I run a real estate company that has offices in two different cities plus a couple of roaming employees. We have a need for sharing a lot of files between everyone but I'm bumping up against a few questions and can't seem to figure out the best way to get past them. We need about 75gb of storage at the moment (which includes some room to grow) that consists of lots of images and spreadsheets that need to be constantly updated.

  • Of course I've looked into cloud file server solutions (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) but am worried about file access speed and cost. The per user cost with the storage I need would exceed the budget, so I've looked extensively into an instance of Nextcloud on a fast host. Some PDFs are 10-20mb and when needing to pull up that information while on the phone with someone can be painful.

  • With that in mind, I've looked at a local server solution. I'm hesitant to pull the trigger on it due to the typical problems such as management and initial capital cost. Also, how would the remote users elegantly access the files in a server hosted at one of the two offices? Again, bumping into the access speed issue.

  • The mobile users will have to have remote access no matter what, so what would be the best for them?

  • I've considered terminal services but a) one of my employees works for other companies managed within my office so the file sharing structure and software are specific to her and b) our graphic designer would be severely hindered.

Maybe I need to just bite the bullet one way or another (or blend a couple of ideas) but I'm exhausted researching everything and still don't really have an answer, so I wanted to reach out and see what other similarly-set up companies do.

3 Answers 3


One of the things that I would suggest that you look into is changing your working practices so that PDF is only one of the output formats.

By using tools that take a standard entry consisting of plain text for all of the required details and a group of images/graphics, either with standard names or with mapping between the actual filename(s) and some standard names, and having the tool produce multiple outputs such as:

  • High Resolution CYMK PDF for professional printing
  • Medium Resolution RGB PDF (possibly watermarked) for desktop users to download.
  • Medium Resolution Web Pages for desktop browsing
  • Low Resolution Web Pages for mobile access

If these were all automatically produced from a common set of data they would all include the same information, possibly in different layouts, with appropriate levels of detail and download sizes.

One of the nice things about adopting such an approach is that the source material, (Images and Plain Text), plus the templates are either usually produced once (images) or are suitable for version control, e.g. git on a service like GitHub (text bodies & templates).

The use of distributed version control software allows easy working between multiple locations and trace-ability of who changed what when plus even allows work to be done offline, e.g. when travelling, and then to be merged when the network is available.

Likewise rather than storing data in spreadsheets store the data in .csv files with clear rules on what goes where and then display them in spreadsheets if necessary.

Changes to templates, logos, data, etc., can trigger a regeneration of all of the formats of the documentation for all impacted instances of it or, better yet, you can arrange for the rendered content to be generated on demand - i.e. when a download is happening so that whatever format is requested it will always contain the most up to date details.

While not in the property sales field I have seen this way of working be very successful with distributed work on a global scale.

  • Thanks for that answer. However I'm not too worried with syncing changes as the number of users in the company is relatively small and the chances of them actually modifying the same file is minimal enough that I can take the risk. The issue I'm working on is much simpler -- how can my employees have quick and reliable access to company files that won't break the bank? The collaborative aspect of a solution would be a nice thing to have but not mandatory.
    – Justin L
    Jul 29, 2018 at 19:41
  • Forgot to add something to my issue at hand: how can my employees in separate cities have quick and reliable access to company files that doesn't break the bank?
    – Justin L
    Jul 29, 2018 at 19:50

If you can afford some hosting fees, I'd look at a private cloud solution.

On the service side, you can get a Linode for $20/mo that has plenty of processing speed for being a remote file server and will cover your stated disk needs. When you need more disk space, either upgrade the entire linode or add some of their block storage. They provide an inexpensive snapshot feature for backups, and there are upgrades to the service every so often that result in more memory, cpu, disk space, or network transfer. (No affiliation w/ Linode, just a happy customer for 14 years)

Now that you have a place for the files to live, you need some way of accessing them.

Add a hostname to your DNS for your domain like "filecabinet.example.com" or whatever, point it to the IP of your Linode. Get a LetsEncrypt SSL certificate, set up Apache, PHP, etc. Pick one of the many web based file managers like PHPfileNavigator or similar - this should maybe be a second question - I know there are some that will let you edit simple Word docs and Excel spreadsheets directly, just not familiar enough with the offerings....

All offices and remote workers use the same centralized file store.



I think ownCloud or NextCloud are great opensource (no-cost) self hosted options that would definitely accommodate all your roaming and document sharing needs. Plus, they give you many more communication, storage, and management features.

The down-side to those, as you pointed out are the skill set needed to manage the server and the hardware cost, upfront. Also, upgrades and maintenance down the road.

I would recommend Google's G-Suite. You mentioned looking into cloud file server solutions but Google's suite of apps and storage solutions are about $12/employee per month. That includes 1TB of storage for each employee but if you have 5 or more employees signed up storage space is unlimited.

I'm not a Google employee and I don't get paid to say this. However, I have found G-Suite to be very useful in keeping a small business coordinated while allowing reliable mobile and desktop access to documents, calendars, meetings, and contacts. If you have more than 5 employees, you cant beat the price.


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