Accessing Files Remotely

Users on remote computers – those outside the Computer Science network, at home, in Halls of Residence or elsewhere on the Internet – can access files in their University and School filespace. This document tells you where your files are, and what protocols to use to access them. It suggests applications you can use on Windows, Linux and Macintosh platforms.

Files over the Internet

As a user in Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics, you may want to access your files from a remote computer – one outside the Computer Science network. For example it is useful to be able to download files to your own PC or laptop in a Hall of Residence or at home so you can continue working. Once you have completed some work, you can upload files to your University filespace for safe-keeping.

SFTP and CIFS/SMB

The School provides users with access to their files from remote computers anywhere on the Internet as well as from within the University Campus network, from its wireless networks and from the Halls of Residence networks.

Users in the School have files on several different fileservers within the School and University central IT provision. For example, your Windows files are on a Novell Open Enterprise fileserver, and Linux NFS fileservers are used for Linux and Macintosh home directories and for web site files. We facilitate remote access to all of these servers in a consistent way through gateway servers that use SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and Microsoft CIFS/SMB protocol.

SFTP is an Internet Protocol that ensures security and privacy through using encypted channels that protect username and password information during transmission across the network. Because of its intrinsic security, we allow SFTP connections to our gateway servers from anywhere on the Internet.

The protocol is also portable because there are STFP applications for most computer platforms. Students and staff using a variety of different systems in Halls or at home (eg versions of Microsoft Windows, different flavours of Linux, and MacOSX on Macintoshes) will find that there are SFTP client applications for all of these systems.

CIFS/SMB is a proprietory Microsoft protocol used to facilitate file accesses between Windows servers. But it's also available on non-Windows platforms and provides a good way to access files for Linux and Macintosh systems too. We allow CIFS/SMB from within the University network only, using the University's Active Directory server for authentication, but remote users can use CIFS/SMB too if they are connected to the University VPN.

Windows, Linux and Macintosh systems have CIFS/SMB built-in to their file management applications so it's generally easy to use this protocol to connect to the gateway servers.

Where are my files and where do I access them?

Students will use Windows, Linux and Macintosh systems in the School's laboratories. Each of these has its own filespace for users. In addition, users have filespace associated with Project and Users web sites.

So you have at least five different filespaces:

Windows Windows home directory which appears as the H: drive when you log in to one of the University's Microsoft Windows PCs on the Novell network.
Linux Linux home directory /home/cxxxxxx. Each user, cxxxxxx, has a home directory which is seen as /home/cxxxxxx when they log in to one of the School's Linux systems.
Macintosh Your Macintosh home directory. This appears as the Home icon in the Finder when the user logs into one of Macintoshes in the School's laboratory.
Users site The filespace associated with your Users web pages.
Project site The filespace associated with your Project web pages.

Remote Access

For remote SFTP access, we have four gateway fileservers - driveh, home, machome and websites (which is used to access files on both Project and Users web servers).

The gateway servers home, machome and websites also work for CIFS/SMB access (through the VPN, or within the University network).

Notice that different servers are used for accessing your H: drive Windows home directory. Use COMSCcifs1.cf.ac.uk with CIFS/SMB and with SFTP access use driveh.cs.cf.ac.uk.

Choose the fileserver corresponding to the right protocol and whichever filespace you want to access:

driveh.cs.cf.ac.uk Access to your H: via SFTP.
COMSCcifs1.cf.ac.uk Access to your H: via CIFS/SMB.
home.cs.cf.ac.uk Access to your Linux home directory via SFTP or CIFS/SMB.
machome.cs.cf.ac.uk Access to your Macintosh home directory via SFTP or CIFS/SMB.
websites.cs.cf.ac.uk Access to your Project and User website directories via SFTP or CIFS/SMB.

SFTP Access methods

To access your files from a remote location with SFTP, connect an SFTP application to the appropriate gateway server.

STFP client applications are available for Linux, MacOSX and Windows platforms. Some applications come as standard, some are third-party add-ons. See below for some examples of appropriate applications. Some applications are more fully-functional than others, some work only partially! If you find that one application doesn't work properly on your platform, switch to a different one.

Notice that different applications may use different protocol names or prefixes for SFTP. You may see SFTP described as SSH, or with URL-style prefixes sftp: or ssh:.

Accessing files using SFTP from Windows

If you want to access your University files from a Windows laptop or personal PC, you can install an SFTP client application.

One good client is WinSCP which you can download from http://winscp.net. This is an Open Source application available under the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public Licence. It can be installed to behave like Windows Explorer so that you can drag and drop files between it and other Windows file windows.

Another Open Source SFTP application is FileZilla from http://filezilla-project.org/ which is available for Windows, Linux and MacOSX.

More information and examples of connecting Windows PCs and laptops to our fileservers are in Accessing Your University Files Remotely from Windows.

Recommended method: use WinSCP SFTP protocol client.

Accessing files using SFTP from Linux

On Linux, the file managers, nautilus for GNOME and caja for Mate, have SFTP (or SSH) protocols built-in.

If you have root or sudo administrative rights on your Linux client, you can use fuse to mount any of our SFTP servers into your file hierachy as an sshfs filesystem.

If you prefer the KDE desktop to the GNOME one, you can use KDE Konqueror to connect to the gateway servers. Konqueror can use SFTP. But note that for some versions of KDE, Konqueror fails to connect to SFTP servers.

Finally, FileZilla is available for Linux.

More information and examples of connecting Linux workstations and laptops to our fileservers are in Accessing Your University Files Remotely from Linux PCs and Laptops.

Recommended method: use caja or nautilus with SFTP (SSH) protocols.

Accessing files using SFTP from Macintoshes

If you have a Macintosh laptop or workstation, you can connect to our servers using Cyberduck, a third-party application.

You can install Cyberduck from http://cyberduck.io/. Cyberduck is a free Open Source application which can connect using SFTP protocols.

Also FileZilla is available for Macintoshes.

More information and examples of connecting Macintosh workstations and laptops to our fileservers are in Accessing Your University Files Remotely from a Macintosh.

Recommended method: use Cyberduck with SFTP protocols.

CIFS/SMB Access methods

Remember that to access your files from a remote location with CIFS, you will first need to be connected to the VPN.

CIFS protocols are built into the file manager on Windows and into the Finder on the Mac. For Linux, CIFS/SMB server connections can be made from nautilus or caja.

For further details see the Note appropriate to each platform.