File sharing and collaboration is critical for businesses that have highly distributed workforces but maintaining control and security over sensitive business data is equally important. File sharing solution provider, Talon, is helping to deliver cloud enabled file sharing to businesses that want to provide the convenience of a Box or Dropbox like solution to their end users, without relinquishing control or compromising the security of their information.
Shadow IT Risks
Public cloud file sync and share solutions have become very popular with end users because it enables them to access and share data with their fellow co-workers wherever they have an internet connection. These services are easy to use, can be accessed from any mobile device and often provide TBs of storage capacity at no cost. As a result, many end users have switched to using cloud based file sync and share applications over the VPN based file sharing services that are provided by their IT departments. The challenge is that this data is out of the control of IT, it may not be protected with encryption and could be accessed by an unauthorized user. Most importantly when or if the employee leaves the company, the organizational data that was on their device(s) goes with them.
File Sharing Bottlenecks
Another challenge with public file sync and share services is if very large files need to be shared between users, it could take an inordinate amount of time for the file to be transferred over the internet to the requesting user. CAD-CAM or architecture and engineering files for example, can easily be hundreds of MBs if not GBs in size. Transporting files of these magnitudes can slow down collaboration efforts, especially if these documents have to be frequently passed back and forth between multiple users. In addition, since most file sync and share technologies don’t provide some type of file locking services, there is the potential for multiple users to be making edits of the same file at the same time. This means that all of these changes need to be incorporated into a “gold” copy in order for the editing cycle to be completed. This could add to delays in meeting project deadlines and could also result in mistakes that cost the firm or it’s client’s money.
WAN Based Control
To get around these issues, Talon’s FAST software offering provides businesses with a way to give their knowledge workers seamless access to data on their edge devices so that they can be productive without compromising data security or data integrity. The FAST technology can be deployed as a private cloud solution that can leverage 3rd party NAS or object storage systems plus it can leverage public cloud storage as a secondary and/or tertiary storage tier for low cost storage capacity. But one of Talon’s interesting differentiators is that regardless of where file data is stored, in the enterprise or in the cloud, all file access flows through the corporate WAN. This gives IT organizations an added layer of security as it ensures that sensitive file data can only be accessed from users with the necessary login credentials to access the corporate WAN.
Local High Performance
FAST also provides rapid access to files stored on private or hybrid cloud resources by utilizing disk resources where end-users are located as a “hot” data cache. So active data always remains local but it is also always protected via periodic data snapshot copies that are mirrored back to the primary data center and/or public cloud. And for large data files, FAST supports data streaming and compression. So if a large video file or architecture diagram is accessed from a remote location, FAST will first compress the data to reduce the payload that has to traverse the WAN. After the data is compressed, FAST will then begin queuing up the file locally, so that the user can immediately begin viewing the file even while the remaining segments are being actively streamed back to their device. This capability gives end users the experience of accessing data as if it is stored locally, even when it is centrally managed and protected.
Another important element to the FAST offering is its ability to customize file access to comply with corporate data governance. For example, if an organization’s policy is never to allow certain documents, like corporate financial statements, to leave the confines of the enterprise data center environment, FAST can be configured to ensure that these files are never moved into public cloud storage. FAST also supports “file locking” services so changes that are made to files can be controlled by granting only one user editing privileges at a time, while others can be provided read only access.
Storage Swiss Take
Data mobility is no longer a “nice to have” feature for businesses but is instead becoming a must have capability. Between mobile sales forces, remote knowledge workers, business partners and customers, there is an increasing need to share data rapidly, efficiently and securely. The challenge is that there are so many options to choose from and consequently, it can be confusing for today’s IT decision maker to vet out all the potential solutions available on the market.
What’s interesting about Talon’s FAST offering is that it can be utilized as part of a private data center solution only, or it can be used in tandem as part of a hybrid cloud environment that leverages public cloud storage provider infrastructure, while still keeping the flow of data on the corporate WAN. So for example, businesses could start out with a private deployment model and then over time expand their use of the FAST file sharing offering into the public cloud to help drive additional storage efficiencies. Having the flexibility to implement a solution which can meet a variety of deployment scenarios is a key towards future-proofing any technology investment.