After 6 months of intense learning and development, I’m pleased to announce the availability of our 1st service Cloud FileXchange (CFX) in public beta today. In this post we’ll talk about what this service is, what it does today and where we’re going with this. I would appreciate if you could try out our service and let us know your feedback.
To start using Cloud FileXchange, please use this link: https://cfx.cynapta.com. When you access this link, you will be asked to sign in. You can use one of 6 social login providers we support. Once you have successfully signed in/signed up, please follow the instructions on screen to get started with CFX.
What Is Cloud FileXchange (CFX)?
Please watch this introduction video which explains what this service is in less than 2 minutes (sorry, no audio :)). More description about the service is provided below.
Cloud FileXchange is a service which allows you to share files in your cloud storage. If you have some files in your cloud storage which you want others to download, you can do it through this service. Likewise if you want to receive some files from others, you can do it as well. The USP of this service is that all files are uploaded and downloaded directly to/from your cloud storage. The files are not routed through CFX.
But, Aren’t There Many File Sharing Services?
Agreed. There are many file sharing services. However what we discovered that:
- Most of the file sharing services are peer-to-peer. When you send/receive files through these services, they come to your computer and not to a centralized place (like public cloud storage providers).
- Some of these services will store the files on their servers. So when you want to receive files from somebody, the files get actually stored on the servers hosting these services and not in your cloud storage.
- With some of the services, data actually goes through their servers and they end up temporarily storing the files before being delivered to you which may not be an acceptable solution in certain scenarios.
How Is Cloud FileXchange Different?
To understand how CFX differs and the value-add it provides, we will see how CFX augments functionality provided by cloud storage providers and how it differentiates from other service providers.
Almost all cloud storage providers provide a capability to share files which you have stored with them. When we looked deeply into the sharing mechanisms, we found that they lack some features. For example:
- Let’s say you want to receive some files from other users. While some of these cloud providers allow you to create links using which you can upload files (Shared Access Signature in Windows Azure, PreSigned URL in Amazon S3 etc.), what they don’t provide is a user interface (UI) which consumes these links so that your users upload the files directly into your cloud storage. It is your responsibility to create that UI. CFX provides a nice and easy to use UI for file uploads.
- While most of the cloud providers allows you to create links which expire after certain time (and our service relies heavily on that), what they lack are the ability to define additional rules on top of that. CFX allows you to define those additional rules. Some of the rules you can define are:
- There’s no analytics provided on upload/download activity which CFX does. CFX gives you detailed reports on the how a link was accessed what activity was performed by the user.
Now let’s see how CFX differs from other service providers. Some of the key differentiators are:
- CFX does not store your files at any time. The files are directly uploaded into your cloud storage and are downloaded from your cloud storage.
- There’s no software to install. CFX is a browser-based application and all uploads/downloads happen via web browser.
Supported Cloud Storage Providers
Our intention is to support all the major cloud storage providers. Currently we support Windows Azure and Amazon S3. So if you use Windows Azure Blob Storage or Amazon S3 and have a need for sharing files in these two platforms, CFX can be helpful to you.
Support for other cloud platforms will be added in due course of time. At the time of writing of this blog post, we are working on adding support for 3 major cloud storage providers – Google Cloud Storage, Dropbox and Microsoft SkyDrive. Hopefully in a month’s time, you will see all these 3 storage providers in CFX.
How It Works?
As mentioned above, all cloud storage providers provide a way to share files. In Windows Azure, it is known as Shared Access Signature; in Amazon S3, it is known as Pre Signed URL. That is the fundamental backbone of CFX.
When you use CFX, we ask for your storage credentials (but we don’t store them in our database – more on this in a little bit) and using your credentials we create a provider specific link (Shared Access Signature / Pre Signed URL). However we never expose this link to anybody directly. It is used internally by our application to facilitate direct upload/download. Then we ask you to define additional rules which you want to apply on your upload/download links. We store this provider specific link and the rules and give you a link which is CFX specific. This is the link we give out to you and you share that link with your users.
When your users use that link to come to CFX, we first validate the link and ensure that the link can still be used (expiry/max usage). If the link passes these tests, we show users a UI using which they can upload or download the files (depending on the link type). At this stage we use provider specific link to facilitate direct uploads/downloads.
We at Cynapta take security quite seriously. When you create links using CFX, we will ask you to provide storage credentials but we never store these credentials in our database. CFX gives you an option to save the credentials locally in your browser’s local storage but that is completely optional. If you choose to save the credentials locally, CFX first encrypts the credentials using AES encryption algorithm and a password provided by you. We never store this password anywhere.
Where Are We Going With Cloud FileXchange?
Today we’re releasing CFX in public beta with support for 2 storage providers – Windows Azure and Amazon S3. As mentioned above, we have already started working on including support for Google Cloud Storage, Dropbox and Skydrive. We’re expecting to have these providers integrated in a month or so.
Apart from that, there are some features we are actively working on. One of them is a Notification Engine. Basically a notification engine would notify you through one of the many supported channels when a file has been successfully uploaded so that you can build some workflow around that.
To be honest, we haven’t thought much about the pricing model. Since it is a Software As A Service (SaaS) application, the pricing will be subscription based. You would either pay for each link you create or there would be a monthly pricing. This is one bit of feedback we would be interested in.
Because the service is in public beta, there is no charge to use this service.
Your feedback will be very important to us so please give us as much feedback as you can – Good, Bad, Ugly … We can take it all :). This will really help us in shaping future versions of this service. To send in your feedback, you can either email me directly at email@example.com or send an email to our support email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please do tell us what things you liked, didn’t like or wished they were done differently (as if you were doing the same thing). The service has been running in private beta for quite some time and what you see today is a result of extensive feedback we received during private beta phase.
That’s it for this post. I will look forward to you trying out Cloud FileXchange and giving us feedback.