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Filer system to undergo changes in near future

Melanie Sayre

Issue date: 9/10/10 Section: News
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When they hear the word "filer," most people think of cabinets. They think of a pile of messy paperwork yet to be finished. They think of a job they may or may not want to have. They don't usually think of the system, which gives us the option of hosting personal as well as organization webpages on the Case Western Reserve University campus network.

Many students have probably visited the webpage of a club that is hosted on filer. The filer system, according to director of Student Affairs IT Operations Joel Kraft, began as a project of Student Internet Services (SIS). Kraft explained that it was "formed by a group of students wishing to fill in the gaps of IT services that were not provided by ITS, most importantly a place to host a web page." Since then, filer has changed hands and is currently hosted and maintained by the School of Engineering. However, this could be could be changing in the near future.

For a long time now, there have been rumors concerning filer - most of which have no legitimate basis. The latest rumor, concerning the complete dismantling of filer, was deemed untrue, the result of an unfortunate series of miscommunications. The debunking of this myth, though, brings us to an issue that rests not on more secure grounds, but on more practical ones. While no official statement about the issue has been released, the upcoming months there will likely see changes involving the system.

The first of the rumored changes is an end to new account creation. In implementing a change like this, Kraft said there would not be any immediate functional changes to the system. The staff and students would continue to maintain and provide support for filer.

Another of the rumors pertains to the School of Engineering being detached from the filer system. The School of Engineering would no longer provide funds for the system - funds which currently cover the hardware maintenance and administration of the over-8600 individual sites filer currently hosts. The funds would have to be drawn from an outside source. Filer is run on the open-source software called 'vtfileman' and is free of re-occurring software costs. However, if more severe issues arose, such as hardware difficulties, monetary problems could result that would put the system in jeopardy.

While filer will eventually be removed, it will be a gradual secession. According to Henry Snow, a filer administrator, the following is a probable scenario: within the next year, a date will be set when no new accounts on the server can be created. After that, the files on filer will remain for a year after the system is closed. With some simple math, filer will probably exist for another two years. Snow said that when any further developments occur, announcements will be posted on filer's home page.

As for a replacement of the system, that is a debatable issue. Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has been working on Collegiatelink, the possible future of club webhosting. Unfortunately, this is still a work in progress. Kraft also pointed to Google groups, though he mentioned a security debate on it that makes it less worthwhile than using the current filer system.
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