[xplorer˛] — Remote file management
home » blog » 9 March 2008
play flash demo

If you are not part of a transnational organization that has organized all its computers in a huge network (or VPN), you have a few options transferring files and folders to remote computers:

  • Luddite. Put said files in a CDROM, snail-mail or hand deliver to remote location, use CDROM to import files to remote computer.
  • Manager. Instruct secretary to attach files to e-mail and despatch electronically. Keep fingers crossed that spam or attachment filters won't get the best of you.
  • Junior hacker. Upload files to free file hosting service (rapidshare.com et al). Email download link to recipient. Preferably use your own wifi connection
  • Old hand. Establish FTP connection to remote server and upload files. Offer frequent tidings to security gods to keep eavesdroppers and packet sniffers at bay.

There are some cases where you don't have access to the remote computer, e.g. the one that hosts your website. The website files are physically stored on a server somewhere inside your web host's infrastructure, but you don't know where. File Transfer Protocol (FTP), that old workhorse, is the usual transfer mechanism then. You keep a copy of the website files on your home computer, make changes locally and then send them through FTP (or secure FTP) to publish the website changes.

WebDAV is a newer internet protocol that does everything FTP can do and more. It was designed with collaboration in mind (file locking etc), but for our 1-man-show website management purposes it's enough to know that it is filesystem aware and you can connect securely to it to transfer files, or even edit them in place (remotely!).

Microsoft has included WebDAV support in windows for a long time, since windows 98 webfolders. Things have improved a lot with windows XP and Vista, where a system component called WebDAV mini-redirector makes remote http:// folders appear like UNC network paths, so you can treat them like normal filesystem folders for all intents and purposes. In contrast, FTP folders are non-filesystem beasts (like zipfolders) so features like xplorer˛ robust transfers won't work — but they do in webdav albeit at a slower pace.

Webfolder setup
Like FTP, webfolders require some setup work. Your website host will offer some sort of control panel for the website management, and in there you'll find the tools for the initial setup. The actual steps will differ depending on your service provider, but all you'll be doing would be creating a new remote directory, assigning a remote access name for it (e.g. http://webdav.mysite.com) and some login credentials (username and password).

On your home computer, you can add the remote folder using the special network places folder. For windows vista, the procedure is slightly different; you add a webfolder through Map network drive. I've read claims that you can assign a drive letter to webfolders, but I haven't managed to make it work.

With xplorer˛ you can skip the home-side setup and type the webfolder http:// "path" straight in the addressbar; no need to add a network place beforehand. Once you establish a connection, you can use it as a normal folder. For more details have a look at today's demo

So what's best, WebDAV or FTP? Without particular tests I cannot say, but webdav is a newer protocol and claimed to be more effective. Security wise, both are equally feeble, but can be beefed up, webdav over https and SFTP — not much to choose. xplorer˛ can preview documents directly from both. The major webdav advantage I can see at least for xplorer˛ is that your password doesn't have to be included in the path like FTP. It is securely stored in your protected storage area instead. It's up to you to try them both and decide which suits your needs best!

Post a comment on this topic

ps. Thanks to wasker for providing the webfolder for today's demo — my webhost had a recent update and managed to screw up webdav...



What would you like to do next?

Reclaim control of your files!
  • browse
  • preview
  • manage
  • locate
  • organize
Download xplorer2 free trial
"This powerhouse file manager beats the pants off Microsoft's built-in utility..."

© 2002—2008 Nikos Bozinis, all rights reserved