Managing a large-scale distributed company is complex. The ultimate purpose of any company is to act as an integrated, unified system that produces results greater than the sum of its parts. But more often than not, rather than enjoying economies of scale, companies become fragmented and costly to manage.
Remote and branch offices (ROBOs) are especially hard to manage from the perspective of an IT administrator. The traditional approach, in which each branch office effectively operates within its own silo, can result in high costs and poor quality of service.
The IT Administrator Fantasy
As an IT administrator, you may have fantasies of making things much simpler. Perhaps you’ve thought of dropping the storage from the branch offices, and instead of individual silos of branch storage, you’d build a centralized storage system.
But unfortunately this approach breaks down in any sizable company. The latency and connectivity problems are too much for employees to bear. You need to keep some storage at the branches. But which kind?
Clearly, you don’t want to replicate all your data to all the branches. It’s not cheap, and it’s also not secure. Data at a remote office is not as well guarded as your main datacenters. You are placing equipment in unsecure facilities, sometimes with no security guard or video surveillance. (This is especially true for the smaller branch offices.)
You don’t want all your sensitive data to be sitting on premises in this type of environment. If someone gains physical access to the machine, they could easily steal the data that exists there. Or worse, they might inject false data or malicious applications that would spread across the company.
A Practical Solution – Edge Filers
The primary solution to this dilemma is the cloud storage gateway, or Edge Filer, as we call it at CTERA. It’s a special type of file server that provides access to a global file system from a remote location. The caching gateway stores a subset of the organization’s data locally; which part to keep locally is something you can define statically by “pinning” specific folders to a specific branch. You can also have the gateway manage it dynamically, based on a continuous analysis of the file usage patterns at each branch.
Caching gateways expose an infinite, elastic cloud storage space, meaning they don’t need to be often expanded to provide additional capacity. A caching gateway can work for years unattended, without requiring any maintenance. This is especially important in reducing “truck rolls” to the branch offices.
By caching files, the gateway isolates remote office employees from having to deal with the high latency, limited bandwidth and occasional hiccups that WAN links can be prone to.
We have plenty more information for you to learn more about branch storage and CTERA’s caching technologies: