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15 or so years after I started using it, Windows File Sharing doesn't seem to have benefited from any improvements. I still have the excruciatingly long timeout delays, the need to authenticate via passwords if I'm not running a Windows domain, and the tendency to do everything in a single-threaded model such that if anything unexpected happens with the network, it can lock up the desktop UI and require termination of Windows Explorer.

And yet, it has certain advantages. It integrates very well with Windows Explorer, for instance, and you can even map UNC paths as drive letters.

All these years later, is there any alternative for my Windows clients to read and sometimes write files over a network that is as (potentially) convenient?
Think about how Daemon Tools (and all its clones over the years) add a virtual drive to your computer and it just works, you can go from there. Is there anything I can use that, once set up, is just as easy for the client to use, a little nicer to my PC if the network hiccups, and maybe even, a little more secure and easy to manage without a Windows domain than keeping track of all those passwords?

Let's say that my client PC's are all running Windows and I can't change this. For the server, there's more flexibility. I know Linux has done the SMB server for years and I'm open to this, but it would have to improve the client experience and/or make it easier to manage.

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You can attach a hard disk to some routers such as Buffalo which is inexpensive. If your clients have a router that may be a good solution. Example: How to connect via USB

As a professional you still need to provide a backup solution. If the router provides the file share you will have to have one of the user workstations run a backup job.

Part of the problem has to do with how you are setting up the shared path. There's no reason for people to keep having to log in to that path. Remaining with windows is the best solution. Put an extra hard disk in one of the workstations and share it, with "everyone" given access. As a separate hard disk it won't slow down the workstation much. For each user, after logging in to the path the first time, check the box to retain the credential.

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  • Still uses smb (Windows file sharing), although I agree this is the best solution Commented May 11, 2015 at 14:42
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If I understood your requirements correctly, then I'd say Dropbox. The only drawback I have found to Dropbox is that if I create a Word file in the folder I share with, say, my husband, if I don't close the file, he can't see it in his file list. The workaround is, I close the file and then open it again.

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I know this is an old question, but to my understanding, the situation has not changed really. Of course, there are more softwares in recent years, but they did not really advance the technology but only the user interface. Why? Because relevant technologies are already there for years, and (ordinary) people are just not aware of them.

Consider FTP first, if your two computers are on the same network (LAN), or the server has a public IP address. You can read/write, and set up passwords. IIRC, Explorer supports FTP as well. But I would recommend using FileZilla, which is a dedicated open-source FTP client. It's actually easier to use. Most (web) browsers support FTP as well, but usually only read but not write.

If you are concerned about security, consider using SFTP instead of plain FTP. FileZilla supports that as well. By default, the port is 21 for FTP and 22 for SFTP (because it uses SSH).

An alternative is WebDAV, which works taking the advantage of HTTP. For security, you can also configure WebDAV to work over HTTPS.

If neither your two machines are on the same LAN nor the server has a public IP address, you need to use relays. There are several possible ways of using that, depending on your imagination and knowledge. The most handy solution I'm aware of is Syncthing, which is for directories synchronization between multiple machines over network (both WAN and LAN).

The major uncertainty is "convenient" (as if Windows file sharing on Windows through Explorer). Tech companies have the resource to develop that handy part, but they do not have the will to tell the technology they use nor simply use standard technologies; open-source communities have the will to use standard technologies, but do not have the resource to develop the handy part.

But because they are standards, you may well find relevant client software that maps them to a drive or a folder. I can't recommend on this affair, because I haven't been a serious Windows user for years after switching to Linux. In case useful: most file managers come with most desktop environments on Linux supports all these protocols for years (and can be extended to support more as well), and they can be easily mapped as if they are local.

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