WISP Integrated Storage Portal

Liverpool HEP provides ubiquitous storage through the WISP service (using open source NextCloud technology). Anyone with a HEP Linux account can access this service from any network (both on and off campus).

The primary storage is on our secure RAID servers at Liverpool, currently with 100GB per user. This storage (and quota) is separate to your standard user area or hepstore etc. We may combine access in the future.

Accessing WISP using a browser

Any system can access WISP through a modern web browser. Use the address https://wisp.ph.liv.ac.uk/ and log in with your HEP login. You should see something like this

WISP web interface

On the left you can choose files, or calendar etc. The Music and Pictures categories allow easy access to those file types. At the bottom left is a cog icon, click on this to configure your account.

Files can be copied to this window using drag and drop. This works on OS X, Windows and Centos 7 (or later) using nautilus (GNOME) although it only works on some browsers. Other systems may also work but we only support these three main ones at present.

Clicking on some files (image, PDF and ODF files) will be opened by native plugins. Other files will need to be downloaded before opening.

Sharing files

By default files are only accessible by their owner. Files and folders can also be shared with other WISP users or Groups, type in their name or group name (note that some names use initials, if you can't find a user try their initial eg T. or wildcards eg *Smith). If you need a new group creating contact the admins to create one and add the users.

Sharing a file

Shared files and folders can be shared read-only (default) or you can specify full or limited read-write access. Click on the Edit and down arrow to see the various optionsin the Shared menu. Note that if you share a folder read-write with other users they can write files into your folder and they will be owned by you and be counted against your quota. Be careful who you allow write access to!

Files can also be shared using a web link, click on Share with link and copy the provided URL. The links can have an expiration date.

Accessing WISP with a synchronisation client

Files in your WISP area can be accessed and synchronised using a desktop client. Clients are available for Windows, OS X and Centos 7 (amongst others). They can be downloaded from https://nextcloud.com/install/#install-clients . You should use the latest client version for your OS. Use the address https://wisp.ph.liv.ac.uk/ for the sync URL.

Configuring sync client

The sync client allows one specified directory on your local machine to be synchronised with a directory in your WISP account. By default your entire WISP area is synchronised and linked to a directory of your choice on your desktop. Any files placed in this directory will be copied to WISP and will be automatically copied to any other computers you have a sync client on. This provides seamless access to your files on multiple systems.

If you want to sync other directories eg an existing Documents folder, the best option is to move the directory to your sync directory (eg ownCloud) then create a symbolic link to the original from there eg
  • mv ~/Documents ~/ownCloud/
  • ln -s ~/ownCloud/Documents ~/Documents
The ownCloud client doesn't sync links so this it must be this way round.

We recommend that you have specific folders for work, personal etc to prevent syncing the wrong data or having personal/work files on work/personal systems.

Any files in the synchronised directory will start to appear after a few seconds. Note that this may take a long time if you have a lot of large files or are on a slow connection.

Special folders such as Shared or external storage can also be added as a separate sync. Be careful with this as large files may be shared with you that your system will then download (could be awkward on a slow connection).

Also be careful not to have multiple clients synchronising on the same system or filesystem (eg on multiple VNC sessions) as this could cause file corruption.

Accessing WISP via Webdav

WISP also provides a webdav interface so that any local tool or file manager that supports webdav can access files.

The webdav URL is shown by clicking on the cog in the bottom left hand corner (should be similar to https://wisp.ph.liv.ac.uk/remote.php/dav/files/YOURUSERNAME), use this and your HEP Linux login. Some applications will need the https:// to be replaced with davs://.

This is a good way of accessing WISP files directly in applications without having to have a local synchronised folder, including files on External Storage (eg your user area, which we recommend you don't attempt to synchronise off-site). It is untested so we would recommend not accessing files directly from applications.

Webdav mounts can be added to windows to allow accessing files through a normal filer window. There is a useful guide here. Use the WISP webdav URL as above.

While performance is ok in general some clients (particularly the Mac OS X Finder, up to OS X 10.10.1 at least, try Cyberduck instead) can be very slow at navigating directories. File transfer speeds are usually ok.

Accessing Other Storage via WISP

WISP can be used to provide a unified interface to other storage systems. This is particularly useful for accessing and sharing files in your local HEP storage areas such as Hepstore.

Under your private settings area should be a section for configuring External Storage. Here is an example for accessing a folder on Hepstore areas via SFTP:

external-storage-config.png

Please only connect to specific folders, not the whole of the server's root filesystem (and definitely not the top level of Hepstore!). 'dot' files (usually found home directories) aren't displayed by default, but can be enabled in the Settings (cog at the bottom left). Other protocols are available, such as Samba or WebDAV but SFTP is probably the easiest and most efficient for standard HEP filestores at the moment.

If you use credentials stored temporarily in a session you won't be able to share any files or folders from the external storage. Use a fixed user/password or store the session credentials in the WISP database.

The storage folders will be accessible from the main Files area, such as:

external-storage.png

Be careful when adding storage with confidential data, WISP may not have the same level of security as the external storage.

File Security and Backups

Although the core WISP storage is on secure and reliable servers the use of "cloud" storage systems, particularly the synchronisation of files to other machines, has associated data security risks. Always be careful not to leave WISP sessions or clients open that other people can access, particularly when off-site.

WISP storage is centrally backed up. You can retrieve deleted files in the web interface as well as accessing previous versions. Although the use of synchronisation clients (with their local copies of the file) can protect against a system failure, they cannot protect against deliberate or accidental file deletion as the deletion will be propogated to any active clients.

Also be aware that when you use the synchronisation client this leaves local copies of the files which other people could potentially access. We do not recommend using sync clients on public or borrowed machines, use the web interface instead.

Use on current HEP Linux Systems

The NextCloud sync client is provided by default on standard SL6 and Centos7 desktops. It is available under Applications>Accessories>Nextcloud desktop sync client.

The web interface works under GNOME and KDE.

Further Reading

More documentation on the Owncloud technology is available on the Owncloud website.

FAQs

  • Are you mandating the use of WISP?
    • WISP is provided for those who wish to use it. You don't have to use it and none of your data will be available through WISP unless you request or configure it.
  • Do I have to stop using my commercial cloud storage provider?
    • No. While we have concerns about using third party storage providers they are popular and convenient, and some people have efficient workflows using them. We follow a philosophy of using the right tool for the right job, even if we're not big fans of the tool! Do be aware of the problems of third party cloud storage and consider migrating to WISP or University Datanywhere if feasible.
  • Can I use WISP to back up my files?
    • WISP can be used in some cases as a backup solution. Files stored on WISP are backed up daily and deleted files can usually be retrieved via the web interface. It has the advantage of being available both on and off-site but does require a network connection and a working sync client to function. If you need files retrieving from the central backup you will need to contact the HEP admins.
Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
client-config.pngpng client-config.png manage 41 K 15 Dec 2016 - 09:40 JohnBland Sync client config
external-storage-config.pngpng external-storage-config.png manage 15 K 14 Dec 2016 - 21:37 JohnBland External Storage configuration
external-storage.pngpng external-storage.png manage 12 K 14 Dec 2016 - 21:46 JohnBland External Storage
sync-directory.pngpng sync-directory.png manage 21 K 08 Nov 2012 - 10:39 JohnBland Synchronise a directory
webpage-front.pngpng webpage-front.png manage 52 K 14 Dec 2016 - 21:36 JohnBland WISP web page
webpage-share.pngpng webpage-share.png manage 43 K 14 Dec 2016 - 21:36 JohnBland Sharing files
Topic revision: r28 - 19 Jun 2020, JohnBland
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