Network Area Storage

Q. We recently had our Network Storage Drive fail and we managed to copy the files to a hard drive. How can we share the files with the rest of our workgroup?

A. Network Storage drives are an inexpensive alternative to have a full blown file server in your office. They normally run on a version of Windows and can publish shares via Apple FileSharing Prototcol (AFP), the Windows version of Samba (SMB), FTP and HTTP, the latter two being Internet protocols not really designed for office file sharing.

The problem with them is that people generally don’t think about backing them up in case of disaster. If the system fails you can get at the data without removing the hard drive and voiding the warranty. If the drive fails, you may not be able to recover the files at all. So no matter what solution you choose, you should always have a systematic back up to tape or to another hard drive.

If you can afford it you can put in a File Server, like an Xserve with a RAID system. A RAID is a collection on hard drives and a controller computer that create a live back up of the existing data. They can be set up to Mirror, where a file is written two identical hard drives or they can be set up with Parity, where a group of three or more drives contain a snapshot of the contents of the other drives. With mirroring the contents are identical so if one drive fails you can get the information from the second. With a parity set (aka RAID 5) if a drive fails the system does not stop. It runs a 80 percent and agives you time to replace one of the drives. When the drive is replaced the controller rebuilds the contents on the new drive with information saved on the other drives.

With a proper server like an Xserve you can also set up shares, put users into workgroups and control access to the files with access control lists. This can be necessary if you have production, sales and administration using the same server. You control who can access certain areas of the server, no matter if they are coming from a Macintosh or Windows computer. Servers can also manage printers, mail, ftp, web, as well as many other services.

If you don’t have the budget for a full blown server or you have a small workgroup you can use a plain Mac and download SharePoints ( SharePoints allows you share folders to groups you create in the same fashion as the MacOS 9 Finder. MacOS X uses unix POSIX pemissions so that normally a file and folder belongs to the creator. This is very secure, however when working in groups files and folders need to accessible to the members. SharePoints makes the Mac act like a file server. As a result members of the group have complete control over the files.

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