Use WebDAV to Share Files

In my last column about IIS 6.0 improvements in Windows XP (see the first URL at the end of this column), I forgot to mention the Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (DAV) service, otherwise known as WebDAV. Microsoft says WebDAV now works properly with the Encrypting File System (EFS) in the new XP OS. I told a few coworkers about this improvement and was surprised that I got a few blank stares when I talked about WebDAV.

DAV isn't a new topic; it's been around for a few years. WebDAV is described in the Request for Comments (RFC) document 2518 (see the second URL at the end of this column), and many commercial and noncommercial Web server products support the service. WebDAV provides a network protocol for creating interoperable, collaborative applications. Because DAV is based on HTTP, which is an 8-bit clean protocol, WebDAV provides authoring support for Web resources of any media type, such as HTML, GIF, or JPEG. Simply put, WebDAV is a unique way to use IIS to collaborate and share files with others using an ordinary Web browser.

Several companies offer products similar to Outlook Web Access (OWA) and permit similar Web-enabled collaboration. However, these collaboration products are expensive to integrate, sometimes reaching into the millions of dollars. You have to dedicate a lot of staff and money to ensure that these products work well in the enterprise. In addition, acceptance is a factor to consider. I've used a number of these collaboration tools. They are powerful, but many of them expect you to adopt their environment as your new permanent desktop. If you're bound to a desk all day, that solution might be feasible. But many of us aren't bound to our desks; we're out in the trenches earning our pay. I don't need another desktop. I just need a way to trade files. WebDAV offers some of the same collaboration features at a fraction of the price—without usurping your desktop.

I think WebDAV will increase in popularity, especially with the release of XP. You'll find more information about WebDAV on the WebDAV Web site (see the third URL at the end of this column). If you decide to further explore the service, be sure to see the "What's New" section for a new WebDAV patch. You can also check out some of the new products based on WebDAV.

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