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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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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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