With all the cloud storage providers available these days, one thing I was looking for was a simple way to share and synchronize a networked file server in my office with a cloud-based repository. Sure, there are dozens of providers that will let you synch to your desktop. But what if you have a couple of branch offices and want to share files between them or have multiple users in a single office and single place to backup your most commonly used files? That is a tougher proposition.

I tried out Egnyte's Local Cloud combined with a ReadyNAS from Netgear. The two worked well once I got over some initial configuration hurdles. I would recommend using the two, if you don't mind spending the dough and taking the time to get things going. And if the ReadyNAS is too low end for you, Egnyte also supports larger storage units that incorporate a VMware image of their server.

There are lots of competitors in this space; many are just getting started. These include:

There are probably others, and certainly if you know of them, feel free to leave a comment about your experience.

So how does this work? First, you setup your NAS. In my case, the ReadyNAS from Netgear is a simple box with power and Ethernet cabling. You partition your disk drive, set up users and shares, and it appears as a file server to both Windows and Mac desktops across your LAN. Most of the setup happens inside a browser window and is very straightforward.

Next, you setup the Egnyte Office Local Cloud, which is special software that is pre-loaded as an agent on the NAS box. This is the secret sauce, and probably where your investigation should start: if you have a NAS that doesn't support any agents, you are out of luck. My agent was outdated and needed upgrading, although supposedly this should happen automatically. You next setup your Egnyte account and storage plan. Finally, you copy files to your NAS shared drive and start the synchronization process, using the control panel with the Local Cloud software as you can see below.

Now wait some time until the files get moved across the Interwebs. Once they are on the cloud drive, you can access them via any Web browser just like the desktop cloud services.

Egnyte has a moderately complex pricing strategy that seems to take a page from the AWS playbook: charge for all sorts of things and make it as confusing as possible. There are three basic plans for storage that range from $25 to $230 per month, then add on top of that a fee of $40 per month for each office's access of your cloud drive. So if you have a lot of data in the cloud and a lot of branch offices, you could be paying more than $500 per month, at which point you might want to investigate other solutions or building your own from Dropbox or Box.net APIs.

One weakness is you have to ensure the files on your file server are the working copies you are sharing around your company. If you create files on your local desktop, they won't be synchronized to the cloud drive at all. The other weakness is in understanding the process by which your files are synchronized between the NAS and the cloud.

Why not just use a common Box enterprise account or equivalent, and skip having the NAS at all? Well, that may be fine for some purposes, but I liked having something that I could see my data sitting in: call me old-fashioned.