ifolder server review

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:

ifolder_client.png

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:

ifolder_server_users_login.png

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:

ifolder_server_users_overview.png

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:

ifolder_server_users_folderview.png

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:

ifolder_server_admin_login.png

Again: nice and clean. After the login you are confrontated with the ifolder user management:

ifolder_server_admin_users.png

If you click on a user you get more options like setting quotas, setting folder rights, deactivating the user and so on:

ifolder_server_admin_users_details.png

Another point of view you can get at the administration interface is the directory-based:

ifolder_server_admin_folders.png

The idea is similar to the user overview. Click on a folder and you can make specific settings for the folder:

ifolder_server_admin_folders_details.png

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:

ifolder_server_admin_system.png

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🙂

22 thoughts on “ifolder server review”

  1. The iFolder web admin has already been updated to manage users so you don’t have to drop to the command line. You’ll need to get a later development build.

  2. I wonder if data sent across is encrypted.

    I guess you can always encrypt your files before storing them on the server, however I doubt most people would do that.

    Nice review.

  3. Why must seemingly all products insist on using the “i” thing.

    iFolder.

    So what that Apple came up with a great idea. Quit trying to jump on the marketing bandwagon and think up a real name for your product and quit biting off of Apple. (No pun intended)

    I know that I am writing in response to a review, on a blog, but, damn.

  4. Yes, data transfered to/from the iFolder server from a client is encrypted. You also have the option to encrypt files stored on the server.

  5. The data would be encrypted if you accessed iFolder via an HTTPS web server. This makes the encryption approach both familiar and straightforward for the clients.

  6. Cool. Yeah I figured you could use SSL when uploading via http.

    Wasn’t sure about the desktop clients (linux/windows) and any encryption when sending files to the server — instead of ssl+http.

  7. umm, in response to the i being in front of Folder. iFolder has been out far longer than the iPod, both iFolder and iPrint came out in early to mid 2001 as found here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ifolder

    Whereas the iPod came out in late 2001. If anything, Apple marketed the iPod around something that was already there.

  8. Actually the iMac came out in mid-1998 which was the first product that started Apple on the iFoo naming scheme.

  9. Sorry Apple fans, but Apple were not the first to use i prefix. IBM renamed their AS/400 servers to iSeries first.

  10. iMac wurde am 7.Mai 1998 vorgestellt und am 15.August 1998 ausgeliefert.

    Im Jahre 2000 wurde die AS/400 in iSeries umbenannt, im Jahre 2003/4 wurde der Name iSeries i5 geprägt, und seit 2006 gibt es die Modelle IBM System i5.

    snowmannishboy

  11. Thanks for the comments: I edited the article slightly:
    [x] there is no need to go to the command line anymore
    [x] data are encrypted
    [x] I added a short info what ifolder *is*, since the review was previously written for people who have a basic idea about it; my failure, but corrected now, thanks for the comments🙂

    liquidat

  12. The 1st episode of
    Novel Open Audio
    (aka podcasts) was all about iFolder.

    Among other things talked about:
    – encryption will be available only in commercial version. Open source version users have to figure out how to tunnel the connection through SSH themselves.

    – the idea is different from WebDAV in one respect. iFolder is all about local file to shared storage synchronization. The way they described it – locking is not part of the formula. Conflict resolution is shifted to the users. When conflict arises, user is prompted with options (overwrite / save under different name, etc)

  13. I tested an iFolder client/server setup 10 days ago and have been quite disappointed by its overall performances. The machine running the client was my laptop and the server my desktop machine, on a 100mbps lan. I tried a “real life” example, that is, using ifolder to backup my ~/work/ directory : 242 subdirectories and around 3000 files, (mainly short text files like source code, latex source,…).The whole directory was 61MB “big”. It took more than 10 minutes to the client to crawl and “prepare” the directory and worst, it took half an hour to upload the data on the server. From what i saw in the logs, the client opens an http connection for each file transfer, which is an overkill. I used a standard configuration as provided on tutorials found on ifolder.com. Does any of you have made experiments with real life data ?

  14. Does the Open Source iFolder Server
    work without eDirectory ?

    can it be enabled to work with an existing eDirectory ?

  15. “I tested an iFolder client/server setup 10 days ago and have been quite disappointed by its overall performances. ”

    I’m sure they will improve performance as newer versions come out. Keep in mind this isn’t really meant as a backup solution. The whole idea is keeping documents in sync no matter where you are with the server and allowing people to collaberate on them together.

    While I agee 61MB in 10minutes isn’t great try one more test. Open a file and edit one character of it and see how much data is sent to the server when you save it. ;^)

  16. Heh, the discussion about who came up with iNames first is funny. We’ve been calling Unix filesystem management blocks “inodes” since when, again?😉

  17. Dont forget that ifolder is NOT a backup solution. It is for sync like rsync, which is also not speedy.
    Sync solutions are designed not to consume your entire processor/system resources to get the backup.
    They “nibble” away at the data behind the scenes to sync the data.
    This is standard right tool for the job folks, if you want backup – get a real backup tool.
    If you want to sync your laptop to your server and be able to use your data in both locations, or quicly access it from a friends pc with no client – use iFolder.

  18. There is no image with an included ifolder server, but you can download a Suse standard image here:
    http://developer.kde.org/~binner/vmware/
    The rpms you need for ifolder server are given at the ifolder homepage, it is very easy to install them.

    About the backup/synching question:
    I think ifolder can only be used as a backup solution if you add several scripts to turn ifolder into a backup server (regular backups, automatic directory duplication with date stamps, etc.).
    But I would appreciate if you can suggest a free (!) solution which is entirely written for backups and not only a dirty hack.

  19. Thanks for the answer, it looks interesting.
    But there is one situation where it wouldn’t work: I have some friends traveling the world, and they access the internet with their windows computers in several different places and networks – samba would not work in such a case afaik, and I would like to have a backup solution which would work even in completly foreign networks far away. I know that therefore I certainly have to install a client program on the computers, but that’s ok.
    That was the reason why I liked iFolder so much: it works in almost every case.

    liquidat

  20. backuppc is impossible to install for a newb.

    Either the recipe are not well written or the package are not built with an eye on simplicity like other products.

    It is easier to set up a xampp or a lamp server with iFolder than backuppc by far.

Comments are closed.