Mobile Digital Office for the Small Office Home Office SOHO with FilePod, Firewalla and webDAV

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by Nino Vidovic, PhD

Mobile Digital Office for Small Office Home Office (SOHO) with filePod, Firewalla and webDAV

Summary

Whether you travel a lot for fun or for work, you may count yourself among the new generation of digital nomads, the remote workers who are not tied to any one place.  Unrestricted by the traditional confines of the office, or by typical office hours in the past, you may relate to this statement as in line with your reality: “the future of your work is anywhere, anytime.”  In fact, over 23% of remote workers recently surveyed in a study conducted by And.Co[1] confirmed that their employer’s organizations were “fully distributed.”  Over 55% of those surveyed stated that they were fully remote, and over 43% confirmed that they were partially remote.  This trend can be easily validated, with more and more organizations enabling telecommuting and placing value on attracting quality talent to work for them, wherever they may be.  However, working on the go is not by default easy, streamlined or secure.  Over 1-in-5 remote workers cite infrastructure problems as presenting significant new challenges.  47% remote workers point to a white space for tools to help them better manage remote work.

The mobile workforce is growing rapidly.  Whether you are a freelancer, or you work within your firm’s “distributed” workforce, you are no doubt grappling with issues that on-site IT resources might have tackled.  Now, you must take all the steps necessary to surmount the complexity the digital workplace presents.  Given the many devices, tools, apps and content sources we must use, securely navigate or integrate within our workflows, we are constantly challenged to operate more efficiently, collaboratively and most critically, securely

Data is the other thorny consideration.  The sheer amount and density of the data we need to access for work or play requires a lot of space, and bandwidth.  The need to manage and store or synchronize massive data sets that are often distributed, residing on local or cloud-based corporate file systems, not to mention the many other enterprise file sync and share accounts out there poses many challenges. 

At BluFON Corp, we have a mission to empower today’s shapeshifting workforce.  Whether you’re working from your home office, or as a “digital nomad,” we want you to be in a position to work effectively, securely and easily.

In this paper, we will present you with a means to securely and instantly access all your data, wherever you are, whether you’re online or offline.  Your online experience will never alter, as you can replicate the same experience anywhere. 

Let’s explore a day in the life of Jenny.

Meet the User – A Tech Writer and Freelance Designer

Jenny is a freelancer tech writer and graphic designer.   She works primarily from her home office where she has two large 25” screens and a beefed-up Mac mini. When she is writing content, she likes to go to her nearby Peet’s coffee shop where she puts her headphones on and writes tech manuals and articles on her MacBook Air.  When she is on the go, she tends to use her iPad for customer presentations.

Jenny has a lot of content on her home office computer. These tend to be very large files that are mostly graphics, video and audio content that she uses for graphic design projects. She writes a lot and also has a huge digital library of reference documentation. Over the years, she has worked on hundreds of projects, and as a result, Jenny has accumulated over 250GB of video, images, graphics, audio and text files. Graphics files are over 1GB in size. For Jenny, it is very important that wherever she is she has instantaneous local access to all of her prior and current work. That is why she chose filePodTM.  Jenny needs to carry all of her work with her.  She wants her files accessible locally, whether she is working on her home computer, tablet, laptop or smartphone.  She wants to be productive the moment she heads over to her coffee shop.

Getting access to all of Jenny’s digital content (video, music, pictures, and files) at home can be hard and complicated. Jenny’s solution was FilePodTM, preconfigured with Firewalla and WebDAV.  Now it’s a breeze, achieved quickly with a very simple setup.

  • FilePodTM is Jenny’s personal and portable data cloud in a tiny WiFi or USB – enabled device that she can plug into her Mac mini, her laptop, and her tablet
  • SD Card – you will need one (with up to 2TB space on it) for your filePodTM
  • Firewalla is Jenny’s cybersecurity firewall appliance that connects to Jenny’s router.  This is her home security solution which secures all her digital content 
  • WebDAV is Jenny’s self-hosted productivity platform.  WebDAV Server is Jenny’s simple file sync and share application.  WebDAV offers free, secure, and easy cloud-like accessible file storage on Jenny’s home computer.  All three appliances are easy to setup and configure, and Jenny’s small home office (SOHO) setup is simple and effective (See Picture 4). 

What is FilePodTM

FilePodTM is the world’s first autonomous personal file storage device. It’s small and lightweight.  Automatically synchronizing all your digital files wherever they reside into one unified, yet partitioned digital storage device, FilePodTM will tame the digital chaos and bring order to your workflow. 

Whether you are online or offline, FilePodTM secures all your digital files whilst enabling you streamlined access to all your files, wherever you are.  Whether traveling for work or pleasure, you need the ability to work everywhere.  With filePodTM, you can easily be a digital nomad.

Providing a secure file management system within a pocket-sized design is our number one priority.  With a single login, get instant access to all your digital files.  FilePodTM is home for all digital content.  You’ll never lose that content even if you were to lose your device, for your content is always synced to its original cloud storage, private storage and file directories.  And if you WERE to lose your device, no fear, it is totally secured and encrypted and can be wiped remotely as well.  The key here is you having a unified view across all your connected (cloud) accounts.  Once you set up and sync your FilePodTM the first time, from this point on, your updates and changes are the only things that synchronize to your pod.  You will never need to initiate a new synchronization process across an account or multiple accounts after the first sync, even if you have multiple Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or other accounts. Log in once to access all accounts instantly so that you can easily work offline. You will no longer be a hostage of WiFi connectivity in order to access any or all of your files. Work however you work, it might be on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet; whatever it is, just save the latest version of your files directly to your FilePodTM, and whenever you are online again, FilePodTM will automatically syncs those changes.

Today, this portable smart file storage device works with iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux.  FilePodTM is 256 bit encrypted and password-protected for added security.   

Picture 1: FilePod securely connects and synchronizes all your cloud storage and makes it available on all your screens

What is FireWalla

As we move towards an ever-connected age, where our cars, homes, and money are all connected and controlled by computers and IoT devices, taking steps to ensure better security is an absolute necessity. The stakes are much higher.  Hackers will be able to attack bank accounts, our cars, our homes. Connected consumer and business products have begun flooding the market, but security has been an afterthought. The world now has to figure out how to secure these connected things.

Firewalla is a vital addition to every home and small business with network and internet of things (IoT) devices. This flexible smart device provides continuous protection from crippling cyberattacks even as new threats evolve.  Firewalla is plugin and play, there is no configuration.

Firewalla VPN Server places the VPN server inside your house.  It runs inside of that little Firewalla box.  By using this VPN service when you are outside of the house you will get the same level of security protection as if you are at home.

Picture 2: Accessing Internet services from all your  remote devices securely connected to your home network

What is WebDAV

WebDAV transforms your computer into a powerful and secure online storage system, letting you access and share files from any connected computer or device in the world. WebDAV lets you simply set up and operate your own secure file-sharing site.

WebDAV is an easy-to-use server that runs on your own computer enabling you to access and share inbound and outbound private documents, photos, videos, or other files, from your personal devices.  With WebDAV server you can:

Create your own private or a multi-user file storage system from which you can share files with friends, family, or business colleagues Maintain online privacy and via secure, unblocked, encrypted access to the Internet with tunnel/proxy (VPN) technology

  • Automatically and securely distribute files of any size, even huge files, to any number of contacts via regular email
  • Avoid ongoing and expensive service fees
  • Easily access documents stored on your computer from anywhere


Designed for non techies, WebDAV is easy to use and secure.

Picture 3: WebDAV enables remote  access to files stored on your  home PC

The Home Office Setup

The home office system consists of a home WiFi router (e.g. AirPort), a VPN box (e.g. Firewalla Blue), a home computer (e.g. Mac mini), a large 25’ display and a FilePodTM. See picture of the home office (picture 4)

Picture 4:  The home office

Detailed network diagram shown in Picture 5.

Picture 5: Home network setup

First let’s set up the WiFi router for home wireless network.

Following is the most common method to set up a network with AirPort Time Capsule:

  1. Connect the Ethernet cable (hooked up to your cable or phone company’s modem) to the WAN port on the AirPort base station.

NOTE: If you want to network a USB printer, connect it to the USB port on the AirPort. You can also connect a USB external hard drive to store or share files across the network.

  • Plug the AirPort into a power outlet.

NOTE: AirPort doesn’t have an on–off switch. It turns on when you plug it in; and it turns off when you unplug it.

  • To go wireless, on your MacBook Air or Mac mini, run the AirPort Utility setup-assistant software, located in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder[2].

Next, let’s set up the Firewalla VPN box.

In addition to the modem/router combo provided by ISP, you purchased another router which you use to connect to all your household devices. 

Picture 6: Firewalla connects to your home router/access point

For our setup, in addition to the modem/router combo provided by ISP, we are using an AirPort router to connect all our household devices.  We will plug the Firewalla box into one of the LAN ports of the AirPort.  

  1. Connect Firewalla box to the AirPort router using the Ethernet cable provided in the package.  Then, connect the device to a power source using the Micro-USB cable provided in the package.

NOTE: It may take up to 5 mins for the Firewalla Box to completely boot and upgrade process when powered on. Please be patient.

  1. On your mobile phone launch the Firewalla App.  If the Firewalla Box is ready to be paired, you shall see either ‘+’ or ‘New Firewalla’ icon, or you may see both icons. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup.

NOTE: Make sure the mobile phone which will launch Firewalla App is connected to the WIFI network provided by the AirPort router that Firewalla box is plugged in and that VPN is disabled on your phone.

For more details or if you have questions, please visit Firewalla’s support website (https://firewalla.com/pages/install)

Now set up your WebDAV Server on Mac mini home computer

WebDAVNav Server is a free basic WebDAV server from Schimera which can be used to quickly share files and folders from your Mac with other computers, mobile devices and apps. You can download WebDAVNav server from Apple App Store.

Again, the setup is simple and straightforward. After you have downloaded and installed the WebDAV Nav server, start the application, select the folder you want to share to and confirm the selection.

Picture 7: WebDAV server setup on Mac OS

You have now successfully configured the WebDAV server on your Mac mini computer.

Finally, let’s set up your filePodTM

Before using the FilePodTM, you must insert an SD card. You can use any micro SD card. FilePodTM supports high-capacity SDXC cards up to 2TB.  There is no limit on individual file sizes. Connect the FilePodTM with your personal computer using the supplied USB cable or the magnetic USB cable

NOTE: If you are using your FilePodTM for the first time, before you continue with the setup process, let the FilePodTM stay connected for 30 seconds so that the battery gets an initial charge.

In your browser, access the FilePodTM’s internal website using the following URL:https://myfilePodTM.io:8080/

Watch the Getting Started video on the main page.

Picture 8: FilePod web UI is simple and intuitive

Click on the drop-down menu to select your AirPort WiFi router to connect to the internet. Register your account on the FilePodTM by entering your email and a unique password.  Now login using your new user id and password credentials.

Once you are logged in, follow simple procedure to add as many cloud storage accounts (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, MS OneDrive etc.) that you want to synchronize with your FilePodTM.

Picture 9: Setting multiple cloud storage accounts on filePod

Your basic setup is now complete. For details on how to configure more features check out the “How to section” and videos on the FilePodTM website (https://www.filepod.io.)

Mobile ON-THE-GO Office

Jenny’s “on-the-go” (OTG) office setup is simple and effective (See Picture 10)

Picture 10: Mobile OTG “office” setup

It consists of: FilePodTM, Jenny’s MacBook Air, Jenny’s iPad and Jenny’s iPhone. See Picture 11 for a detailed connectivity diagram shown

Picture 11: On-the-go  network

How all of this works

In addition to having local access to all of your cloud storage files (such as Dropbox and Google Drive) it is easy to configure your FilePodTM to automatically connect to your WebDAV server on your Mac mini at home.  You are not only accessing files in your cloud storage accounts, but also files on your computer, synchronizing all the content with your FilePodTM.

Previously we installed and configured a WebDAV server application onto your Mac mini computer. Now we will configure VPN access to your home network and add WebDAV storage to your FilePodTM.  See the logical network of your mobile digital SOHO office from a remote location in Picture 12.

Picture 12:  Accessing and synchronizing content between FilePodTM and WebDAV server on home computer via Internet

Configuring Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network, or VPN, is an encrypted connection over the Internet from a device to a network. The encrypted connection helps ensure that sensitive data is safely transmitted. It prevents unauthorized people from eavesdropping on the traffic and allows the user to conduct work remotely.

Configuring  VPN Server on Firewalla

FirewallaTM VPN Server allows you to easily set up an encrypted connection from anywhere in the world to your home.  Although you may be outside, working on a public network, your security protection is the same as what you set up at home.  With a VPN tunnel terminating inside your home network, every request you make from your laptop while you are on the road (using the described setup) will have an IP address of the home router provided by your ISP service provider.  As far as the world is concerned, any service, whether that is Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Google etc. will consider your laptop to be at home.

The very first step is to turn on the VPN server on your Firewalla box.  You can do this using your Firewalla mobile app. Firewalla box will start a pre-installed OpenVPN server.  When the VPN server starts, it will generate a unique key and this key is only for your box. Once you done that, click on the “Setup” arrow and it will guide you through the setup.

Picture 13:  Firewalla VPN  server setup using mobile app

Now you need to Configure Port Forwarding. If your router has UPNP enabled (as most routers do), it is simple, Firewalla will do everything for you. If your router doesn’t support UPNP, Firewalla will need you to manually set up port forwarding on your home router. 

In this step, another thing is very important to check.  That is, “Make sure the router that your Firewalla is plugged in has a public IP assigned by your ISP“. For more details  see Firewalla’s  Tutorial: How to set up port forwarding for VPN Server.

Configuring VPN tunnel on the filePodTM

FilePodTM supports OpenVPN technology. First download and install the OpenVPN Client plugin application from FilePodTM’s private Appstore. Once you have installed the OpenVPN Client app, you’ll need a profile and a password in order to use the VPN client. 

The profile and password are generated by Firewalla, they are device-independent and can be shared.  In your Firewalla App, in VPN settings page, click “Download OpenVPN Profile”, save .ovpn file (client profile for OpenVPN) on your android phone’s local storage. Please also note down the ‘Password’, which will be used later.

Picture 14: VPN profile is saved to cloud storage account

Now that profile file is generated you can save it in any of your cloud storage accounts (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive) that you have already configured on your FilePodTM

Back in FilePodTM’s web user interface, open the OpenVPN Client app’s settings  in /Seetings/OpenVPN. Then click ‘OVPN Profile’ button and in the ‘Import Profile’ page, go to cloud storage account where you previously download your unique .ovpn file from Firewalla mobile app. Find and select the .ovpn file and then click the ‘IMPORT’ button.

Now Toggle on the switch button to connect.

Adding your WebDAV Server storage to FilePodTM

The process of adding your home WebDAV Server account which you want to manage using the FilePodTM is the same as adding any other cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

The content of the connected WebDAV account is synchronized whenever there is a change in the WebDAV home server storage or in the corresponding account directory on the FilePodTM’s SD card. You don’t have to worry about configuring the directory structure of these accounts since FilePodTM collects the directory structure from the WebDAV server storage account itself.

After you completed authentication, your WebDAV account will appear under Cloud Accounts showing that your FilePodTM is linked to your WebDAV Home server.

Click on the WebDAV account tab in FilePodTM to view the directory structure for that account on your home computer. You can now select which directories you want to synchronize whether those are specific directories or all your content.

After making the selection and saving the setting, FilePodTM will now automatically keep your selection synchronized between your home computer and the corresponding WebDAV account directory on the FilePodTM’s SD card. You can always change your selection, but you need to click on Save Settings every time your selection is modified.

Using filePodTM

Now that everything is nicely configured at home and for on-the-go use, you can start using FilePodTM just as you would any other ordinary USB-attached device.  Whether the FilePodTM is connected to your MacBook, your iPad or your iPhone, FilePodTM looks like an attached USB drive. At the same time, it is also a secure “tunnel” into the Internet.  Ensure your safety with this setup: no more worrying about snooping and prying “cyber eyes” – you are safely connected to all Internet services.  Best of all, there is nothing to do on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.  You have no additional software to download and install.  There are no new applications to configure or update regularly.  Just use your devices as if you are on your home network. All the hard work is now being done by the FilePodTM.

Using filePodTM as a USB drive

There are two ways to access files on FilePodTM ‘s SD card. One way is using standard USB Mass Storage Mode.  The other way is to use a built-in WebDAV server.   

In this article, we will show how to access files using the WebDAV server. Note that when using the WebDAV approach, you can access the SD card from your host computer using native file manager applications (e.g. MacOS Finder or Microsoft Windows Explorer) while FilePodTM’s 2-way-sync applications (e.g. Dropbox and Google Drive) can be accessing the SD card simultaneously.

To use WebDAV to access files on the FilePodTM ‘s SD card you don’t need any third-party software. Popular desktop operating systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux can all do this out-of-the-box.

In Jenny’s case, she prefers to use WebDAV to access files on the FilePodTM ‘s SD card.  She won’t need any third-party software, her MacOS can do this out-of-the-box with the Finder file manager.

Mac OS X has built-in WebDAV support. On your Mac OS X computer, start the Finder application.  Open the Finder, click the Go menu, and select Connect to Server to see the Connect to Server dialog and type a WebDAV   server address to connect to the FilePodTM TM built in WebDAV server. For example, you’d enter https://myfilepod.io:3000 (See Picture 15). 

Picture 15: Mounting filePod as attached storage using filePod’s WebDAV server app

Now that Jenny’s computer has “connected” to the FilePodTM, she is able to browse its contents and download, upload, copy, paste, delete,  edit and save files directly from the Finder window into her FilePodTM’s SD card. (Picture 16).

Picture 16: All files on filePod’s SD card are now locally accessible from connected MacBook Air laptop

Using filePodTM as secure access to Internet and home network

Connecting your FilePodTM to your Firewalla box via VPN tunnel has a number of advantages. 

  1. Firstly, even when you are far from home, when you are surfing the web, the experience feels just like you are doing so from home. Your device settings do not adjust based on location, time zone, languages, etc.
    • FilePodTM and Firewalla together allow you to easily set up an encrypted connection from anywhere in the world to your home.  Although you are outside on public network, your security protection is just like at home.  You can access the internet as secure as you would be from your home setup. If you are at a place that controls internet access, you can use this to get around that.You won’t need to open additional ports on your router when you are outside and want to view your home camera or file system.
  2. Now you have unrestricted access to your home network from anywhere.  In addition to being safely connected to home, you can now easily access all your network-enabled home devices, such as your IoT devices, NAS file system (e.g. WebDAV server that we configured on Mac mini in this example) etc.

The VPN connection is a transport service provided by security certificates.  It is much more difficult to be attacked than an HTTP service provided by your camera.  It encrypts all traffic between you and your home network, whatever sites you are surfing or files you are accessing are kept private. You, and only you can see them.

Another benefit: take your video subscriptions anywhere! Stream Netflix, Hulu or any service just as you would at home.  There are no restrictions.  Access your banking / financial sites just as if you are home.  Bypass internet censorship or filtering when traveling to a foreign country.

Conclusion

Today, you can easily set up the ideal digital home office simply and quickly.  You do not have to be an engineer or IT pro.  As illustrated in the steps above, all of the components are plug and play, and after you power on, connect to your network, plug in the USB cable and perform the initial steps to set up and configure your filePodTM, FirewallaTM and WebDav, everything is good to go.  It just works.

To your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, the FilePodTM looks just like an attached USB drive. But really, it’s like a digital “swiss army knife” (connects to file sync and share and bundled with a smart and secure “tunneling” connects securely into the Internet). No more worrying about digital privacy.  Once you are set up, there is nothing else you need to do on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, no more time wasted on setting up applications, or constantly worrying about configuring and maintaining them.

There are so many things one already needs to optimize to become as productive as possible.  With time being the most valuable resource, any tool or process that can give you back your time and safety is worth adopting. With filePodTM, reclaim your time, be productive and not worry about digital privacy.  Just keep using your personal devices as if you were at home, connected to your home network. All the hard work is being done by the filePodTM, the ultimate productivity agent.

REFERENCES

http://www.filepod.io/

firewalla.com/

http://www.cloudwards.net/what-is-webdav/

http://www.and.co/anywhere-workers

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/may/11/digital-nomads-work-technology-asia-cities-wifi

http://www.alliancevirtualoffices.com/virtual-office-blog/how-to-be-a-digital-nomad-and-work-from-anywhere/

http://www.carefulcents.com/create-a-mobile-office/

http://www.travelinglifestyle.net/top-world-coworking-spaces-for-digital-nomads/


[1] https://www.and.co/anywhere-workers

[2] This step involves responding to a series of questions on what to call your network, passwords, and so on. You may have to enter specific settings from your Internet provider, along the lines of a static IP address or DHCP client ID. Through the AirPort Utility software, you can manually apply various advanced security and other settings. For more details visit Apple’s support website (https://support.apple.com/airport )

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