bwSyncAndShare is not ready for primetime

Storage is a scarce resource and has always been an issue for me to discuss with the IT department. I usually want to use more storage than they are willing to grant. I recognize that there are different service levels for storage provided as part of the IT of the organization I work for and for storage provided by commercial providers. Yet, I am not always satisfied with the result and I am not always convinced that we have selected the best solution within our organizational constraints.

disk-usageMy hard drive on my laptop has a capacity of 237 GB. I currently use 201 GB: 82 GB for operating systems files and applications, and 119 GB for my own data. There are some large files like ISO images and VM images that I only need locally, and my emails that are stored on a server are also available for me offline. Still, I have about 40 GB of data that I do not only need locally, and that cannot be restored easily from other sources on demand. Hence, I would like to store 40+ GB in a place where I can access it from multiple devices. In this age, the usual solution would be to use cloud storage.

Our IT department offers a 1990s style solution for storage in the form of the Z: drive, i.e. a network folder in which I can store 3 GB. I do not use it. 3 GB is too little, I mean, I can easily buy a USB stick with a capacity of 128 GB that I can carry around. And the drive is available from outside my office by opening a VPN connection, maintaining an online connection, and accessing the data in the network folder. That is inconvenient at best and impossible at worst. I simply do not have access to my data when I have an unstable network connection, e.g. on a train, abroad, or even in some places where campus wifi does not work well.

What about cloud storage? Worried about foreign agents peeking into personal data, IT departments require employees not to use commercial services to store person-sensitive data. As an example, NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, rents services from and offers employees as cloud storage for 100 GB. Employees accept that

  • Local IT regulations apply also to this service
  • You are responsible for what you store with the service
  • Private use must be in accordance with local IT regulations
  • Remember that data stores in the U.S.
  • Do not use the service for sensitive personal information, health data or classified data
  • The service is regulated by Norwegian law

I doubt that many people care or that the regulations are really enforced.

I discussed using OneDrive for Business with my local IT department at HTWG and got the response that it would probably not be ok to use it, even though it is free for educational institutions and offers 1 TB of storage. All students I talked to use Dropbox, many use GoogleDrive or similar services. Even many of my colleagues have started to use „shadow IT“ to satisfy their storage needs.

Enter bwSyncAndShare. This is the officially supported cloud storage solution aiming to obviate the need for commercial shadow IT for employees at institutions of higher education in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Let’s see:

  • 25 GB of storage located in Karlsruhe
  • Automatic login fails at least once a week, need to enter my password again
  • It has happened several times that I had new files on my laptop that were not being synchronized to the server; the client displayed that all files were up to date. At home, I could not access my files because they had not been uploaded to the server.
  • OS X: Client software does not start minimized, has to be minimized manually every time I boot the computer; is not signed properly, requires manual intervention to update firewall settings after every client update
  • No client for Windows phones

I beg your pardon, but this is not the productivity gain that I expect with 2016 around the corner.

About Author: Hanno Langweg

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