New system to improve file sharing at UWRF
May 3, 2007
Information Technology Services (ITS) has undertaken an estimated $290,000 project to improve UW-River Falls file sharing system.
The system provides space, such as the Courses and Home drives, for students, staff and faculty to save and store files.
While about $250,000 is coming from University funds, about $40,000 is coming from technology fees students pay as part of their tuition.
“Probably about $200,000 will be spent on disk storage, the hardware and the server,” Project Manager Wendy Helm said. “[Other expenses] will be bringing in outside expertise to work with ITS with knowledge training and various parts of the transformation.”
Helm was hired to manage the project as a temporary UWRF employee.
The University has termed the new system “FalconFile,” which will provide students, staff and faculty with an improved way to store, access, control and share their files.
Among many of the problems with the current system is that students, staff and faculty can’t access files they have stored on the University system from off campus.
“Students get frustrated that they have to come to labs to get access,” Helm said.
Another problem is that non-UWRF users do not have access to the system, making students, staff and faculty find alternative ways, such as e-mail, to share files.
“E-mail wasn’t really designed as a document distribution system,” Lisa Wheeler, director of IT Services, said.
An anticipated result of the switch is that the load on the campus e-mail and web systems will be reduced because of another convenient way for sharing and storing files will be provided to students, staff and faculty.
“Instead of attaching a file to an e-mail, people can provide a ‘ticket’ or a link with the web address,” Wheeler said.
Helm agreed and said FalconFile will be beneficial because it will not take up a lot of space like e-mail attachments do. She said when attachments are sent by e-mail, they are stored in several places, such as the sender’s e-mail and the receiver’s e-mail and directory, which take up a lot of space.
“This system is a better way to store files,” Helm said.
Chair of the Political Science Department and Professor Tracey Gladstone-Sovell was part of a group that tested FalconFile in January and February.
“I loved it,” Gladstone-Sovell said. “I used it as my main file storage mechanism during that time. I am anxiously waiting for FalconFile to be available to I can retire my flash drive or use it only to archive old documents.”
Gladstone-Sovell said the new system was way more convenient because she was able to access her files from anywhere and will help her make sure her students have access to the files they need for coursework.
“It will also make the [‘dog ate my homework’] more suspect,” she said. “If the dog really does eat your flash drive, it won’t matter because your files will be located on the new server system.”
UWRF student Andy Wolfram also was part of the test group and said it was easy to understand and convenient to access.
“It is much easier than the current system of file sharing because you just log on and go,” Wolfram said. “It really is a user-friendly system.”
Wolfram said a challenge students might face at first is setting up “tickets” to access files.
“Once you do it, it is a lot easier,” he said.
Other problems FalconFile will help solve are the lack of storage space for files and the hassle of UWRF organizations having to request permission from ITS to add or remove users.
“Having an organizational folder has been a headache for many organizations because they can’t add or remove users without ITS permission,” Helm said.
The new system will fix this problem by allowing UWRF organizations to have full access to any of their files or folders.
The switch will also increase the amount of space available for storing files and will allow ITS to add storage space as needed.
Though space is essentially unlimited with FalconFile, Wheeler said students, staff and faculty will be given quotas to allow only a certain amount of space. She also said if individuals ask for more space, they will give it to them, however, it will be on a case-by-case basis.
Training will be provided for students, staff and faculty at the start of the 2007-08 academic year.
FalconFile is expected to be available August 1.