SWITCHdrive: building a service together

We take a look at how the popular SWITCHdrive service was created through cooperation with the academic community.

Text: Christoph Herzog, published on 08.03.2016

Identifying needs:

What are we lacking?

In 2012, two university IT heads write a request to SWITCH. Their work has revealed a need for a file-sharing platform that works across the various universities. University members are using platforms that are not secure. The two managers would like SWITCH to look into potential alternatives.

Improving understanding and generating ideas:

What is the greatest common factor?

Workshops are held with university IT representatives so that we at SWITCH can verify that this is a general need felt within the SWITCH community, whether everyone has the same need and the same understanding of it and what the greatest common factor is. It turns out that one thing is absolutely vital for "sync & share": university members need a simple way to share files to secondary (mobile) devices and with colleagues. A key condition of this is that the data must never leave Switzerland so as to ensure that they remain subject to Swiss law.

Evaluating and selecting solutions:

What is available?

We at SWITCH evaluate a range of products. Two of them make it onto the shortlist.

Problem-solving, prototyping and piloting:

How well does it work?

We build two systems and invite a cross-section of interested parties to take part in testing, including IT, administrative, teaching and research staff. SWITCH staff also take part in the tests, focusing on the technical operation aspects. We assess all of the user feedback and decide to launch a service.

Developing the service and preparing for launch:

Try it out!

We use the new SWITCH community cloud to set up the necessary architecture and integrate the product. For instance, access is protected with AAI. In April 2014, we start free test operation for universities. This phase is important for us because it allows us improve know-how and fine-tune processes ready for full-scale operation. We can also draw up a pricing schedule based on the cost of running the service – personnel costs being the biggest factor. The ramp-up phase is extended until the end of 2015 at the community’s request.


Now it gets serious!

At the start of 2016, testing is over. Users now have to pay for SWITCHdrive. This ensures that we can continue to operate the service for a long time to come.

Enhancing benefits and constant upgrading:

Onwards and upwards!

We hold annual administrator meetings to ensure that the service can continue to meet users’ needs going forward. For example, some administrators asked for a tool to increase storage quotas, so we created it for them.
The meetings also serve to share experiences. The universities tell us they are interested in how they can promote SWITCHdrive internally and how they can get users to stop storing confidential information on platforms based outside Switzerland.

This article appeared in the SWITCH Journal March 2016.


About the author
Christoph   Herzog

Christoph Herzog

After graduating in IT, Christoph Herzog developed applications and managed IT teams at various service firms. He became Application Services Team Leader at SWITCH in 2013.


SWITCHdrive in figures

75% of universities give their staff and students access to SWITCHdrive. More than 30 million files are currently being shared and synchronised.

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