Friday Thought: Building a Cloud File Service

For many of the companies, non-profits, school systems, and local governments we work with, the desire to use the cloud is expanding beyond email and calendar.  These organizations are looking to move some or all of their file services into the cloud as well.

Motivation:

While the initial motivation is often to improve access to and sharing of information on projects, or in general, the planning process often reveals a greater value proposition. These secondary benefits derive from giving users direct access to data, and include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduced need for SSL VPN services and/or remote access, desktop, or virtual desktop solutions, resulting in lower hardware, software, networking, and support costs.
  • Reduced need for site-to-site links, enabling organizations to replace expensive point-to-point WAN links and MPLS networks with much less costly direct Internet access links.
  • Improved access to information from tablets and smart phones.
  • Reduced backup/restore costs, as physical infrastructure and in-house administration is replaced by cloud-to-cloud data protection services.

In short, cloud file services provide better user access to information, a simpler IT infrastructure, and lower costs.

Ecosystem

Many services exist to provide cloud-based file services and organizations are best off if they  review their needs before making a selection.  Beyond methods of accessing the service, be sure to review your permissions/security requirements with the features and function of the service.

Building a file service also means having the necessary components to ensure a robust ecosystem.

  • Affordable storage purchased as used or in flexible blocks
  • Drive letter access (DLA) or Network Place access from Windows desktops
  • Drive type access from Mac desktops, if needed
  • Access from mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets
  • Ability to integrate user identity with your LDAP, Active Directory, or SSO service
  • Availability of cloud-to-cloud backup/restore services
  • Encryption of data at rest and in transit
  • Ability to set permissions in accordance with your business needs, policies, and procedures

Execution

Moving to a cloud file service starts with understanding your requirements and the impact of the change on your computing environment and your end users.  Which aspects of the ecosystem do you need/want?  How will the change effect the user experience?  How will a new file service fit in with your other cloud solutions?  With an understanding of requirements, you can better match your needs to the available solutions and map out a migration that minimizes risk and enhances the benefits of the move.

 

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