Announcing Filehost: Lane’s very own internal cloud storage!

As of right now, every single active Lane Community College employee has access to their own https://filehost.lanecc.edu account. They just have to log in with their normal L# and passphrase combination.

What is it?

Filehost is a Lane specific file syncing and sharing service, running on an application called OwnCloud. It is a service very similar to Dropbox, you could almost call it a clone. OwnCloud is an open source application that we manage ourselves, on our own hardware.

OwnCloud’s sync apps keep your files synced across almost any device you have, Mac, Windows, Android, or iOS. To manage sharing files, and single file uploads, there is a web interface accessible from any modern browser.

Details about the service

Log in information:

Filehost log in screen

Other information:

  • How much you can store: 10GB
  • If you need more storage, contact the ATC.
  • If you had more than that in your current Media Server account, your space should already have been expanded.
  • Filehost internally saves deleted files for a time. Don’t rely on it, though.
  • Backups are completed daily and stored for 14 days. If you need something restored that is not in your deleted files section, contact the ATC with the path to your file, and your L-Number.

How could you use it?

Screenshot of Filehost share dialog

  • Share a folder with contents from a project between everyone who is working on that project.
  • Embed an image, mp3, or video in a Moodle course.
  • Share a password protected directory with your students.
  • Keep your Lane related projects synced between your home computer and your work computer, all without involving third party services like Dropbox or Google.

Wait a sec, what about the Media Server?

Embedding media in Moodle courses and sharing folders with students is something already provided by the media.lanecc.edu server. Thus, a really good question arises. Why not just use the Media Server?

The answer: As soon as we can do so without causing instructors and students a lot of problems, we will be retiring the Media Server from service. Don’t panic, you will not be losing any data, and we will make sure to let you know of any major changes before the changes actually occur.

Why retire the Media Server?

The main reason we are retiring it, boils down to security. The Media Server runs on software that is not easily upgraded. Thus, when that software releases a security update, it can take a while for us to get that update applied to the Media Server.

So far we have not had any problems. But, prevention is a much better method than having to fix things after we’ve been hit. So, what we need to do is move the Media Server to a platform that is easily updated. That platform is Filehost.

We also want to provide a better user experience. The Media Server is only accessible with a FTP client. FTP clients are not all that easy to use. The ATC frequently has to help users with them.

Even just the initial set up of a Media Server account is a bad experience on both sides of the system. The user has to talk to the ATC, the ATC has to talk to the sysadmin, the sysadmin has to set the account up, and then the ATC has to talk to the user again. The way Filehost just lets you log in if you’re an active employee, is much better.

Password protecting files on the Media Server is so painful, we stopped telling people we could do it.

All in all, retiring the Media Server will give users a better experience, and make maintenance issues simpler. It’s a win-win for both users and supporters.

What about my Media Server account?

File access

If you have a current Media Server account, you can already access and manage your files through Filehost. If you log into Filehost, you will see a directory call “mediaserver”. That directory contains the exact same content as you would see in your ftp client. Uploading/deleting files via Filehost does exactly the same thing as if you did so via your FTP client.

At this point in time, you are strongly urged to use Filehost for all Media Server file management. If you have issues, contact the ATC.

Eventually we will turn off FTP client access to Media Server files. Of course, we’ll give you plenty of notice beforehand, and you will always be able to manage your files via Filehost.

media.lanecc.edu urls

We currently plan on keeping your media.lanecc.edu urls working, even after FTP client access is turned off. The complicated part is that we would like to eventually retire the media.lanecc.edu urls and free up media.lanecc.edu for other uses.

Of course, that would mean a bunch of your links would stop working. So we have to figure out how to turn off the urls without causing you a lot of problems. We’re still figuring that out.

Rest assured, if we ever do figure it out, we will give you plenty of notice.

For now, your URLs will keep working the way they always have.

All that said, it would be awesome if you’d start switching all your links to Media Server files over to links from Filehost. In the long run, sharing via Filehost will provide more features than anything the Media Server urls can do.

Gotchas

If you are running a website in your Media Server account, then sharing the mediaserver folder in Filehost, could open up security issues. Specifically, the way Filehost shares folders would enable people to download your site files. Including any dynamic scripts or other files. So, if you have a website on the Media Server, do NOT share the mediaserver folder in Filehost.

If we do retire media.lanecc.edu URLs, then all sites hosted on the Media Server will cease functioning. Filehost only serves files. It cannot serve websites. If you need a website hosted on Lane servers for functionality not provided by Moodle or blogs.lanecc.edu, then come talk to us. We do have a solution for you.

Usage Guidelines

Resources at Lane are not infinite. No matter how much we try to make them so. Thus, we ask that you only store college related files on Filehost. Please do not store personal music, pictures, books, etc.

We’d also ask that you make sure to share all your files with appropriate people. In the event you are unable to work, we don’t want essential files trapped in your account when your backup person needs them.

(Side note: in development is a way to share with groups of people, it’s still buggy right now, so we aren’t releasing it, but in the future you’ll be able to share with your whole department at once, instead of selecting each individual member by name.)

Conclusion

Filehost is an awesome new service that should help increase productivity. We hope you enjoy it!

Resources

11 thoughts on “Announcing Filehost: Lane’s very own internal cloud storage!

  1. Is this secure enough that we can store student specific content without violating FERPA?

    • Yes. All data is only accessible to those you share it with, yourself, and system administrators.

      That said, as with any computer application, there is always a risk of security vulnerabilities. That’s why we watch for any issues that people find, and keep applications and operating systems up to date. (Which is why the Maintenance Schedule page exists.)

  2. If I have a a few of files/folders I would like to have copied into my Cloud, is there a way I can do it where it isn’t one file at a time?

    • Just use the OwnCloud client. There are links to where you can download it in your personal settings page. (Top right corner, click your name, click “Personal”.)

  3. Can I use the Finder in OS-X Mavericks to access files using WebDav? I tried it, using this server address, http://filehost.lanecc.edu, but couldn’t get it to work. Is this the right address? Should this work?

    • Yes, you can use Filehost with WebDav.

      To find the correct url, go to the menu that appears when you click your user name in the top right corner, then click the Personal menu item. Scroll down a ways, and you’ll see a WebDAV header, under that is the correct url.

      Make sure Finder is using secure http. So, https, not http.

  4. Uh-oh. I renamed a folder in the Finder using WebDav and all the contents of the folder disappeared. Is WebDave perhaps an unstable way to work with my files in OwnCloud?

      • For anyone curious, it was OwnCloud temporaily getting confused about how I set it up to manage the media server files. It eventually fixed itself. 🙂