Using OneDrive or Google Drive - which works best as a client file management system?

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Trickyrf

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Aug 31, 2008
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Sorry this is a long post but it needs to be. Hope you can help...

Background
Late last year we created a Member’s Portal on a client's website enabling its Members to have a secure area for a discussion forum and crucially, secure document storage and access. Basically, it was supposed to be like Dropbox or Google Drive but within the Portal. The problem is multi-fold. It isn’t intuitive and isn’t like Dropbox and has various flaws which make it unpopular with most members. It is free software called kcfinder – see http://kcfinder.sunhater.com/

The main website is a WordPress one and the secure Members-only Portal was created using the WP-Client plugin. The kcfinder file management system when embedded inside the Portal looks not unlike Windows Explorer, with its tree-like structure.

Members are busy senior executives and don’t want to have to manually log in to the portal. They were each provided with a unique login link that they retain to log in and the smart ones adjust their browser settings so that they don’t even have to find the login link.


Specific problems with the existing kcfinder file management system

Criticisms are:

- It’s slow.
- It is not possible to open a file online and view it and edit it online – you have to download it, view it, edit it, and then re-upload it.
- You can’t drag and drop files and folders as you can in Dropbox online or Google Drive online.
- The client office manager can’t send a link to members taking them to a folder or file that they can click on. She has to write a pathway and they have to manually navigate to the file or folder within kcfinder.
- It’s not intuitive e.g. to download you have to right click on a document.
- The client uses Sharepoint (I think that’s part of MS Office 365) and wants to be able to I think drag docs from there straight into the Portal file management system (I think at the moment they have to download a file from Sharepoint to their hard drive and then upload to kcfinder.

So we’re after a management system that addresses the all or most of the above. Ideally, the new file management system should sit visually within the portal as occurs with kcfinder.


What we’ve explored so far

We have two, top web developers working on this. Broadly, a wide range of free and cheap paid-for solutions have been explored but kcfinder remains the best so far that offers easy integration into the portal. The problem is how it works which isn’t satisfactory.


A. Google Drive and Google Apps for Work WordPress plugins

Having looked at how Google Drive works online, we purchased the above apps and tried to integrate them into the portal. The problem we have encountered is two-fold:

1. Unlike in the online version, we haven’t found a way to create folders in the plugin version.
2. Google Drive enables users to open, edit, save and share files. The problem is that on opening, it converts any Microsoft file into a Google Doc, keeping the original MS file. So we end up with duplicates – the Google Doc becomes the up-to-date file whilst the MS file remains unchanged. There is a setting in Google Drive online where you can automatically convert any upload to the Drive into a Google Doc, mitigating the duplication issue. On download, the file seems to be converted back into MS. However it’s not clear if we can control this in the Google Drive plugin for the portal.

The issue in 1) is a red line – if we can’t create a folder then this is non-starter. In 2), we haven’t fully explored whether we can create the same conditions in the plugin version i.e. conversion on upload and conversion back on download. We are also unsure if formatting might be compromised.


B. Integrating Dropbox into the WP-Client portal

Everyone is familiar with Dropbox and how it works. The recent tie-up with Microsoft enables users to open MS files and edit them (currently without the need for an MS login although it says that in the future you will require one https://www.dropbox.com/help/7037

So we are approaching this possible route on the understanding that two logins will be required – a Dropbox one and an MS one (whether we can make the authentication / login process simple is a separate but obviously important hurdle to overcome). It might be that each user needs both a Dropbox and a Microsoft account which we can set up for them or if they have one already then incorporate them.

The advantage of using Dropbox is that integration into the site is much more possible
There is both the possibility of a plugin to allow browsing of the files held in Dropbox through a plugin directly in the site for instance
http://www.florisdeleeuw.nl/wordpress-demo/out-of-the-box/demo/
or by using the syncing options that are available between Dropbox and servers without using a plugin and then using the existing file-browsing option added to the site.

A factor to consider is if Microsoft and Dropbox continue to work together. We should be prepared to have to change the way that users log in or use these services as the relationship between Dropbox and Microsoft changes.

From a user’s point of view, the process of opening and editing an MS file using Dropbox online is quite slow so it wouldn’t be popular although it might get faster or it might behave differently within the portal.


C. Using Microsoft OneDrive

The client uses Sharepoint/OneDrive in their office and raised the question as to why this system could not be extended to the Members. This had been considered but not explored enough.

Early on, one of our developers said that “There are some limitations on the OneDrive interface (the Microsoft equivalent to Google Drive) that the users would find annoying, perhaps as annoying as this duplication problem, so for this reason alone I am wary about suggesting a switch to this platform.''

Ignoring any of these limitations (of which more below), the big issue is that it does not appear possible to incorporate OneDrive into the Portal. Given the file management system is the main part of the portal, almost its raison d’etre, this would be disappointing although it is not a deciding factor. We could propose using OneDrive to the client if it is not incorporated within the Portal but only if we can get over the admin and authentication issues. These are not clear at the moment and we need to explore and test set-ups.

Is it possible for us to create a common OneDrive account under which documents are shared? It is really difficult to know because Microsoft is not recommending the use of OneDrive in this way, probably because they want users to upgrade to the paid-for versions of their Cloud document sharing offerings OneDrive for Business and Office 365, so are not providing support for OneDrive within business or suggesting it be for business use.

In Benjamin Niaulin’s post OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive – Know the difference, there isn't much to recommend the paid-for offerings over OneDrive.


One of our developers says that “however, the tools and the interface are not primarily designed for sharing in OneDrive. One answer to overcome this is very good user documentation (2-3 pages with screenshots) that explains how users should use it”. Based on existing knowledge about the intended users of the system, ideally we don’t want to have to rely on this, it should be intuitive but we can of course do this as a back-up.

Based on the three options above, can anyone make a suggestion as to how we could progress? How can we surmount the problems in A, B and C and which route is best?
 
Joined
Mar 15, 2009
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350
It sounds like your trying to re-invent the wheel a little here! Why doesn't your client simply use SharePoint to store their documents, this feature along with several others, such as workflows, calendars, etc is exactly what SharePoint does!
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2001
Messages
2,583
I'll agree with Mr Davo, I work with an outward facing(available on net) SharePoint site for external customers to work documents. We apply granular security so they only see their documents, Make workflows to email alerts to people... This solution provides much more control than the unknown cloud storage options your considering. IMO onedrive/google drive are more suitable for internal solutions in their present state.

One problem is customers (vendors in our case) not cleaning up after themselves. Large documents from 2013 using up the storage space. When it gets full all docs go to read only and no one can add documents. Be sure and add a clause to the agreement that lets them know if they don't clean up, you will with specific actions clarified.
 
Joined
Jul 3, 2003
Messages
1,068
It sounds like your trying to re-invent the wheel a little here! Why doesn't your client simply use SharePoint to store their documents, this feature along with several others, such as workflows, calendars, etc is exactly what SharePoint does!
I was thinking the same thing. We used SharePoint where I worked, and it made things much easier.
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2015
Messages
80
I have a Chromebook with a free 2 TB of Google Drive Storage so the choice is easy for me.
 
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