Novell Filr 1.0 tested

Cloudy with a Chance of File Servers

Working with the Mobile App

The Mobile App offers only a subset of the functions available in the web interface, so unfortunately, you have no functions for deleting and sharing files. Editing files is only possible offline, given a matching application, after downloading. Downloading is also required for viewing and reading a file if the integrated viewer does not support the file type. However, the app does support a large number of file types. For .doc files on Android, for example, the possible candidates are Quickoffice, SoftMaker Office 2012, or ThinkFree Office Mobile. The comments on the downloaded file are available in the mobile app, but after editing, the user has to upload the file again.

Filr supports syncing of downloaded files. The system distinguishes between Filr synchronization with the server on the basis of a fixed schedule and just-in-time synchronization. The corresponding option can be found on Android, for example, in the app settings section below Synchronize Downloads . The WiFi only option only allows synchronizing via an active wireless connection. If this option is disabled, the app synchronizes as soon as a WiFi connection or a direct connection via the network provider becomes available. Synchronize Now immediately synchronizes files, regardless of the WiFi only option.

On closing, the Filr App also asks whether you want to upload the changes directly, which you can confirm by tapping Upload . To upload a new file, tap Share and then tap the Filr icon. The Filr app starts automatically and displays the Upload File dialog box.

Conclusions

From a user's perspective, Filr does pretty much what you would expect from the service, and its use is largely intuitive. Filr 1.0 already looks to be very stable, and its performance is amazing compared with Dropbox, for example. On the downside, admins should note the minimum hardware requirements, because Lucene and the Filr engine do take a toll. With less than 12GB of memory, don't even bother trying to install a single setup.

The Mobile App unfortunately lacks some functions, as well as innovative ideas in terms of offline capabilities. Although the workaround of downloading, editing, and uploading files works perfectly (assuming your smartphone has a suitable application), other manufacturers have put more thought into this point. Ultimately, this approach is a consequence of the Filr philosophy of centralized data storage. Because the Filr developers seek to keep control over data, direct editing should only be possible locally on the mobile client. Online editing, as in a hosted office solution, would mean routing data to a cloud storage service, even if it only acted as an "edit cache."

On the server side, Filr impresses with an enterprise architecture thoughtfully designed for scalability based on SUSE Linux Enterprise, which shows who Novell has in its sights as a target group. This also applies to the ability to add corporate branding to the web client and mobile app.

Filr's main competitor, ownCloud [7], is extensible by external apps with its plugin interface. This means that external storage like Dropbox, Swift, Google Docs, Amazon S3, or WebDAV can be grouped with internal or external ownCloud servers to create a hybrid cloud in the recently released version 5. Both Community and Enterprise versions of ownCloud exist, along with a number of hosted variants. Thanks to the now quite large partner network, there is even a fully working app for the Univention Corporate Server [8]; however, with its huge range of functions, the software has lost some of its focus, unlike Filr.

With Filr, Novell focuses entirely on the private cloud or file sharing, with the core philosophy of making file servers in the enterprise accessible to heterogeneous and mobile clients. Furthermore, consolidation and synchronization of files is done on the basis of collaboration functionality. Unlike a CMS, there is no versioning, because Filr does not duplicate data in a database. Instead, Filr works at the filesystem level in terms of storage, and filesystems do not typically support versioning.

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