I wanted to have a look at the new Open Source ifolder-server and additionally at ifolder in general. ifolder is mainly supported by Novell, and Novell advertises it’s Suse Linux, so I downloaded a Suse-VMware image, installed the vmware player and gave it a try. After I installed the needed software it worked pretty well and gave me a quite good impression of what ifolder is about.
(To be clear: ifolder is a server based Open Source file sharing application targeted at business customers; I wanted to know how it really works. Thanks for the comments pointing out that this info was missing.)
Since ifolder can be accessed by browser also I was able to access the server even from my Fedora Core machine although I do not have any ifolder client installed there (actually that’s the way how I got the screenshots from the vmware to my client, so it is really working).
And how does it look like? Here are some screenshots:
First of all there is the client itself:
It is written in gtk# (I think) so it fits into gnome – well, when ifolder spreads its wings we will probably see the rise of a KDE client. You can perform all basic tasks with this client, which are: prepare folders to upload them to the network, set different ifolder servers, set up ifolder as p2p in the existing network, integrate on server side existing folders into your system, change user rights for your folders and files, synchronize, etc.
As far as I see (keep in mind that I haven’t really used ifolder in a productive environment) the client provides everything you need which is does not surprise me since it is a “old” program (old as in developed for several years now).
But the main important task for me would be to access all my data even from computers which I do not own/where I can’t/don’t want to install a client. This works pretty nice also. The login-screen is clean and therefore functional:
It is accessed through http://server.com/ifolder, but that’s just default and can be changed I think. After the login you see again a clean and functional interface which gives you just what you need, and nothing more, or better said: it is not disturbing you at all:
You see the folders you are member of, and you can create new ones. A click on a folder gives you the content and the possibility to upload files or create new folders inside of the folder:
And, of course, you can also download the provided data. Here I have to add that konqueror hat some problems getting the right information of the file – it tried to download them as binary sometimes which wasn’t what happened with firefox. But that is not the first time that konqueror did it, and I keep this in mind as bug I will probably fill once I can set up a ifolder server on my own and provide a guest account.
Speaking about accounts: this server is, at the moment, managed in two ways: some tasks can be done through the web interface, some things like setting up new users or deleting them (the second didn’t work for me) have to be done through the command line. You will find more information on the page about ifolder server. Comments to this post already indicated that there is a brand new version which is shipped with a admin interface where you can manage users also.
Nevertheless, since taking screenshots of the command line are not very exciting (I can take, if you want) I just provide some of the admin interface. The login is similar to the normal user login:
Again: nice and clean. After the login you are confrontated with the ifolder user management:
If you click on a user you get more options like setting quotas, setting folder rights, deactivating the user and so on:
Another point of view you can get at the administration interface is the directory-based:
The idea is similar to the user overview. Click on a folder and you can make specific settings for the folder:
You can set disk quotas, files limits, disable the folder completly, change users, filter file names, and so on.
Last but not least you can set system wide policies in the system area:
The options here are pretty much the same: disk quotas and files sizes and here additionally the synchronization time.
Speaking about last: the real last tab is the server tab which was completly empty. I haven’t searched around much so I can just guess that you can set up different servers there which can store the data.
To summarize the impressions I got from this short testing: ifolder is a pretty nice way to share and access data. For me the main important thing is to access data also on the web when I am in the middle of nowhere without my laptop or without my external harddisk.
And the server can be used as a backup server also: just add a script to automatically duplicate specific directories at given times with a given date added to the directory name, duplicate the user rights, and right there you are. Shouldn’t be so hard…
But, as usual, there are also some disadvantages: If you are going to share quite a big amount of data over this server, the server itself should have enough storage since it keeps a copy of every file. Also the implementation I used does not have any ssh support, but that’s just because it is a early developer release, and it should be fixed by now.
Another option I would like to see would be to have directories which can be set as web-access only. There are some data amounts like my photo directory which is accessed by my friends now and then but these do not want to keep a copy on their hard disk all the time. So the idea would be to hide these directories in the ifolder client automatically (there is already an option to hide all folders which hasn’t been integrated into the system) and to not synchronize them with the clients at all.
And, of course, the for ifolder server needed mod_mono should compile on Fedora Core 5 (the not compiling is the fault of the newest apache version which is shipped with fc5: the svn version of mod_mono already compiles against that), and there should be ifolder server and client packages in Fedora Extras and in the Suse repositories as well.
I also would like to see a novell demo server to test out the client and the web interface – since they can limit file sizes and everything this would be not to dangerous 🙂