WebDAV Server – What is WebDAV ?

WebDAV Server: What is WebDAV

What is WebDAV ?

In the earlier stages of Web development, users were only able to read or view content on the web. Obviously, somebody had to create or write the content offline before uploading it. But it was not possible back them for users to connect to Web servers, open documents, and then edit them online like the way we do now on Google Drive.

Noticing the potential of the internet for remote collaboration applications like distributed content authoring, where multiple authors could work together on the same document type even while writing from different parts of globe, an IETF team was formed to create extensions to Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that could allow such applications.

What is a WebDAV server? WebDAV was the resulting extension of HTTP. It was initially specified under RFC 2518, and this was later replaced by RFC 4918.

Since it was a HTTP extension, WebDAV is normally served via port 80 for the HTTP connections and port 443 for the HTTPS connections. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is used to encrypt the WebDAV HTTPS connections, which makes them ideal for confidential documents.

WebDAV Server – An Overview

A Web Distributed Server or WebDAV is a server that allows remote content editing and reading. It runs on the WebDAV protocol that enables users to change, create or move files on the server. If you are using a WebDAV server for file storage on your local network, you can be able to continue working on your documents before uploading them into the web server.

DropBox WebDAV  – Learn how this integration works with DropDAV

WebDAV Server Details

The WebDAV protocol extends the HTTP protocol to allow clients to author documents via the HTTP extensions. You will need a WebDAV client to author or edit documents, but viewing them can be done via HTTP a browser.

Every WebDAV server grants access to a single database for authoring or reading as per the security permissions set. In the process, all of the document associated with data including collections, metadata, and properties are also transferred.

You can configure a WebDAV server to access the database via the Admin Interface. The documents in the database will be viewable via HTTP, but users can also modify, delete or add to them via WebDAV. Unlike in HTTP, you get no modules database with a WebDAV server. It’s therefore not possible to create XQuery codes.

It is, however, possible to form a database as the designated database for HTTP server and access the same from a WebDAV server. You can then edit the code from a WebDAV server that executes from an HTTP, server.

Is WebDav Secure?

WebDAV server authenticates users via the IDs and passwords stored in its security database. Apart from access, the server also controls database privileges and roles. You can set an application level security to allow people to log in without a password. The guests will have both read and write privileges.

WebDAV Directories

WebDAV directories are analogous to the file system directory. An index is necessary to view the documents in the server. Every file in the directory bears a URI with the directory URI as the prefix. The documents also have the WebDAV root as the prefix.

When using a WebDAV server to save documents in a database, you can set the directory setting in your server to automatic using the Admin Interface.  That will automatically create the root directory that is needed to access the database.  This also helps when manually loading documents with a URIS that is not in the database.

WebDAV Server URIs

Directories are usually stored as properties documents in a server database.  The directory will have a URI ending in a forward slash (/) sign. You can retrieve the properties documents in a database using an xdmp: document-properties () function. It is ideal to always create documents that don’t end in a forward slash so as not to confuse them with directory URIs.

What is a WebDAV Server Root Directory

WebDAV servers often have a concept of a root. This is the highest-level directory that can be accessed from the server. The root functions as a prefix for the documents and directory URIs in the WebDAV server. The root could be any URI always ending with a forward slash (/).  All the files accessible via the WebDAV server need to have URIs beginning with the root. On the same case, documents created via a WebDAV client must have URIs starting with the WebDAV root.

Documents in a WebDAV Server

A WebDAV server mainly serves to enable storing, retrieval, and modification of documents in a database. These documents can be of any type including text documents (.txt) or binary, source code, XML or MS Word files. Since the documents are in a database, one can create applications to use the content in those documents as needed. The restore and database back up features on the WebDAV server enable for undoing changes and saving the content in the database.

In a nutshell, the above guide gives comprehensive information about what is a WebDAV server to the users who are interested in storing or creating their documents in its database.

What is a WebDAV server? WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) is a protocol that basically enables users to edit, share, copy and move files via a web server. This protocol also supports collaborative authoring of internet content.

What is a WebDAV Server’s Features?

The following are some features of WebDAV:

  • Locking: This is also called concurrency control and it prevents overwriting of files being accessed by several authors from different geographical locations.
  • XML properties: These facilitate operations on metadata like storage and retrieval.
  • DAV Protocol: Allows for directory setting, retrieval and deleting.
  • DASL: This is DAV Searching and Locating protocol and it enables searches associated with property values for finding resources online.
  • Namespace manipulation: It supports copy and transfer operations.

How to Connect to a WebDAV Server

To be able to connect to a WebDAV server, a WebDAV client is required. This may be:

  • A file transfer client e.g. AnyClient.
  • A file manager e.g. Linux KDE Dolphin, Linux Mint Cinnamon’s Nemo, Windows File Explorer and Mac Finder.
  • A browser that has the capability to run a Java applet.
  • Any kind of WebDAV-enabled client.

The syntax of the WebDAV URL varies from one client to another. It is important to know the exact URL required for your specific WebDAV client to avoid trouble connecting. Some variations of the URL are:

  • dav://[hostname or IP address]/[path]/
  • http://[hostname or IP address]/[path]/
  • webdav://[username]@[hostname or IP address]/[path]/

What is a WebDAV Server Used for?

After connecting to a WebDAV server successfully, you can do a number of things such as:

  • Create new files
  • Edit existing files
  • Copy or transfer files between local folders and remote folders
  • Delete files
  •  Create new folders, and so on.

WebDAV Vs. FTP Comparison

There are many similarities between FTP and WebDAV. Operations such as copying and transferring files or making and deleting folders can also be done via FTP (and other file transfer protocols such as FTTPs and SFTP). However, with WebDAV you can do so much more in addition to transferring files.

For example, if you wish to edit files saved on a WebDAV server, you do not have to download them first (this is what you would typically do with FTP). To edit files, simply double click them. This will make the files load via the local applications associated with them. You can edit the files from there and after you are done, just save the files and any changes you made will be automatically made on the files on the server.

Being able to edit files on the server has some important advantages. The most important one is that it ensures the most current file version can be accessed in one place.

However, it should be noted that not all WebDAV clients allow uses to drag and drop files or open the files by double-clicking.

Regardless, WebDAV enables multiple users to modify the same file type remotely. This is ideal for collaborative activities, which was actually the main reason why WebDAV was created.

Another benefit WebDAV has over FTP is the fact that it is firewall-friendly because it operates over HTTP. To enable access, you just have to open port 80 or 443. While using FTP, sometimes there’s a need to understand the deeper operations of active and passive FTP modes to be able to configure firewalls properly.

WebDAV Alternatives 

WebDAV allows remote editing and manipulation of files. There are some other mechanisms for working with remote server files such as:

  1. File Transfer Protocol (FTP): Simple network protocol that allows file transfer between network hosts.
  2. SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP): Extension of Secure Shell (SSH) protocol and it enables secure file transfer.
  3. Distributed file systems: An example is Server Message Block (SMB) which lets Microsoft Windows and Samba users to access and manipulate files or folders remotely.
  4. AtomPub: This is an HTTP-based protocol used for creating and managing web resources.
  5. CMIS: Uses AtomPub based and SOAP based interfaces.
  6. Wiki Software e.g. MediaWiki.
  7. Linked Data Platform (LDP): A collection of integration patters used for creating RESTful HTTP applications that can read-write RDF data.

Though there are some other alternatives to WebDAV, none of them integrate all the features of WebDAV.