Xythos brings order to document chaos

WebFile Server  provides a flexible platform for storing and sharing documents

Storing and retrieving files for personal use or small workgroups is typically nothing more than a series of folders located on a file share organized by whatever naming conventions seemed appropriate when the files were created.

As the number of users increases, along with the number of files and documents, locating a specific piece of information becomes time-consuming and in some cases impossible. Enterprises need a powerful yet easy-to-use document management system to reclaim their scattered, unstructured information.

One solution that can meet the document- and record-management needs of most enterprises is the Xythos Software WebFile Server, Version 4.1. Based on Java, JavaScript, and other Internet standards, WebFile Server provides a secure, easy-to-manage platform for storing, retrieving, and sharing information across the enterprise and beyond. Not only can it store electronic documents and files, it also can maintain physical tracking information for paper documents as well as retention schedules.

WebFile Server provides all necessary document management tools, but it lacks some of the high-end bells and whistles (such as imaged-document rendering and multibranch versioning) found in competing products Documentum Enterprise Document Management and Hummingbird DM. However, what you give up in specialty features you get back in ease-of-use, deployment, and flexibility. Overall, WebFile Server proved to be a solid, powerful system that will handle most if not all enterprise document storage and retrieval needs, although its price tag may keep smaller companies away.

WebFile Server installs on IBM AIX server, Linux, Solaris, and Windows. It includes the Apache Tomcat Web server as its default Web engine, but if you already have BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, or another J2EE-compatible Web server, you can use it instead. You can also use the bundled PostgreSQL database engine as your document repository or an existing Oracle, DB2, or Microsoft SQL database server.

For my test, I installed WebFile Server on a dual-Xeon Windows 2000 Server with the default installations of Tomcat and PostgreSQL. Unlike other high-end document management platforms that can take days to plan and implement, I had WebFile Server running in less than a day.

To access the information stored in WebFile Server, you can use any JavaScript-compatible browser or the Windows-based Xythos WebFile Client. The browser-based user interface is extremely well organized and intuitive, with a handy toolbar of common activities, such as file move, copy and delete, and directory creation, across the top and shortcuts to bookmarked folders on the left. Being browser-based also makes it easier to securely share information with users outside your organization because it is all HTTP-based and firewall friendly.

The Windows-based WebFile Client provides additional functionality, such as direct access to the Xythos document store, through WebDAV as well as context-sensitive support in Windows Explorer for file- and folder-specific actions and Intellittach, Xythos’ intelligent file attaching feature.

Intellittach allows you to e-mail a link to a file stored in WebFile Server instead of sending the file itself, which in turn decreases network and mail server overhead. You retain control over the file through your WebFile Server permission settings, including version tracking and access logging.

Outlook 2003 has a feature similar to Intellittach, but it requires SharePoint Portal Server (at an additional cost) on your network, and it lacks the granular access control found in WebFile Server.

WebFile Client allows you to easily integrate your document management with your everyday desktop applications. Through WebDAV and Microsoft Web Folders, you can map drive letters directly to specific WebFile Server folders. From Explorer or any other desktop application, you can quickly access stored content using a familiar environment with all of the same management features. 

Unlike SharePoint, WebFile gives you greater control of how and when files are available to users, even users outside the firewall. Version tracking, file locking, and event logging are some of WebFile Server’s best features. Version tracking is available on a file-by-file basis, allowing you to keep multiple revisions of a document.

Event logging helps you track which users are accessing files and, more importantly, what actions they are taking with the files. I could see who was reading and then writing a particular file from WebFile Server, at what time, which version, and from which IP address.

Being able to track file usage in this detail is invaluable when trying to make sure no unauthorized users are accessing your document store. You can also lock files to prevent others from accessing them.

WebFile Server includes physical record tracking in addition to the electronic document storage, so all of your record management is done via a single system. There is also a Scan Manager client that allows you to import physical documents into the system quickly and easily.

I liked the fact that WebFile will use your existing directory for user authentication and authorization. It handles user management by connecting to Active Directory or LDAP and simply “passing through” the user information, meaning you do not have to maintain duplicate user lists and thus reduce management overhead.

I found WebFile Server to be a great package for managing unstructured data. It can easily handle millions of documents of any sort yet still maintain its ease of use. I like the search and retrieval capabilities, and the browser interface is first-rate. The liberal use of WebDAV, HTTP, and Java technologies makes WebFile Server a very flexible solution that is not limited to a specific platform or operating system.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Ease of use (30.0%)
Interoperability (30.0%)
Scalability (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Setup (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Xythos Software WebFile Server, Version 4.1 9.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 9.0 8.6
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