Examining AeroFS

During VMworld 2015, I took time to learn more about AeroFS. This is a company that really caught me off guard, as I was surprised and excited to hear about a free version available with enterprise features, but before I jump into the details, here is quick company snapshot. 

Founded: 2010
Founders: Yuri Sagalov – CEO & Weihan Wang – CTO
Funding: 15.5 Million from several private investors and firms. Including the likes of Ashton Kutcher
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Customers: 2,000 Organizations – As I understand it even Apple uses them for file sharing! 

AeroFS is a file sharing/syncing software appliance that is deployed and operates locally on-premises. Think of it as your Dropbox but is run totally behind your firewall and without the added monthly expense. I was intrigued because AeroFS gives customers the flexibility to expand their storage without paying additional fees while gaining access to all the enterprise features. 

There is one feature that I think many will like. AeroFS can be deployed in two different ways. One option is to deploy an AeroFS Team Server, where a centralized copy of the data lives on dedicated server. Think of this as your traditional file server but with modern file sync capabilities. The other option is a decentralized approach, where there is no centralized copy of data, each copy is synced with peers when changes are instituted. With this deployment method, no users will notice if your centralized file server is down for any reason. 

Besides the fact that AeroFS is deployed in our own private cloud, you will happy to learn that additional security measures are resident. For one all data transmitted client-to-client and client-to-server (whether on the LAN or on the Internet) is encrypted using AES-256 with 2048-bit RSA. In addition you can manage your own PKI (public key infrastructure) with AeroFS as the root CA. 
I also found it very useful to manage public links with expiration limits and the options to password protect links. This is in addition to the ability to manage more permanent users in the AeroFS UI with two-factor authentication options. 

I found the installation very straightforward as I downloaded and installed their virtual appliance in my vSphere 6.0 U1 lab. In fact, the hardest part is making sure DNS is setup properly internally and externally. Once you have DNS setup it's important that you open the proper firewall ports for connectivity from your devices or endpoints. However this is an area where I think AeroFS could spend some more time on in my opinion. It would help new users if they were provided a blueprint of use case deployment best practices. For example, are you going to use AeroFS for internal sharing or is it going to be public facing, what should the customer think about concerning DNS, Security and redundancy?

After installation, you will have access to HTML5 management interface and the ability to deploy your end points. You will notice in my screenshot, that a lot of functionality is built into the Mac client. 

Supported Platforms:

  • OVA – vSphere & VirtualBox
  • QCow2 - OpenStack, EC2
  • VHD – Hyper-V

When it comes to supported devices, Windows/OSX and Apple/Google apps are available! This is another area where there could be some improvement. I only tried the iPhone app, but it was very basic in functionality and would have liked to see some more advanced functionality. It did work as expected and was easy to deploy just with quick scan of a QR code from my virtual appliance setup screen!

It was also with delight that I noticed they have a preview that you can download to run AeroFS on CoreOS and Docker. You can also use other flavors of Linux by using a short command line bash script to run AeroFS. 

I strongly recommend giving it a try in your lab. AeroFS has a free version with most of the features included up to 30 users. I commend AeroFS for thinking outside the box on this, as it opens the doors for lab users, and the SMB market to take advantage of a low cost, secure alternative to the Drobbox’s of the world.