Internet File System User's Guide
Release 1.1

Part Number A75154-04


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Introduction to the Oracle Internet File System

Oracle Internet File System (Oracle iFS) is a new way of storing, accessing, and organizing your electronic information in a single place. This chapter gives you a glimpse of Oracle iFS and what it can do for you. Topics include:

Oracle Internet File System at a Glance

Oracle Internet File System (Oracle iFS) is a file system in a database. You don't need to be concerned about dealing with the complexities of a database, because Oracle iFS looks exactly like any other networked drive. However, because Oracle iFS actually stores files in a relational database, rather than on a local hard drive, you can perform many tasks using Oracle iFS that are not possible using standard file systems.

Oracle iFS allows you to work from either a Windows interface or a Web interface. Although each has a unique look and feel, the Windows and Web interfaces perform the same basic functions. Below is a quick overview of what Oracle iFS looks like from each of these interfaces.

In addition, you can access Oracle iFS from:

Windows Interface

Through the Windows interface, you can view your Oracle iFS files and folders through the Microsoft Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT operating systems. The Oracle iFS server will be accessible from the My Computer and Network Neighborhood icons on your desktop as well as from Windows Explorer, Microsoft's file management interface. The Oracle iFS server appears like any other drive in Windows Explorer; for example:

Figure 1-1 The Oracle iFS server appears as a drive in Windows Explorer

In addition, you can install a set of Oracle iFS utilities on your computer to provide special content management features such as check in/check out, versioning, and searching on the contents of files.

Web Interface

All of the functionality of the Windows interface is duplicated in the Web interface. Additionally, basic administrative functions are accessible from the Web interface (if you have administrative permissions). No additional software or utilities are required to access Oracle iFS through the Web interface. You just point your Netscape Navigator 4.7 or Internet Explorer 5 or 5.5 browser to the location of the Oracle iFS server, usually the server name; for example,

Figure 1-2 The Web interface and its three frames

The Web interface is divided into three frames. The Banner, across the top, displays controls that allow you to log out of the Oracle iFS system, access online help, and search for specific files and content.

The bottom left frame displays a Directory Tree showing the hierarchical organization of your Oracle iFS folders, including folders that store security and access information.

The bottom right frame displays the File List for the folder currently selected in the Directory Tree. This list may also include folders. Above the File List is the toolbar, composed of icons representing menus that, when clicked, give you access to Oracle iFS functions.

The Web Folders Hierarchy

Using web folders, you arrange content into a hierarchy of folders, just like you do in Windows Explorer. Accessing your data through web folders gives you the ability to modify your content, make versions of files, and use other Oracle iFS functionality with them. You may also browse, search, and manage web-based Oracle iFS data from a folder hierarchy.

This is how Oracle iFS files are presented when you access them from web folders in Microsoft Explorer. As you can see, web folders appear as another mount point in the Windows Explorer hierarchy.

Figure 1-3 Web Folders appear in Windows Explorer as another mount point


Included in your home directory in Oracle iFS is a mail folder containing an inbox. The inbox enables you to save e-mails into Oracle iFS and view them through the Windows and Web interfaces. This, in turn, enables you to include e-mail files and their attachments when you search for data in the repository.

Your system administrator can also configure your e-mail for you to receive your e-mail messages in your Oracle iFS inbox, enabling you to read your e-mail messages without being in an e-mail client. In your e-mail client, you might also map an additional IMAP directory to the Oracle iFS drive.

Versioning and check-in and check-out of files are not permitted for e-mail files.

Figure 1-4 Oracle iFS accessed through an e-mail client

You can then move or copy messages from e-mail into Oracle iFS. Once in Oracle iFS, messages can be managed and searched along with other data.

Figure 1-5 E-mail messages copied to Oracle iFS appear in the mail folder


Many people use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to move their files, especially when uploading revised web pages for publishing on a web server, or bulk uploading files of any type. Your FTP client will treat your Oracle iFS drive as any other drive on your system when uploading and downloading files.

Versioning and check-in and check-out of files are not permitted by FTP.

Comparing Standard File Systems to Oracle iFS

When you use Oracle iFS, you combine the flexibility and ease-of-use of a file system with the reliability of a database. The following chart compares Oracle iFS with standard file systems.

Table 1-1 The features of standard file systems versus Oracle iFS

Feature  Standard File Systems  Oracle iFS 

Ease of access to files 

You may have limited or difficult access to your files from home, depending on corporate firewalls. 

Multiple forms of access mean you'll always be in touch with your information. You can use:
- Windows
- The World Wide Web
- E-mail
- WebDAV 

Integrated Storage 

Different types of content often live in specialized servers; e.g., e-mail. 

The same directory can store many types of file, such as:
- E-mail messages
- Web files
- Word processing files

You use a single interface to perform file management tasks on all types of file. 


If you want to save multiple versions of a file, you must give them unique file names and store them in their own folders. You have to manually organize and maintain your files. 

When you save a file, you can choose to keep older versions of the file. Oracle iFS manages the versions for you. All versions are stored in the same directory. 

File access for collaborative projects 

Access is all-or-nothing: if your teammates have access to your files, they can overwrite your work. If they don't have access to your work, they must work on separate copies of your files, which must then be manually combined. 

Check-in/check-out allows you to lock files you are working on to protect against other users overwriting your work. Security allows you to decide who should have access to individual files, and whether other users can update them.  


Files of different types, such as e-mail and word processing files, are stored in separate file systems, so you must perform multiple searches to locate all references to a topic.

Content-based searching is slow and difficult. 

Multiple file types can be stored together in Oracle iFS. You perform a single search to locate all references to a topic.

Content-based searching is not only fast, but sophisticated. 

How Does Oracle iFS Help Me Do My Work Faster?

As a user of Oracle iFS, it may be useful to you to know how the features of this product can help you do your work faster and with greater convenience

Table 1-2 How Oracle iFS helps users work faster

Work Requirement  iFS Provides  User Benefit 

Accessing and managing files 

Universal access to files using familiar interfaces. 

You don't have to learn a new interface in order to work with files stored in Oracle iFS. 

Working on a project that includes multiple types of files 

Unified access to multiple types of data.

Using a single interface, you can store and work with many different types of data:
- Word-processing files
- Spreadsheets
- Web pages
- Audio and video files
- E-mail messages
- XML 

You don't have to deal with separate file hierarchies stored in multiple applications. All your files, of whatever type, are visible when you open Oracle iFS.

One login provides access to all your files; you have only one username/password to remember. 

Keeping multiple versions of the same file 


Versioning lets you automatically save earlier versions of each file, and lets you track the development history of the files. If you are unhappy with recent changes to a file, you can access an earlier version of the file, rather than trying to recreate the file from memory. 

Managing file access on a collaborative project 

Check-in/check-out and locking 

Check-in/check-out lets you restrict when others can edit your files. While you're working on the file, you check it out; others can read your files, but no one can overwrite your work. 

Searching across multiple file types, such as web pages, e-mail, and word-processing files 

Combined searches 

Because multiple file types are stored in Oracle iFS, a single search returns a list that includes all file types that match your search criteria. 

Backing up data 

Database-level back up 

Because Oracle iFS is located in an Oracle database, you can use the data backup and recovery features of the database to protect all of your work files. 

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