Web Folders 4 WHS : Updated 11/30/2007 RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Looking for secure drag-and-drop access to the shares on your Windows Home Server when you are not on your home network or have VPN access to it?


    Then have I got an add-in for you!


    At long last I've got an early build of my new add-in, WebFolders4WHS ready to share.


    The short version of what it does is that it enables a user to create web folders (or even a mapped network drive) on a client PC (anything that supports WebDav over HTTPS) that point to the web server (over HTTPS) which exposes the shares you specify... all the while using the same users and file/share security that already restricts access.



    More details can be found on my blog complete with a couple of screenshots.


    Edit 11/30/2007: There is a new (largely cosmetic) version of this add-in available and the installer and associated documentation which are now available at the same URL(s) as the original version(s). A few more details and a new screenshot of the new version can be found on my blog.


    For note: Upgrading from the previous version is fairly simple, just uninstall the old version one and install the new one. You do not have to remove the configuration (from the Settings -> Web Folders page) prior to doing so unless you want to completely remove every trace of it from the system.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 11:35 PM

All replies

  • Very cool!

    I've actually been prototyping something scarily similar in my spare time, but kudos for geting there first! Great minds and all that Smile

    I guess now I have more time to spend on top-secret projects #2 and #3 Smile

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 12:17 AM
  • If your secret project #2 is the same as my secret project #2... we may have a problem Smile

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 12:32 AM
  • Congratulations, Brendan. This is certainly much needed. A couple of questions:

    - Would this work with Microsoft's synctoy, so that I can keep a remote computer up to date automatically?

    - Is there any limit to how long a session could continue without timeout problems? I'm envisioning copying a lot of data over a pretty slow ADSL link, so the total elapsed time could be many hours.

    - If the folder on the server side is inside a shared folder for which duplication is turned on, will files sent via this method therefore be duplicated?

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 2:52 AM
  • I'm sad to say that up until the time I read your post I had not heard of SyncToy... and a quick bit of testing of it under Vista... it does seem to work both for a normal web folder and a mapped letter drive pointing to the server.


    Now that I'm aware of that tool I'll do some more in-depth testing of it with my add-in over the next week.


    As for the timeout... I'm afraid I cannot say at this time. That's one test case I have not been able to test just yet.


    As for duplication... yes... and more. All my add-in does is help you create a wrapper that points to the existing shares with their existing duplication and permissions, all accessed through a single location.


    What I do is create a DFS (Distributed File System) root on a new share I create, inside of that share I create a number of DFS links which are basically file system level shortcuts... when you open up the share I create and then access one of those links, you are taken to the real (existing) share... so when you copy a file there through the wrapper I make for you, it will be duplicated if the real share it is going to is configured for it.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 3:32 AM
  • Thanks for the explanation. It's always amazed me that SyncToy isn't more well-known. Once you have it, it's hard to live without.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 9:51 AM
  • I've found that once people gain a bit of familiarity with Robocopy, they generally never turn back. Synctoy is nice, but I've found that it's not quite as reliable as robocopy. for one thing, Synctoy has the same issue with long filenames that any other .Net app does...
    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:40 PM
  • I'll second what Ken said, and you can get robocopy for XP from the Server 2003 Resource kit which is free to download.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 5:41 PM
  • Hmm, am I right in thinking that on XP you can't map a web folder to a drive?
    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 5:56 PM
  • Robocopy and Synctoy wont work as easily under XP/2003 as they do with Vista because only Vista/2008 map a web folder in such a way that it appears to be part of the local file system (like a normal drive letter mapped network drive).


    In order to have such transparent access to via a web folder a WHS from an XP/2003 client, a tool such as NetDrive from Novell or WebDrive (which I’m not having any luck with) is needed.


    Looks like I also get to start looking into building my own client if I can't find a cheap/free way that works under XP/2003.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 6:37 PM
  • I've been playing with WebDrive a bit, it seems pretty cool aside from the price. I did notice that it doesn't seem too good about picking up external changes to a drive, although that might be due to the WebDav layer.

    I haven't looked at NetDrive, I'm a little wary of a program that's four years old!

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 8:33 PM
  • Ahh, the problem with the file/directory changes is that by default it's set to assume that the contents of its cache are always valid. Setting it to validate via timestamp fixes it.

    Pretty nice.
    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 9:21 PM
  • Brendan,

    This may be a dumb question, but the little bit of software (not the msi) that is installed on WHS...how much load does that put on the CPU to run in the background? Does it  run only if a file is being accessed? If the add-in is removed does it get removed as well? 

    I realize your add-in creates another avenue to access specific files via a web interface and I already have WHS webs enabled. So, it seems pretty cool.

    I have a slower WHS machine and like to keep things to a minimum if possible with regard to programs and add-in's. I tested just about all of the add-ins available to see if they were right for my uses. I'm now down to only Andrew's Whiist (of course) and WHS Tool kit add-ins.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007 2:00 PM
  • The answer is... really not much as I don't install any constantly running background services that can always be eating up CPU time.


    I enable WebDav which really only takes cycles when it is being used (although theoretically it adds a slight overhead to http traffic to the server as it has to determine which handler to use).


    DFS is similar... when enabled you only pay for it when you use it, and even then the cost is pretty much nil when accessing the directory it is setup for.


    As for removal... the MSI does not undo any of the configurations the add-in itself makes, so it is very important that when you want to completely remove it... that you first use the Remove button in the add-ins Settings page to remove it's configuration first... otherwise everything it adds is manually removable, only a little tedious as it requires some knowledge of Windows Server 2003... that reminds me, I should write up some manual removal instructions just in case.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007 2:21 PM
  • Cool! That's exactly what I needed to hear and sort of figured you'd say.  Just wanted to make sure. Thanks for the thorough answer!  I marked your post as answered.
    The removal instructions will be appreciated....just in case.
    Thursday, November 22, 2007 2:26 PM
  • First off, I don't know much about software or computers. However, I have an electronics background. I followed Brendan's instructions to the letter, loaded his add-in and everything seems to be working.

    I just built my WHS server using an Asus barebones server and then purchased WHS. The first thing I noticed with WHS is the software was missing the feature I really needed. I needed to have share folders on the server accessible via the web. The WHS server offered the valuable file back-up I was looking for but missed the mark regarding file sharing over the web, until now.

    I felt foolish for spending so much time building my box, buying WHS and then spending hours figuring out the software, only to find out WHS wouldn’t do the one thing I really needed. I searched the net for days, non stop. I mean non stop - at least 20 hours worth trying to find a solution. So...I find an application “WebDrive” and that looks like it could work but now I have to find some remote server to store my data (and I already had a server, WHS), so... WebDrive was not a great solution for me.

    Sorry for the rambling, I just want people to know Brendan's solution is a "killer add-in" and I think Brendan is a genius! In the next few days I will test out the application and report back. In closing, I’m an average end user and I was able to use Brendan’s add-in with no trouble loading or configuring. That’s a lot more than I can say about certain programs costing big bucks!

    How can I send Brendan a check? People need to be rewarded for their work.

    Keep it up.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 10:42 AM
  • I'm glad that you like it Bill.


    To be honest...  I really owe you a big thank you because it was your question from last month that made me sit down and try to figure out if there was a better way to handle what you were looking to do and if there was any way to leverage existing Windows components to do it.


    Thanks for giving me some ideas and having a use for my add-in.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 4:44 PM

    I installed Web folders last night and I'm having issues writing to the Folder. I can write and read the folder when I use windows explorer but when I try to use web folder to view the folder that I web enabled I get permission errors. Any idea on what might be happening? I've double checked the permissions in the console and the username I'm using has full control.
    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 2:23 AM
  • Which folder are you having a problem writing to? The root of the WebFolders4WHS share instead of one of the shares you have Web Enabled in there?


    If so that is going to be the one place you are not going to be able to write to... no matter what user permissions you have due to the way the Distributed File System (one of the technologies this add-in relies on) handles share folders.

    Saturday, December 1, 2007 12:05 AM

    Does this mean I can now access my home One Note files from work?

    Have you tried this with One Note shared notebooks?

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007 3:45 AM
  • In theory One Note files should work... however I have not tried them and would actually caution against it because every time you save your file it will require an expensive round trip to the server to update the entire file.


    Personally I prefer working locally and then dragging and dropping and updated file (as needed) back to the server instead.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007 3:49 AM
  • I'm not sure about the native Vista/XP WebDav implementations, but WebDrive has a really nice caching feature that makes this sort of thing transparent (unless you're opening the file for the first time or it's been changed from a different machine).

    I used to use FolderShare to mirror my commonly used music/files/apps between home and work but now I just have them on WHS. At home I use a mapped network, at work I map them to the same drive letter with WebDrive and have a (crazily) large cache of about 40GB.

    For small files, or ones that rarely change, I don't even notice they're not stored locally. It rocks Smile


    Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:35 PM
  • Brendan,


    Thanks for the wonderful app (and the chat the other evening).


    I'm having some odd issues trying to get the application up and running on a WHS server I built at work yesterday. I installed the server software and all the appropriate updates, and also created a domain name, and fired up the web sites. Everything is working fine. In fact, although I'm here at home, I log into the machine remotely, fire up the remote console, and ran the installer file for WebFolders4WHS, per the directions.


    The installation program ran very quickly, and I was told by the server that the console now needed to close (i.e., the usual behavior). But once I entered the remote console again, all I was the web folders tab across the top of the console window, but NO web folder tab inside the Settings portion of the console. I was not therefore able to set up the system. Uninstalling and rebooting didn't seem to effect a better outcome. Simply put, it seems that only a slight portion of the add-in is actually "taking" during the install process.


    Has anyone else reported this behavior? I'm more than willing to do the work to get this add-in running, since for me it would constitute a God-send.


    Thanks for your time and trouble.


    Thursday, December 20, 2007 12:46 PM
  • After a bit of chat on MSN we seem to have narrowed down a bit of what was happening from some logs where the HomeServerConsole was reporting the following:


    [1]071220.160517.0937: UI: Error: Settings tab with TabText "Backup" does not persist its TabControl.
    [1]071220.160517.1718: UI: Error: Settings tab with TabText "Web Folders" does not persist its TabControl.


    Which also made us discover that he had no Backups tab in Settings as well... which means it's an issue beyond just my add-in... and to try to clear this up he'll be doing a clean install of WHS again.

    Friday, December 21, 2007 1:31 AM
  • Having some trouble getting Web Folders 4 WHS to work.  I have installed the .msi on the WHS and have run the MS web folders update on the client.  I can open the folders using IE, but can't map the drive either directly or via the 'connect to a web site...' feature.   I put in the URL http://xxx.hpshare.net/webfoldersshare and then get a certificate to click through, a username/pwd entry box, then when all looks good, I get "the mapped networ drive could not be created because the following error has occured: A device attached to the system is not functioning."

    Any suggestions?

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008 5:05 PM
  • While this add-in is the most useful I've installed so far (I use it everyday connecting from my mac when I'm out of home), I wonder if there's an option to turn off SSL?

    The reason for this is I would like to be able to connect from my iPhone, and I haven't found an iPhone app that supports WebDAV over SSL yet. Does someone know of one?


    Monday, March 23, 2009 11:20 AM
  • The alternative to SSL is having your user name and password transmitted in plain text. You really don't want to do that.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, March 23, 2009 11:42 AM
  • Ken Warren said:

    The alternative to SSL is having your user name and password transmitted in plain text. You really don't want to do that.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)

    Yeah, I guess, but does anyone know of an iPhone app that supports WebDAV over SSL?
    Tuesday, March 24, 2009 7:40 AM
  • After installing the software on the WHS I tried to access via IE.  I was prompted for my username and login, and it accepted, then it prompted me again with the webshare address and it didn't not accept my username and password and gave me the following error message (see pic)

    Any ideas how to get this working?


    WebShareFolder.jpg picture by brentvegas
    Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:50 PM
  • After installing the software on the WHS I tried to access via IE.  I was prompted for my username and login, and it accepted, then it prompted me again with the webshare address and it didn't not accept my username and password and gave me the following error message (see pic)

    Any ideas how to get this working?


    Is this attempting to connect from a Windows 7 Beta machine?
    Sunday, April 5, 2009 2:38 AM
  • Wow! This is a useful add-in. Thank you.

    Is there a way to preserve the file date/time when copying to a web folder? When I copy a file to the web folder it is stamped with the current date/time, but it would be more useful if it retained the date/time of the original (as it does when you copy from a local folder to a local folder).

    By the way, I'm using WebFolders4WHS and Allway Sync to mirror a folder from my workplace to my HP MediaSmart Server at home. It's a great setup! Thank you! (SyncToy might work, too. I switched to Allway Sync because it's full of useful features and I found it more reliable.)

    -Jim R

    Sunday, April 12, 2009 12:21 PM
  • Hey Brendan,

    This is a great add-in! I installed but have a few questions:

    What do you mean by accessing remotely? Do you mean "drag and drop" remotely?

    My desire need is to "drag and drop" files in the homeserver when I have coffee in Starbucks. Can this add-in do that? If so, please let me know, so far I just can access to the files. But I hope I  but I didn't see how to "drop files" "to" the folders remotely.

    Another question is: If I wanna give somebody a link to my files in the home server to download, do I need to keep the server running all day long? Otherwise, how could they access to that file when the server is in sleep?

    Right now, I think, add-in "lightout" can help, cuz it will wake up the serve when the domain name was accessed. Do you think that works?


    Thanks a lot!

    Monday, April 5, 2010 3:04 AM
  • I warn anyone against using this application in a production environment.  It is just not ready.  I ran into 3 issues:

    1) Some kind of weird user credential persistance issue prevents access to folders after a reboot cycle.  Unmap/mapping of folders don't work during the same power on cycle after reboot, need to unmap folders, reboot and then remap.  My solution to this bug was to map folders w/out persistance and map them w/ a batch script ran thru startup

    2) Slow performance 70KBs upload/260KBs download.  Too slow for anything except documents.

    3) Damning of all, after working thru most bugs, tried to copy files into map drives today, got a "can't read source drive" error after almost completion of upload of a file.  WTF!!!


    As Liz Lemon would say 'Deal Breaker'.  Author hasn't replied to requests since last year!!!  Go look elsewhere for your web folder sharing needs.  Just like everything else in life, free is not free, just ends up being waste of your precious time...

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 3:34 PM