Secure file-sharing is an alternative to VPN service

Shaun Larkin, chief technology officer at e-business consulting firm eVisions Technologies Inc., says he originally considered setting up a virtual private network (VPN) so his consultants, who generally work off-site at client locations, could share files from a central repository. But after looking at the expense and logistics of managing a VPN, Larkin instead decided to share files through services from Mangosoft Inc.

In the mid-1990s, Westboro, Mass.-based Mangosoft distributed a software product called Medley, which combined the excess capacity of hard drives on a LAN to create a virtual networked hard drive. Now that high-capacity hard drives are a commodity, Mangosoft has re-emerged with a similar, but in practice slightly different, concept called Mangomind. Mangomind is a Web-based file sharing service, which through downloadable user software places a Mango Drive, a shared virtual drive, on the end user's Windows desktop.

Larkin says this gives the user a Microsoft Windows-like folder structure accessible from My Computer on the Windows desktop or from Windows Explorer. This means that his consultants can save to folders when they're connected to the Internet just like they do when saving a file to a local drive.

The shared files for the Reading, Mass.-based eVisions are protected coming, going and while stored through 128-bit encryption, Larkin says. He says local copies of the files are maintained on users' hard drives, so users can access the last version they saved to the Mangosoft servers even when not connected to the Internet. Network administrators can set file permissions by group, such as sales or accounting, and by individual user. Multiple users can access the same files at the same time, Larkin says.

The Mangomind enterprise service costs $24.95 per month per user for 10 or more users, which includes 10MB of hard drive space and the ability for the user company to set up multiple virtual hard drives with access permissions by drive and folder for different users. Customers can add more storage for another $19.95 per month for each 50MB increment.

Larkin acknowledges that while Mangomind is a good alternative to accessing files in a central server over a VPN, it does have its limitations. Users can't access shared applications or tap into company e-mail or databases, for example.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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