Project of the Month, June 2008

PowerFolder


Project Leaders:

Christian Sprajc

Christian Sprajc
Age: 29
Experience: Project manager / Software developer
Education: Master of Business Informatics
Location: Duesseldorf, Germany

Bernhard Rutkowsky

Bernhard Rutkowsky
Age: 29
Experience: Graphical design/ web development/ customer relationship and marketing
Education: Studies of communication design / Studies of social sciences
Location: Duesseldorf, Germany

Florian Lahr

Florian Lahr
Age: 25
Experience: Infrastructure manager
Education: Specialised Computer Scientist – System Integration
Location: Monheim am Rhein, Germany

Key Developers:

Harry Glasgow

Harry Glasgow
Age: 44
Experience: Senior Analyst / Programmer
Education: Sun Certified Java Programmer
Location: Western Australia

Dennis Waldherr

Dennis Waldherr
Age: 28
Experience: Student of Computer Science
Education: Undergraduate
Location: Ulm, Germany

Cecilia Saltori

Cecilia Saltori
Age: 35
Experience: Software engineer
Education: Electronic Biomedical Engineering at University degli Studi di Bologna – Italy
Location: Trento, Italy

Oliver Haeusler

Oliver Haeusler
Age: 29
Experience: Concept/Graphics
Education: Master of communication design
Location: Duesseldorf, Germany

Quote about SourceForge.net?

A fantastic open-source platform!

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

Initially it was because of the CVS Repository, bug tracker and member recruitment possibilities.

How has SourceForge.net helped you?

SourceForge.net helped PowerFolder in a lot of ways. Our free Basic version can be downloaded from here. Nearly every team member was recruited through SourceForge.net. Also PowerFolder got a lot publicity through it’s presence here.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

Member recruitment. It greatly connects projects with contributors.

Project name: PowerFolder File Sync
Date founded/started: End of 2003
Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/powerfolder-/

Web page: PowerFolder

Description of project:

In one sentence: PowerFolder cares about your data. Simple, Secure and Reliable.

PowerFolder is a solution to securely sync, access, share, backup and transfer files between computers over the Internet or in LAN. It makes valuable files always available no matter where you are. Many things make PowerFolder unique:

  • It’s peer-to-peer technology enables the user to be independent from a central service provider.
  • The integrated delta-sync algorithm (similar to rsync) and the zip compression makes PowerFolder very efficient. It runs automatically, so backups are no longer forgotten.
  • Coupled with state of the art encryption, PowerFolder (Pro only) ensures that data is always kept private.

Our commercial open-source nature is also unique for our type of software: We offer a free Basic version (GPL) and a commercial Pro version.

Why and how did you get started?

The first prototype of PowerFolder was completed after a 40-hour coding session in February 2004. The idea for PowerFolder came up already in end of 2003. It was the fascination of peer-to-peer networks, which made me start PowerFolder.I believe this technology has great potential for private and commercial users.

What is the software’s intended audience?

Private persons and small- to mid-sized companies who are interested in an affordable and easy way to sync files. For example, PowerFolder often replaces existing rsync setups because it’s easier to setup and runs automatically.

How many people do you believe are using your software?

That’s not easy to say, since we don’t have a mandatory central user registry. We estimated that PowerFolder was downloaded 300,000 times [over] all. That’s from sourceforge.net, our homepage, and other download pages.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

Let me point out typical uses: Most people use PowerFolder to keep their computers automatically in sync or backup their data online or in LAN. Companies use PowerFolder to keep teams in sync or replicate geographically dispersed servers.

One of our customers, Panztel, an international company that develops and hosts unique voice and data communication services, is an excellent example. Panzel has eight major locations in the UK, US, New Zealand, and Australia. PowerFolder is the primary way they keep folders synced between machines — not only within the data centers themselves, but across the world as well.

Panztel keeps thousands of files synced between different machines.They used another solution before, but switched to PowerFolder because it is more flexible and efficient due its peer-to-peer nature. More case studies can be found at our homepage.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

The constantly increasing number of users reflect the high demand for PowerFolder. Many users report that once they begin to use PowerFolder, they no longer want to live without it, because it is so convenient.

What has been your biggest surprise?

That so many home users don’t create backups of their files! It’s extremely painful to lose years of videos, photos, and documents to a single harddisk crash. That’s one reason we added an automatic online backup to PowerFolder.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was not to just create a innovative piece of software, but also provide the things around it: Web page, Forum, Wiki, Support, Marketing, and Sales. We always try to address user’s issues quickly. Bernhard and Florian are doing a great job here.

That all beneath the usual development challenges like release plannings, developer coordination and quality assurance. Also, big thanks go out to Harry, Dennis and Cecilia who constantly contribute to our project.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

PowerFolder solves common problems around data management. People use it not only for file sync and backup, but widely different. And of course our Basic version is free and open source!

Where do you see your project going?

We aim to extend our services around the software. Also a server version of PowerFolder is currently in development that includes user and rights management as well as auditing features. The upcoming 3.1 adds Swarming/Multi-download feature, which greatly helps to distribute large amounts of data with PowerFolder.

What’s on your project wish list?

We want to simplify the use of PowerFolder. Every user should be able to easily manage his data with PowerFolder, even people who are not very familiar with computers.

What are you most proud of?

It’s a honor to work with such an excellent and heterogeneous team. Our core team consists of seven people, who constantly contribute to PowerFolder. About eight translators make PowerFolder speak every major language. I believe this is the critical success factor for our constant growth, which I’m also very proud of.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

More administration control is often requested by companies. This feature is planned with our server version of PowerFolder.

How do you coordinate the project?

Trac is our primary ticket system for project coordination. Milestone planning and developer assignments are done there. For quality assurance we run unit tests inside of Bamboo, an excellent continuous built system. In addition, we perform smoke tests with Testfuff before every release.

For internal communication we use email, IRC and meetings. We recently started using a support suite ticket system for effectively managing the communication with our users/customers.

Do you work on the project full-time, or do you have another job?

I work half-time for PowerFolder. My other job is at Riege Software International GmbH, where I work as project manager and software developer creating software for the freight forwarding industry.

What is your development environment like?

Dell Latitude D620, 2 GB RAM, Windows Vista, JDK 6.0, Eclipse

Milestones:

Date Milestone
End of 2003 Start of the PowerFolder project
February 2004 First alpha version (0.1a)
April 2004 PowerFolder reaches beta state
September 2004 PowerFolder joins SourceForge.net
May 2006 Version 1.0 of PowerFolder was released
January 2007 PowerFolder available as commercial Pro version
May 2007 Launch of the optional Online Storage service for PowerFolder
July 2007 PowerFolder 2.0 with Delta-sync and HTTP tunnel was released
March 2008 PowerFolder 3.0 eliminates a painful router/firewall setup
June 2008 3.1 version makes both version (Basic and Pro) freely available
August/September 2008 PowerFolder 4.0 featuring a new user interface
October 2008 PowerFolder 4.1 / Server version adding user and rights management

How can others contribute?

We offer a public SVN for everyone who is interested. Details can be found on our homepage (“Access to the Java source code repository”). We also often place a “help wanted” offer on sf.net.

As commercial open source software, we are able to pay Java developers for their work on the PowerFolder project. But we expect someone to offer a reasonable amount of his free time to the project. We don’t expect anyone to handle this project priority to private or work life, but at least a couple of hours a week should be minimum.


Check out our previous projects of the month.