web-based FTP without the danger
August 10, 2011 8:40 AM   Subscribe

We need an FTP Site for our website--a place where we can let users login & upload/download files that are too big for email - CAD, PDF's, movies, etc. Or do we? Obviously, I need the hive's expertise on this one; what solutions do you recommend?

A couple of examples:
1) Coordinating with a marketing firm on a commercial development project--they need an animated fly-through of a 3D model our office generated. These animation files are usually way too big to email.
2) Coordinating with an engineering firm on a residential development--we made site changes to the CAD file that the engineer needs to integrate into the utilities plans. Again, the file is too big to email.

I know enough web programming to get by making the minimal edits that I need to make, but I am no programmer. However, my husband is a web programmer who helps our 3-person design firm program & maintain our current website. He is willing to help me set-up the soon-to-be-chosen system, but I don't think he has the time to research the current best management practices for this type of thing. Bottom line--he can set-up/install whatever solution we need.

We're really looking to set up a system that prevents cross-contamination from clients, a system that would allow us to generate multiple logins for multiple directories on our hosting. The engineer,client, or consultant goes to the FTP site link on our website. They type in the login info we emailed them, the program automatically sends them to the directory that has only the files relevant to their project. (We really don't want clients to see our work on other projects.)

Bonus points -- A system that my limited knowledge can easily maintain (generating logins, etc) after it has been set-up; cheap and/or free is also a plus. (Did I mention that we're a 3-person firm working in the architecture industry during a recession not-so-great business time?)
posted by Kronur to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by COD at 8:49 AM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: Dropbox does exactly what you're trying to build. You can invite an email address to a folder, and they won't be able to see what the other folders contain.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2011

Response by poster: I use dropbox for my personal stuff, so I'm familiar with it to some degree. Is there a way to integrate dropbox into our website where someone wouldn't need to install it on their system to use it?

I don't think we're comfortable mandating that someone has to install a program to access our FTP; we're looking for a solution that is fully integrated into our website. (I have examples, but I don't want to link to other companies about this from mefi.)
posted by Kronur at 9:00 AM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: Amazon S3 (as used by dropbox) is great: cheap, highly configurable, reliable (really, it is!). If you are looking at integration with your site, I'm sure a developer could put together a system for accessing the files... As a starting point, MeFi's own frenetic made and open sourced a project using S3 to securely serve media files for his music store.
posted by HLD at 9:11 AM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: I work for an architecture firm, and we mostly use YouSendIt for our mega-files and giganto-PDF drawings, but that's obviously something where the files aren't there for permanent download (although I think you can do it that way if you want - they seem to be trying to move to a more FTP-type format).

On one project, our clients have mandated that we use Box.net as an FTP site, which I guess is fairly similar to Dropbox. You send out invites to people who should have access to whatever you want, and they can upload/download whatever. No special install was required on my end. This is the only project we've used it for and the file was set up by our client, so I don't know if it has the functionality of allowing some people access to one project folder while denying them access to others.
posted by LionIndex at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2011

You can point people to the DropBox site if you don't want them to be required to use the add-on. Expect to see a lot more DropBox in the future -- they recently received a large amount of investment capital. So it's a safe bet in the near future.
posted by bprater at 12:29 PM on August 10, 2011

If they using ftp they had to download a client at some point. I doubt many of your clients are using ftp from a dos or *nix command line prompt. So I don't think the dropbox client is going to be a big deal.

But if the client is just uploading files they can do that from the web site. There may be some way to integrate is so that it happens on your site. Worst case - a simple iframe might be good enough.
posted by COD at 12:37 PM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: We use Egnyte for this and it works well. You can set up the separate folders and assign permissions to users so they can only see what you want them to see. Or you can just send them an email with a link to the file you want them to have. You can set it so that the link expires after so many downloads or after so many days, etc.
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:04 PM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: I would vote for Box.net over Dropbox for this kind of use case, and either one of those over FTP. Primarily from a simplicity of use standpoint. I used to lose hours of time explaining to clients and consultants about FTP access and troubleshooting problems. Dropbox requires that each shared folder still lives under its "Dropbox" folder (I know a fix is in the works, but my Mac client still works the old way. Maybe on Windows?), which won't necessarily work well with your project folder structure.

Box.net does email notifications to teams when new files are uploaded or are changed. I don't believe that Dropbox does that. FTP certainly not.
posted by misterbrandt at 2:08 PM on August 10, 2011

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