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How Federal File Sharing is Hampered by Legacy Systems - and What U.S. Agencies Can Do About It

The ability to efficiently and securely transfer and share data is a top priority for IT departments within U.S. federal government agencies like the Department of Defense.

But federal file sharing can be hampered by legacy solutions that just aren’t as secure, fast, or flexible enough to meet today’s demands. This post looks at these traditional file sharing systems and methods, what’s missing, and what to look for in alternative approaches.

Overview of Legacy Federal File Sharing Approaches

  • SharePoint has been the traditional go-to file sharing system given its integration with Microsoft Office and its ability for central storage, but agencies have found this solution prohibitively expensive as their teams grew because of the nature of the licensing structure. Moreover, SharePoint is not as nimble as modern, file access anywhere alternatives needed for today’s roaming users.
  • Web-based file transfer tools came on the scene and filled the gap for a while, but they are not user friendly to large organizations requiring military-grade security. In addition, the protocol used to transfer large files, UDP, does not guarantee that all packets will arrive, making it an unreliable method. Alternatively, you could use TCP, but that is slower. There is no one good choice here.
  • If it were up to users, they might just attach files to their email, but the limitations here are obvious — there is no central place to retrieve files and large files cannot be reliably sent due to size caps. Large files, such as those over 5 MB, and some file types, such as .exe, are refused by many mail servers.
  • Legacy Network Attached Storage (NAS) has been a reliable file storage method, but is less ideal for file sharing, as it does not support multi-site collaboration, leading to data silos – the silent killer of organizational productivity. As well, NAS can be expensive to maintain as data volumes continue to grow unabated.
  • Lastly, agencies have used Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), but this method does not always provide reliable, secure access to key systems from remote locations. That’s especially problematic given the mission-critical, always-ready nature of field deployments, for example.

Modern Federal File Sharing Checklist

What’s missing for many agencies is a simple yet secure means to securely transfer, collaborate, and store files across globally distributed (and sometimes, geographically remote) locations. Such a solution should be easy to deploy, manage, and use, with always-on reliability and uptime to meet real-world missions.

To accomplish this, federal IT professionals should look for:

  • Efficient, Reliable Transfer and Sharing of Data. Look for a cyber-hardened platform that enables modern content collaboration (regardless of location and available links). Understand how the solution can enable efficient data transfer in the face of high-latency, low-bandwidth environments. This is done today through a variety of WAN-optimization and sync technologies.
  • Military-Grade Security. Most modern file transfer and sharing solutions cannot meet the requirements of sensitive federal workloads. That’s why agencies are seeking solutions that are FIPS 140-2 validated, and not just ‘compliant,’ to ensure the highest levels of data encryption. As well, federal organizations should look for multi-factor client-side authentication using PKI certificates and smart cards, to ensure that files are not improperly accessed or collaborated on by rogue users.
  • Compatibility with DISA-hosted solutions to ensure that users of DISA milCloud® have a secure, resilient, and flexible method to access their data anywhere, anytime, and on any device globally.
  • VDI Support to deliver high-performance and highly-resilient file experiences for users traveling to remote locations. The solution should work not only with satellite communications but also emerging technologies such as 5G.

Download the Enterprise File Services Know-It-All Pack.


Looking Ahead

The goal for government and military agencies should be the deployment of a federal file sharing solution that enables secure and modern file data transfer across any number of distributed locations and users. Forward-looking agencies are deploying on-premises file services platforms that deliver the same resiliency, productivity, and elasticity as cloud-based file services, while meeting stringent military-grade data security requirements.

We’d love to show you how CTERA can modernize federal file sharing within your agency through our enterprise file system please contact us for a demo and visit our federal government industry webpage for more information CTERA’s government file sharing solutions.

Saimon Michelson is CTERA’s Chief Architect for North America.

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