Remote access recipes, Part 2

* Get to your files using tools you already own

Recently we talked about ways to access your e-mail from remote locations (see editorial link below). Now let me offer some ways to get at your files when traveling or while sitting at home.

You can usually twist your e-mail server into some file-storage duties. If you can access mail through a Web interface, your server supports Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), which means you can leave mail in folders on the server. Create a folder called Proposals or Sales Lit or whatever, send yourself some e-mail with files attached, and park those messages in those folders. Anytime you need those files, they're waiting for you.

Storage space will be limited by the amount of space you have licensed for your Web site. This limitation makes Hotmail and Yahoo Mail tough to use for file storage because free services often give only small amounts of storage space (10M bytes is common). Google's upcoming GMail will offer users 1G byte (yes, gigabyte) of disk storage per user, which means you should be able to automatically archive every e-mail you send and receive for years.

One workhouse server you may not know you have is an FTP server on your Web server. Defined before the Internet was built, FTP uses a few powerful commands (like PUT files and GET files) to transfer files between disparate systems. FTP requires little server overhead, and there are versions for every operating system in the world, so cross-platform access comes by default.

Microsoft has never included a graphical FTP server in its client operating systems, although it includes the DOS command prompt version. However, graphical FTP client software can be had many places, including more than 100 free FTP clients from www.download.com.

Far more advanced than the early days, FTP software now offers file encryption during transfer, and automated file sending and requesting. But the basic FTP services provided by your Web server are all you need to make your files available from anywhere on the Web.

To get access to your Web server, you will need to know your URL (use ftp.MyServer.com rather than www.MyServer.com), your Web server administration user name and your password. You can create a folder on your Web server that's not visible on the Web and use it just for file storage.

Again, FTP file storage space is limited by the space you have available for your Web server. Some companies buy Web servers but use the disk space only for file storage and access the site through the IP address rather than a URL. FTP may be an old technology, but it's fast, reliable and flexible.

In the May 10 issue of Network World’s Net.Worker, Toni Kistner covered some new products in PC-to-PC communication programs (see editorial link below). This market, started years ago by pcAnywhere (now owned by Symantec), made headlines as Citrix just bought GoToMyPC.

I prefer using servers so I can share files without allowing other people to connect directly to my PC. Network-attached storage (NAS) devices offer flexible storage, but accessing them directly across the Internet makes security critical. That's why I'm fascinated by Kanguru Technologies' iNAS-100, which works as a broadband router and NAS all in one. I wrote about it in January (see editorial link below).

Next, I'll dive into options using online file storage and data back-up services, and how they help keep files safe and available.

Learn more about this topic

Remote access recipes, Part 1

Network World, 05/17/04

New Access Services Meet SOHO Needs

Network World, 05/10/04

Review: New Kanguru NAS stands out

Network World, 01/19/04

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