance, which unifies public and private data sources, as well as providing a full audit trail for all file interactions was used to satisfy this requirement in the following way:

– SME Cloud Appliance was already installed on-premise behind the corporate firewall
– The companies own EU S3 Account had been added as a Cloud to be monitored from the Appliance
– Auditing of any file events was set
– Access to the S3 files was available via the WebDav protocol using the users Active Directory username / password as Active Directory SSO was enabled via the Appliance
– As S3 files were available via WebDav the iAnnotate iPad App could be used to login and annotate files as outlined below.

Setting up access to Storage Made Easy from the cloud appliance is done as follows:

1. First setup a new WebDav cloud connection

2. Enter the SME WebDav Details

3. Connect

4. After Annotating the document then simply save it.

5. On completion the annotated document is saved back to Amazon S3 (or any other WebDav Cloud it was access from).

All interactions that occur are also fully audited with the remote IP Address, username, and document details and these are available as part of the Audit logs provided by the SME Appliance that can be exported as a .cvs or excel and / or can be archived.

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How to sync files from Google Docs, SkyDrive, S3 and other Clouds with your BlackBerry Playbook

As we recently posted details about our HTML5 client for the BlackBerry Playbook we thought it would be useful to outline how you can sync files from any number of Clouds with your Playbook.

For this walk through we will be using a third party tool for the Playbook called Mobile FTP and the SMEStorage CloudFTP protocol adaptor. This solution will work with any free, personal or business Cloud File Server Account that has the Protocol Adaptor added to their account.

First purchase the Mobile FTP App for your Playbook and install it (t is £1.00)

Next setup the SME CloudFTP protocol adaptor connection in the App. This enables the SMEStorage Clouds you have mapped to your account to be accessible over FTP even if they don’t natively support FTP.

This will result in a new bookmark called SME FTP

At this point all your files are acessible through MobileFTP on the Playbook simply by selecting the bookmark and connecting

You can download files or upload them to the various cloud using the Mobile FTP App

Now we will set up Sync. First we need to create a bookmark of the directory we wish to sync within the Mobile FTP App. We wil choose a folder called ‘Android Docs’ that is hosted on Google Docs.

We will name the Bookmark “Docs to Sync”.

Now we’ll go back to the root of the Mobile FTP and edit the Sync example to change it for sync bookmark we just created:

We changed the name to “SME Sync GDocs” and chose the boomarked directory “Docs to Sync” as the directory to sync with the root of the SD Card. Now we can simply run the sync.

Once the sync is completed the nested directory structure and files are available from the SD card on the Playbook. We can re-run the sync when we wish to pick up any changes, and we can add as many sync profiles, to as many different clouds, as we wish.

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Cloud Computing Use Case: Editing Google Docs, Office365 and DropBox files in iWork on the iPad

We recently did a roll out of our Cloud File Server service to a company of just under 150 people. The primary driver of this was federating data sources, governance and auditing of data, and the ability to edit files directly on iWork on the iPad.

For this use case we’ll concentrate on the latter, enabling ubiquitous document editing on the iPad using the Apple iWork product which encompasses Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

The company is a technology company in which different parts of the businesses use different Cloud Services. The core business admin and management uses Office365. Google Docs is used by the sales team, primarily as a way to share Google Docs files easily with their customers and prospects, whom they found to be predominately Google Docs users. DropBox is used by the tech team who like the ability to have replicated to all their code, tech papers etc instantly to any device.

Interestingly, whereas you would think this disparate use of similar Cloud storage services is an edge case, we find it is not. The storage vendor names may change, but the disparate number, of what appear to be, similar services remains.

When questioned about why they don’t use the other in-house services each team had a different USP as to why:

Tech Team: “With DropBox I don’t have to remember to bring my files. They are always with me”

Admin / Management: “Office365 works and Syncs with what I use like my Outlook task list and calendar”

Sales Team: “most of our customers use Google Apps, so sharing files with the Google Group we have setup for Sales is the best way to get new deals / propositions to them”

One thing this company has jointly bought into was iPad’s. They all used them and their preference was to use Apple iWork as their document editor as they liked it’s simplicity, ease of use, and WYSIWYG features. The problem was it did not work with any of their Cloud products.as it only supported iCloud, MobileMe and WebDav.

The company in question had already bought into the SME Cloud File Server. It enabled them to audit files above all the clouds they used and provide Organisation Shared folders that worked above a “set” of Clouds, giving them a single view on disparate resources.

As the SME Cloud File Server also supports a WebDav protocol adaptor above any Cloud, something we call CloudDav, then it became very easy for all the teams to create, load, edit, and save documents to either Google Docs, Office365, or DropBox.

The steps to achieve this were simple:

1. Launch Pages, Numbers or Keynote

2. Click the ‘+’ button and choose ‘Copy from Webdav’ (assume a doc is to be loaded)

3. Enter https://Webdav.storagemadeeasy.com as the server address and your smestorage username and password as authentication. This will then load the file tree and the clouds available to the account.

4. Tap on a document to load it and start editing

5. When finished just choose the “Copy to WebDAV” button and it will be saved.

In this way documents in Clouds not supported by iWork can be edited and saved.

 

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Cloud Computing Case Study: Google Docs continuous backup / sync to DropBox

We very often have businesses who want to keep files in sync between two clouds. This can be as simple as having a backup copy held between two providers in the cloud for continuous availability should one provider go down, or it could be due to a particular use case in which files need to be made available on two Clouds. In any case the request is a common enough for us to highlight it in our Cloud use cases section to show how this is easily achieved using the SME Open Cloud Platform.

We will look at providing a continuous backup / sync between Google Docs and DropBox, in which Google Docs is what we will refer to as the primary cloud, and DropBox will be the backup cloud. The first thing to note is that this option that we highlight below is only available to users who have a personal business or Cloud File Server account with us, and that it is available in our normal hosted offering as well as our appliance offering.

The guide to setup the continuous backup / sync are outlined step by step below:

1. Log into the personal business or Cloud File Server account either on the web or the appliance

2. Navigate to the “My DashBoard” link

3. Choose to add a new Backup provider and choose DropBox

4.  Authorise the DropBox account to be accessed

5. The DropBox OAuth screen will appear an you can sign into DropBox and choose to authorise access

6. The sync will now be kicked off an you will see the settings screen of the backup provider you just added.

7. If we now visit the dropbox account we can see a new folder called “My GMail files” has been created

8. If we look inside this folder we can see the files and folders  have been copied across

After the initial sync any news files that are uploaded direct to Google Docs via SME are also backed up to DropBox. Any files uploaded direct to Google Docs are uploaded to DropBox when SME discovers them either through you accessing your account if real-time update is enabled or by forcing a refresh between the SME meta-data and Google Docs. You are also able to control whether files are deleted on the backup if they are deleted on the primary from the settings page in step 6.

Although we used Google Docs to DropBox as an example this is equally applicable to any of the 35 clouds that SME supports, including private data to public clouds or vice-versa.

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Cloud Computing Use Case: CCTV still images stored on Amazon S3 via FTP

Continuing our theme on Cloud Computing user cases, this one makes use of the SMEStorage CloudFTP protocol adaptor that adds the ability for any Cloud that SME supports to be accessible from the ubiquitous FTP protocol. For this particular use case, we now have had four businesses using SMEStorage as enabler for using S3 via FTP so we thought  it would be useful to highlight.

The use case revolves around CCTV cameras that monitor a property and are configured to take pictures (.jpg files) at either intermittent points and/or on movement detection. Currently 2 of the businesses used sensr.net and two where using FTP from an ISP, but all were looking at Amazon S3 and trying to figure out how to get there images onto S3, given S3 does not support FTP.  

Interestingly they had tried automated scripts and other mechanisms but none had really worked. At this point they discovered CloudFTP which simply adds FTP access to S3 (and any other Clouds SME supports).

Everything is accessed using standard FTP and using standard ports (and secure ports for FTPS).

After registering for a SMEStorage Account, adding their S3 account and then purchasing CloudFTP and then adding the correct FTP configuration to the CCTV hardware, this was done.

A Simple but effective use of the Cloud.

 

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Turning any Storage Cloud into an Amazon S3 compatible Private, Public or hybrid Cloud

In the past we have written about Amazon S3 and how, aas the 100 pound gorilla, of the Cloud Storage world, it’s S3 API has become almost a de facto interface for developers. This is one of the reasons that we originally added an S3 API protocol adaptor to our service.

Many start up’s, small businesses and even enterprises choose initially to use S3 for storage.  This can be fine initially, however, when the volume increases the monthly bill can become an OPEX issue and small companies (and Enterprise) are looking for ways to slash their costs in any way they can. Aside from this other companies have stringent issues about where data is stored (for clarification, Amazon S3 is PCI DSS 2.0 compliant,   SAS 70 Type II certified, and VPV ISO 27001 certified) or wish to store it within their own data centre or site.

As SMEStorage supports over 35 Clouds and SaaS services, you could very easily turn Google Docs, Box, Windows Azure or DropBox into an S3 Platform, or you could just add your own NetGear or PogoPlug appliance, or other private storage implementation.

The SME hosted service, and Cloud Appliance,  provides the ability access to any Saas or cloud storage mapped to your account via multiple protocols. These include  FTP, WebDav and also S3. These work even if the backend provider does not support the protocol natively. The SME protocol adaptors will do the protocol translation to the native storage provider protocol. One of the benefits of this that the users don’t need any special software to be able to access the Clouds. They can use any FTP, or WebDav client, or in the case of S3 any S3 client or code in which the host endpoint can be changed.

To demonstrate compatibility with the S3 API and tools we will now look at how to use AWS s3curl with a smestorage account.

To use s3 curl you will need to modify s3curl.pl and change the end point to

s3.smetorage.com’ (US Server) or ‘s3eu.storagemadeeasy.com‘ (EU Server) e.g my @endpoints = ( ‘s3.storagemadeeasy.com‘);

Your id is your smestorage account user name and you can obtain your secret key by logging into SMEStorage.com going to “My  Dashboard” (from the sidebar) and copying the API key from  the“Tech Info”  section where the “API secret Key” resides.

Now you are all set to use s3curl. For example to list all the buckets you can use

./s3curl.pl –id smestorageusername –key API secret key http://s3.storagemadeeasy.com

For s3curl command line options please see the README file that is part of the s3curl package. Also note that the secure way to use s3curl is to use the .s3curl file in your home directory to pass the id and and key.

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