Jeremy Smith's blog

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Top 3 Most Wanted Services From ITS: #3) A Network Drive

I like simple solutions. Tools that don't require me to read user manuals or help files. Tools that get out of my way to help me do my job. Tools that are easily integrated, easy to use, and do one thing and do that one thing well.

Back when I worked at Weatherhead, we had these things called M: drives. They were incredibly simple, and they were the most popular service we offered second only to the Exchange server. All we did to setup the service was buy a big Windows NT server with lots of hard disk (it was later upgraded to a NAS). I think it cost around 40k. We attached it to our NT 4.0 domain, had folders created for each user shared via SMB, and stuck a one-liner into the domain logon script so that the drives were automatically mounted to a user's computer if he or she logged into the domain. It was beautifully simple. And it worked wonderfully! I think they had 50MB quotas, but that was plenty enough back then to store your academic documents, resume, Outlook backup, mish-mash of presentations and word documents, and whatever else.

At the University level, I think a service like that would be great. I would change it in a couple of ways. SMB sharing should still be there, but WebDAV should also. I would like two drives, one labeled "public" and one labeled "private" (with the obvious functionality associated with each). And a bit bigger on the quotas, maybe 100MB for each drive. But that's it — minor changes to a very similar implementation.

There has been a project bouncing around inside ITS called OCS. It stands for "Oracle Collaboration Suite" and was mentioned in this January's edition of the ITS newsletter. Several times we have had internal pre-Alpha versions of the software up, and a couple of times I have tried to configure it in such a way to act just like the M: drives acted (seems like something that should be easy). Each time, I spent 60-90 minutes clicking around and poking through the 70.1MB of documentation on how to use the system and could never quite get it right. In all fairness though, that documentation covers all of the aspects of the Collaboration System which, yes, does come with a kitchen sink component.

There are other services out there that can serve as a network drive right now. photos.case.edu let's you share your photos online. filer.case.edu, run by the EECS department, lets you upload and download arbitrary files and provides WebDAV access. You can mount your blog's root through WebDAV, and I have actually been using that fairly often as my network drive. I take what I can get.

But for my #3 most wanted new ITS service, I would like an official University network drive, 2 of them, labeled "public" and "private" available via SMB and WebDAV.

Comments

  1. gravatar

    I want disk space too. Lots of it though because I shoot a lot of photos and software today takes up huge amounts of space as well. I've filled up both my PC and my Mac, which means I now need to archive on CD and offload to an external harddrive which will also serve as my back-up drive for both machines because it is cheaper than using the backup service. (backup.case.edu gets pricey and it's tricky to configure on the Mac)

    Networked space is especially good for collaborative projects. I have some files currently on Nobel and Pulitzer that I connect to through Novell. But I can't add to them because I'm out of space on the sectors I share with University Relations. When I first started at Case I kept all of my working documents on the network.

    This allowed me to share files with co-workers, and automatically took care of backing-up our documents. If two of us were working on the same webpage it meant we could work from a set of master files instead of keeping duplicate copies on our respective machines and it let us know if the file was in use. I navigated to the files the same way I would to any other drive. Very easy.

    Back when I worked in the corporate world we used the same system and it worked pretty smoothly.

    If we had something like this now (or a space upgrade for the networked servers) it would be incredibly useful. 500Gb of such space might keep me going for a few more years, that is until 50mb cameras become the norm, and each program takes up 10Gb on its own.

  2. gravatar

    Amen to disk space!

  3. gravatar

    Sounds to me like what filer does, minus the SMB stuff (which I think is unnecessary, Windows support WebDAV natively). Why re-invent it when all thats need is money for disk space (its got about 1TB now, not enough for 100M for every single Case student)?

  4. gravatar

    just wanted to say: i agree to the public and a private folder

    filer.case.edu is nice, but I want to see an ITS solution that is integrated into the active directory server (as a n M: and N: drive). That way it is a no-brainer on how to use it in the computer lab, etc.

  5. gravatar

    Filer is nice, but what I want to see is the Nord network drive shared with WebDAV or whatever would allow people to use it anywhere on campus or off, with linux/windows/macos.

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