Servers

Multi-Function File Host Could Save You Money

You might think that your small-business file-storage needs have to span several companies: remote backup plus local backup, employee and client file-server access, and collaboration tools. But you might save money by choosing a single host that can provide all of those functions.

Egnyte combines these elements into one service. Client software enables Macs and PCs to access storage directly through those respective, familiar OS-enabled network interfaces. Or you can tap in through a browser or FTP application.

Beyond those storage options, Egnyte handles backups. The service constantly transfers new versions of files between your network and its servers, letting you recover from major crashes or just retrieve an old copy of a document.

An optional local-drive tool speeds up the process and adds another layer of protection from data loss. A utility turns a local PC into an intermediate step between your office and the Egnyte servers, buffering data and keeping redundant versions synced on each end.

That extra hop can drastically speed up your local file access, plus you can keep working even if your Internet connection fails. In those cases, the local drive will sync changes to the Egnyte servers when the connection is restored. Even better, Egnyte plans to allow certain network storage boxes to serve this function in about a month.

Collaboration tools automatically track version numbers and revisions to documents. You won't be working together in the same file, live, such as in Google Docs, but you can set Egnyte to send alerts when a colleague makes an update. And you can backtrack to old versions if needed.

The service fees depend on the number of "Power Users" needed; those accounts allow backup and desktop access without a web browser. You'll pay $15/month for each basic account, with access to a total of 1TB storage. Once you exceed 10 accounts, per-user costs decrease, and you get unlimited storage. You'll have to add $10/month for the 1TB bring-your-own-network-drive local storage service. (For unlimited storage accounts, Egnyte raises that fee to $20/month.)

Egnyte scrambles transmissions as you'd expect, with 128-bit AES over SSL. More surprising, its browser-based search tool can quickly wrangle certain files, plus there's even an iPhone client to forward files remotely.

Weighing in IT costs, small businesses could come in cheaper than hosting their own file servers. And compared to stringing together several services, Egnyte's combined approach could save money.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.

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