This article will discuss the AWS Zocalo service that AWS is providing for the customers that are looking for a secure storage and sharing service.

We will discuss in this article:

  • Basic concepts of Zocalo
  • Create a Directory
  • Add new users to Zocalo
  • Share files between users
  • Delete a Directory

Zocalo is a service that allows the user to store files in the cloud. The user has the option to synchronize the local folders from a computer with the cloud folders using purpose built applications. The files are accessible only to that user, but there is the option where you can share files so that other users can have access to them.

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A user of Zocalo can be a regular user or an administrator. An administrator can create Zocalo sites and manage permissions and other users.

Although the non-administrative users can access the Zocalo Administration Dashboard, they don’t need to do that to access their files. They can use client applications for files management.

AWS Zocalo offers multiple client applications and utilities:

  • Web application for document management. There are also iOS and Android applications. These applications are called collaboration clients.
  • Sync client – allows the synchronization of a folder from desktop/laptop with AWS Zocalo service.
  • Web clippers – browser extension that allows the user to save an image directly to AWS Zocalo in PNG format.

There are few limits to the AWS Zocalo service. There can only be two Simple AD directories and only two AD Connector directories per region.

AWS WorkSpaces users can use AWS Zocalo free of charge. By default, for a non-AWS WorkSpaces user, the storage is 200GB with a fixed price ($5). The storage can be increased if needed. The storage limit can be adjusted by the AWS Zocalo administrators.

So how do you enable Zocalo service and use it?

From the AWS Management Console, under “Enterprise Applications” select “Zocalo.” The banner will show you the generic steps needed to use the application. Click on “Get Started Now.”

Once you did this, you will have two options: “Quick Start” which is a quick way to set up the service in only one step without being asked for many details; and “Standard Setup” which is a more advanced wizard that lets you create your own Active Directory (Simple AD) or to connect to an already established one that you have created within your organization (AD Connector).

We will use the second option:

Then select “Create Simple AD”:

Fill in the details as below. These are the most important:

  • Site URL – this will be used as the link to access Zocalo service. It must be unique.
  • Email – this is the email to which the service activation confirmation will be sent

On the same page, you will need to fill in some details regarding VPC. You can either create a completely new one or use an existing one. I chose an existing one:

Once you review the setting and confirm that everything is as planned, you can click on “Create Directory”:

The next screen will show you all Zocalo sites, active or initializing ones. As you can see, once you create the site, it will be in “INITIALIZING” state:

Once it’s finished, the status will change to “ACTIVE”:

And you should receive a confirmation email to the email address provided in the beginning of the process. Click on “Get Started!” to finish the service activation:

You will be redirected to set up the username and password to access the service. Click on “Update User” to do so:

And you are logged in to Zocalo Administration Dashboard:

As you can see, I don’t have any files. From the top right corner, you can upload files or create folders:

To access the administration page where you can change the service settings or add other users, on the main page on the left menu, choose “Administration”:

As you can see, you have a status of your storage usage and few security settings. Also, you can see how many users you have using the service. Currently only one, with a role of administrator.

To add more users, click on “Invite Users” and you will be required to fill in the email address of the user that you want to add to the service and optionally you can change the subject and the content of the invite:

Once the invite is sent, until the users accept the invite, that user will be in “Pending” state. Once the user accepts it and logs in to Zocalo and configures the basic settings, it will have “Active” state:

With Zocalo you have the option to share files between users.

So, I uploaded a file as the second user and I want to share it with the first user. Select the file and then click the “Share…” button. You will have to fill in the details of the user with whom you want to share the file:

Now, I’m logged back as the first user and I can see the files shared with me, by choosing the “Shared with Me” option from the left menu. I can also see who shared this file with me:

You can download a client to access Zocalo. The client can be mobile or desktop/laptop type. From the left menu, choose “Download Apps” and you will get a page with your options:

This is how the Iphone folder view looks like for the second user:

This is how you can delete a Zocalo site. Select the site URL that you want to delete and from “Actions”, select “Delete Zocalo Site”:

There will be an additional step requiring delete confirmation and once confirmed, you can delete the Zocalo site:

While the deletion process is ongoing, the status will change to “DELETING”:

As you can see, Zocalo is pretty intuitive to work with.

However, the service is not an innovative one. There are plenty of competitors doing things slightly better like Google Docs. However, the fact that you can integrate AWS Zocalo with other AWS services, like AWS WorkSpaces, gives it better chances to be used by the customers in case the features that the customers are looking for are present on both AWS Zocalo and on other competitor’s products. Also, I don’t expect that AWS will not try catch up with its direct competitors on feature parity.

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