What is the best IP-based document sharing solution for small groups?
June 27, 2007 1:03 PM   Subscribe

We have a typical small business with the typical documents to share (spreadsheets, plans, handbooks) and jointly edit. We also have a lot of remote workers and an allergy to tech support, so we're not going to set up a VPN or anything. I am looking for the category-killing, Insanely Great solution to document sharing over the internet. It should be:

* integrated with the OS (mount the share as a drive) for both Windows and Mac
* version controlled, merges if two people edit
* the obvious stuff: secure, backed up, good in the sack

Web-based stuff like Google Docs is not an option as the users prefer their desktop apps. WebDAV implementations seem half-baked. I have also looked at Windows Live FolderShare and been impressed with the sync feature, but it's not really built to handle a workgroup.

In a way what we need is a very user-friendly, file-system-mapped subversion repository.

Thanks in advance for your ideas.
posted by eshepard to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might want to check out KnowledgeTree. It does most of the things you're looking for.
posted by tmcw at 1:06 PM on June 27, 2007

What about Basecamp? They have a document management solution built-in.
posted by SpecialK at 2:07 PM on June 27, 2007

subversion or a wiki.
posted by rhizome at 2:21 PM on June 27, 2007

Integrated with the OS is going to be tough to find. Basecamp or wikis don't do that at all. I've never used KnowledgeTree, but the screenshots don't show explorer integration.

My imperfect suggestion is subversion, with TortoiseSVN on windows. I'm sure there's a similar client for OSX.

Subversion requires a little bit of retraining and diligence to get right, you really need to be religious about checking out before you commit, but that will solve your problems.
posted by Skorgu at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2007

I highly recommend Confluence, which is web (intranet) based, but is as usable as any of the desktop apps I have ever seen, and also offers wiki-like functionality which my teams have found invaluable.

Honestly, if you're going to spend time and money on a desktop/fileshare based system, it will all be wasted. Much of the web based stuff is already well beyond the fileshare based apps from a usability perspective, and they will be dead technologies in a few years.
posted by psmealey at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2007

What OS does this need to integrate with. What desktop apps are you using?

The automatic merging of concurrent edits is something that is unlikely to work well for anything other than text documents unless their is a file-format aware merge tool involved, and even then, will require human intervention if there is a collision.

If you are a Microsoft shop, look into hosted SharePoint Team Server (or whatever it's called now). It lets you do things like host a spreadsheet like list on the server, but let people work with it in Excel and sync the changes back on a row-by row basis. I think there are similar collaboration aids for the other Office apps.

Other than that, I don't think you'll have much luck unless you loosen your requirements even further.
posted by Good Brain at 3:46 PM on June 27, 2007

Best answer: I have had good luck for non-tech users with Novell NetDrive.

You can't get it from Novell directly because licensing issues prevent them from distributing it, but you can get it elsewhere; see this link on Engadget for details.

The upshot is that NetDrive lets Windows users map FTP shares and such as network drives, then you can use your ISP's hosted FTP space to store the files. The downside is that FTP is quite insecure, so this might not have the security you need.

If only NetDrive supported SCP, it would be ideal for you (assuming you're exclusively Windows, of course.)
posted by davejay at 3:58 PM on June 27, 2007

Best answer: NetDrive also supports WebDav, if I recall correctly, including WebDAV over HTTPS, and does a better job of it than the built in windows WebDAV client (or one of them, I think there are actually two different implementations)

Still doesn't solve the versioning and merge requirement. Subversion can autocommit for regular WebDAV clients, but you'll still have merge issues AND the problem with the way most desktop apps write lots of temp files, write, copy & rename, and all that jazz, which will make the version control hideous to navigate, unless NetDrive buffers and coalesces a lot of those operations.
posted by Good Brain at 4:09 PM on June 27, 2007

Perhaps a hosted SharePoint service? I'm not how well if it plays well with OS X (probably not very well). But it handles collaboration and versioning nicely (using the document library feature) and lets you use your desktop apps.

I'd go with Google Docs, myself.
posted by wheat at 8:39 PM on June 27, 2007

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