We had the pleasure of co-hosting a webinar earlier this month with George Crump of Storage Switzerland and our strategic alliance partners from IBM Cloud Object Storage. The webinar examined the ongoing “tug of war” between productivity-focused users and security/governance-focused IT admins for file sync and share services in the enterprise, and how IT can achieve total security for cloud-based files.
As a follow-up to the webinar, Mr. Crump wrote a terrific blog post that examines how EFSS services are evolving into a broader enterprise file strategy, something that aligns very closely with CTERA’s unified approach to enterprise file services transformation, where cloud storage gateways, file collaboration and backup tools, and centralized management comprise a fully-integrated and secure platform for cloud-based file services. We’re happy to re-publish the Storage Switzerland post here on the CTERA blog. You can find the original version here.
Enterprise File Sync and Share vs. A File Strategy
Users want their files available to them at all times, on any device and at any location. Organizations are scrambling to implement enterprise file sync and share products answer the demand before users go off and do it themselves with an unapproved consumer solution, ie. Dropbox, Box, Google Drive. The justifications for an organizational approach to the file sharing request are numerous but organizations simply treating this particular symptom and not the whole file data problem are asking for trouble. Organizations need more than file sync and share. They need a file strategy.
What’s A File Strategy?
File sync and share is just one element of an enterprise file strategy. A file strategy encompasses everything an organization needs when it comes to dealing with file data. File sync and share for example does not address the data protection needs that users and remote offices have. File sync and share is not backup, it does not provide deep versioning of data nor does it typically provide for long term retention of data. It also does not typically have the ability to search for and find older files or previous versions of files.
A File Strategy Includes Backup
A file strategy does account for data protection. It not only protects the files users create but the devices they use to do so. A file strategy goes beyond just backing up files, and protects the core elements of the device (operating system, configuration files). In some cases the solution an organization uses to create this file strategy can also encompass branch offices servers running MS-SQL or Exchange.
A File Strategy Includes Data Distribution
A file strategy also includes data distribution. While at first glance it seems that an enterprise file sync and share solution provides data distribution, these are typically focused on the distribution needs of the individual user and not the organization. The organization will have more data than the individual user will want on their device, and frankly the organization will not want the users carrying all the data with them.
A file strategy will distribute data between the main office and remote offices by placing an appliance at each branch. Users can then access the data they need from these appliances at full network speeds when they are in the office. These appliances can also be leveraged to store the backups of user devices and remote office servers. Essentially these appliances replace the need for silo’ed network attached storage systems at each office, replacing them with a mesh-like connection of shared storage resources.
A file strategy should also enable a pathway to the cloud, either private or public. This cloud storage, also known as object storage, is significantly less expensive than traditional storage, lowering the cost to store the organization user data. It also opens the door to using cloud/object storage for other purposes like storing analytics or sensor data, as well as using this storage for long term data archive and preservation.
Finally, these systems do also need to take on the file sync and share challenge. Similar to any enterprise file sync and share solution they need to secure data, enable data sync and allow users to share data with external partners but with IT oversight. Of equal importance is user experience. All the security in the world won’t help the organization if the users dislike the experience so much they secretly continue to use consumer resources.
Implementing a file sync and share solution solves the immediate pain that organizations are experiencing. It gives IT back the control it needs over user data. But file sync and share by itself doesn’t go far enough to address the mobility problem where users and offices can be virtually anywhere creates a new additional requirements in terms of data protection and data distribution. Addressing all of these concerns requires a file strategy.