Thursday, December 14, 2006

iFolder - Our Favorite Tool!

I haven't posted in a while. I must admit, the beginning of the year was busy. Moving from NLD 9 to SUSE Linux Enteprise Desktop 10 is like upgrading from Windows 98 to Vista (except SLED 10 works). The user interface is significantly more user friendly, which helped a lot but it was a pretty big move. We also added 150 new laptop users.

For about a month now, things have been quite smooth and I have had a chance to really observe what is going on. One of the most simple yet widely used tools is iFolder. This open source project (which is available in Windows, Mac and Linux clients) allows users to back up local folders automatically and then also collaborate with other users as well. It has saved students butts when they have laptop damage but, as important, allows them to really work together in a very powerful way.

Here's how it works. You have to download the server software and install it on a server, preferrably a dedicated server. Right now the server needs to be a Novell Open Enterprise Server but soon it can be any Linux server. Then you install the small client on your computer. Once the client has been installed, you can right click on any folder on your computer and "convert it to an iFolder." Once you "convert" a folder, the files and subfolders in that folder are automatically backed up to the server. Even if you stop right there it becomes an elegant back-up utility.

But wait! There's more!! If you want to share the data in that folder with other people, you right click on the folder and "share the iFolder." You are prompted to select the people you want to invite to your folder from the list taken directly from your existing MS Active Directory or Novell eDirectory. Those users you added will then be prompted to "join" the specific iFolder. A copy of your folder, which now resides and is syncronized on the server, is created on the computers of each of the people you selected. Now all people involved in the iFolder can work on the files whether they are online or offline because the files are stored on the local hard drive. When you are connected to the Internet (on the network or off) the files are securely syncronized. Conflicts are dedected and brought to the users attention.

Hold on! We're not finished yet!! What if you want to share your data with someone that doesn't have their own computer? The data stored on the server can be accessed through a website. Right now we have students at our school sharing documents on their laptops with students in Germany via the web accessible server! The German school couldn't ensure access to computers in their school as their lab is often full. However, this way, the students can work together whether they are in the lab, at the library or using their computers at home!

You can find information on the iFolder project at but the latest information can be found on a Novell Open Audio podcast.