Exchanging documents with partners, agencies, or customers still carries a great potential for problems from the vantage point of corporate IT. Whenever large data volumes are exchanged via e-mail, this leads to bloated inboxes and results in inefficient processes (“Which one is the current version?”). An alternative frequently chosen by end users on their own initiative – cloud-based file sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. – is a CIO’s nightmare and has been so even well before the #Prism program was revealed. The fme File Exchange Platform provides companies with an easy-to-integrate alternative that meets compliance requirements.
Features generally expected of a file exchange platform:
As an employee of the company, I want to be able to…
- log on using my standard corporate account, ideally via SSO,
- exchange file collections with external users,
- define which users have read or write access to the files,
- upload/select documents from the local PC or the internal document management system,
- add other files to a file collection and update or delete existing files, and
- automatically notify users about new or modified files.
As an external user, I want to be able to…
- conveniently register with the system,
- be notified by the system whenever a user has made new files available to me, and
- conveniently access the file collections accessible to me.
As a responsible IT team member, I want…
- the system to be able to run in the corporate DMZ,
- to be able to authorize/deny each registration of an employee of my company or of an external contact person,
- to be provided with an overview of all registered users and their file collection and have the authority to delete individual files or entire bundles at any time,
- to be able to configure an expiration date for each authorized file collection to ensure automatic file deletion, and
- to prevent registered external users from abusing the system by exchanging files without the knowledge of an employee.
The above key requirements were defined in the context of a customer project, and we designed the solution – the fme File Exchange Platform – based on Alfresco and several modern web technologies such as Bootstrap & AngularJS:
Alfresco mainly serves as the content repository and offers the necessary basic functions such as authorization, versioning, e-mail notifications, document preview, and group/user management. Also, we used the Activiti workflow engine integrated in Alfresco to implement the registration mechanism for external users.
The application’s user interface is implemented as a single-page web application based on the AngularJS (http://angularjs.org/) & Bootstrap (http://twitter.github.io/bootstrap/) framework.
From the user perspective, the application is divided into the following two components:
New File Collection
This component enables company employees to create a new file collection for exchange. Only the following information is needed to create a new file collection:
- Name of the file collection
- Authorized users – read or write access
- Files to be uploaded
The input field for user selection features autocompletion based on the existing user accounts in order to make this creation process as simple and intuitive as possible.
Files can be easily added from the user’s PC either by browsing or with a convenient drag-&-drop function.
When uploading files, users are informed about the loading status by means of a progress bar.
After all files have been uploaded, the system automatically informs all authorized users about the new file collection via e-mail.
My File Collections
The ‘My File Collection’ panel provides registered users with ready and direct access to authorized file collections. Users can download, update & delete files or also upload new documents and create folders, depending on the level of access authorization allocated.
The owner of a file collection or administrators can also release the data for other users or revoke authorizations and enable or disable the automatic expiration date for a file collections.
The combination of Alfresco, AngularJS & Bootstrap has proven to work very well, and we consider it a highly effective mix of tools for developing customized document-oriented web applications.
As an added benefit, drawing on these tried and tested tools means that web browsers of mobile devices are supported basically free of charge. For instance, the application can be easily operated on an iPad or iPhone, and information such as, for example, flipchart photos taken at a recent workshop can be made available quickly and with ease.
The solution impressively demonstrates that there is a viable alternative to configuring and adapting a standard client: implementing a customized client based on best-of-breed technologies that fully satisfies the customer’s needs.