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Enable real collaboration for Windows Network Drives

Collaborative SMB means users can now create private links, collaboratively edit documents, add comments and tag files on Windows Network Drives and other SMB storage.
Collaborative SMB in the ownCloud Enterprise extension External Storage: Windows Network Drives

To keep staff productive, many companies had to swiftly make a lot of data available for remote access since the start of the crisis. Windows Network Drives and other SMB storages are omnipresent in corporate IT ecosystems. But for all their advantages, they have some surprising restrictions in functionality and security.

From personal SMB to collaborative SMB

This is why many IT managers opt to give users access to their WND/SMB home directories and team drives – by mounting them in ownCloud Enterprise. It replaces rickety VPN setups for connecting with file servers. Instead, it provides a feature-rich single point of access to files. It even respects existing ACL permissions. Mounting WND/SMB storage in ownCloud Enterprise gives users comfortable web and mobile interfaces to their directories. This including an offline mode and enable external sharing. Now, we make this approach even more powerful: The files and folders in WND/SMB mounts are now accessible for real collaboration.

Mount different

With version 2.0 of the ownCloud Enterprise WND App released in late March, we introduce a technique we call collaborative SMB. Up until now, every WND/SMB mount was user-specific, even if it was mounted for a group of users. Technically speaking, files and folder got unique file IDs that are different for every single user. Users could not collaborate on a file or folder. Technically, it was a different file for each user. Through an advanced mounting mechanism, ownCloud Enterprise with collaborative SMB now overcomes some of SMBs conventional limitations. It gives any file and folder a unique file ID that is the same for every user with matching access permissions. This means users can finally work collaboratively on WND/SMB storage.

Collaborative editing

Now, you can work remotely as a team on a file that’s located on a Windows Network Drive on your corporate server! It’s just as seamless and easy as in consumer-grade public cloud services. But it all happens within a tight enterprise-grade framework that ensures security, accountability, and compliance. Now, admins don’t have to choose either clunky VPN stopgaps or insecure public clouds. With the new and improved ownCloud Enterprise WND App 2.0, users can collaborate in real time on files located in a Windows Network Drive. They can do so using their favourite browser-based office suite – whether that is Collabora, Onlyoffice or Microsoft Office Online.

Use ownCloud links for secure and fast file discovery

Vast and confusing directory trees make it hard to collaborate on specific files. This kind of setup increases the likelihood of serious security problems. Files end up outside the corporate infrastructure, because they were mailed, sent, uploaded or shared with external tools, especially in remote work settings. With collaborative SMB in the ownCloud Enterprise WND App 2.0, users can now simply create ownCloud links to files and folders in their Windows Network drives. This makes file discovery for distributed teams a breeze, and thus brings more efficiency.

Track external activity for WND/SMB storage, too

With version 2.0 of the ownCloud Enterprise WND App, the ownCloud Activity stream optionally includes external changes made to files on WND/SMB mounts. Windows Network drives aren’t exclusively used by ownCloud. So we’ve built a mechanism that helps keep track of outside activity on those drives. Now, if someone changes a file in their Windows Explorer, people that this file is shared with get notified about the change, in their activity stream and optionally in activity mails too, depending on users’ notification settings.

Work together with collaborative SMB

With collaborative SMB, ownCloud Enterprise now also supports other forms of collaborative work on WND/SMB storage. You can now as a tag and comment files on WND/SMB mounts and your colleagues can see them. This can make processes that much more straightforward. Comments right on a file or folder foster real collaboration because they can often replace lengthy and time-consuming email threads. Being able to tag files on WND/SMB storage makes file discovery that much easier and lets ownCloud apply existing rules and policies that are triggered by tags.

Locks, Notifications, and Versions, too

You can now use the file lock for files on WND/SMB storage, enabling exclusive editing without risking file conflicts. The Activity Stream and optional Activity mails now also reflect changes made via ownCloud to files on WND/SMB storage. The Versions app reflects those changes now also, creating backup copies according to the Version app configuration.

How to switch it on

Admins can activate the new collaborative SMB mode when mounting a share for a group of users. To stick with the previous behavior that we now call personal SMB, they don’t have to do anything. Existing mount points implicitly stay in personal SMB model as they were before.

Check out the new and improved ownCloud Enterprise WND App with collaborative SMB in the ownCloud Marketplace!


April 27, 2021

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