Using the Nasuni Service to solve File Data Challenges

File data, also known as unstructured data, is one of the biggest challenges facing IT. Users want seamless access to this data no matter where they are or how old the data is. IT needs to manage the growth of this data so that it is well protected and that its capacity requirements don’t consume the IT budget. While many IT professionals have turned to the cloud to attempt to solve this problem, they often end up with a hodgepodge of products that don’t inter-operate and have to be managed separately. The Nasuni Service promises to eliminate cloud fragmentation by offering a complete service.

The Service

One of the first key differentiators for Nasuni is the “service” aspect of their solution. It is a single solution that provides the protection of unstructured data and the distribution of the data throughout the organization. The storage however, is in the cloud and rapid access is pushed out to nodes that are installed in the organization’s data centers and remote offices. In the latest release of the service that “node” can even be a laptop used by the organization’s mobile workforce. Since you are subscribing to the service there is no need to buy storage capacity or storage software again. The system continually adds more capacity as the data center needs it and the software upgrades are seamless to the users.

The Architecture

Architecturally the on-site “node” is an appliance that caches data between the location where the nodes are sitting and the centralized cloud storage location. Based on access patterns and policies that you set, data is pushed to the nodes for rapid, latent free access. Most of the time users will experience the same performance that they had with a traditional NAS or file server.

Single Master Copy and Global File Locking

Nasuni uses a single master copy so that all of the organization’s locations see the same view of their data. This eliminates redundant files being created so that each location has a copy of pertinent data it needs. A global name space also makes management of file data easier since IT administrators only have to manage one instance of the file server, instead of multiple ones per location.

To make the single master copy truly seamless The Nasuni Service also adds global file locking. This means that if a file is open in one location, it shows up as locked or read-only in all the other locations. Locking provides version control and ensures data integrity. For example if a Microsoft Word document is being edited by a user in location A, when a user in any other location opens that document they are presented with Word’s read-only dialog. While important in that situation, this capability is critical in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) market where very large project files are often edited by locations around the world. Most importantly, Nasuni’s implementation of global file locking is highly scalable and one that should support an almost unlimited amount of users.

Nasuni Mobile

While Nasuni has had a mobile client for a while, the most recent release has added local sync capabilities for Windows and Mac users. This allows them not only to access data when they are not in the primary or a branch location but also when they are not connected. Nasuni Mobile is a software application that runs on a Windows, Mac, iOS or Android device. It allows access to the same centralized cloud data store that the locations use. Any file they edit or add will instantly be replicated to the cloud. At that point it is available for users in other locations as well as other mobile users to be able to access.

Nasuni Data Protection

The Nasuni service described above solves the problem of uncontrolled file data growth and, thanks to the global file system, global file locking and mobile clients solves the file sharing challenge that many organizations are just now trying to get a handle on. The real payoff of The Nasuni Service however is how it lightens the burden on the data protection process.

For many organizations, unstructured, tier 2 data accounts for 80% to 90% of the data in the organization. All of this data needs to be protected and stored, in many cases for a very long time. There may also be a need to have multiple versions of this data available. Because of the size of this data set and the sheer number of files that it contains, it is a data protection nightmare, but one that The Nasuni Service addresses well.

First, all data as it is created or modified is snapshot to the cloud for storage. The cloud service automatically replicates this data to a secondary cloud data center. As a result, data protection and disaster recovery needs are met. For point in time or version tracking, The Nasuni Service can create manual or scheduled snapshots of the organization’s data. There is neither limit to the number of snapshots that can be active nor a limit to how long they can be held. There is also no performance impact to holding millions of active snapshots.

There are two types of recoveries that the organization typically needs to deal with when it comes to file data. The first is if a user accidentally deletes a file or saves over a file. In this case the snapshots can easily be browsed or searched to find data when needed.

The second type of recovery is when one of the locations is impacted by a disaster. The Nasuni Service provides two benefits in this situation. First, as mentioned above, all the data is still accessible from any of the other locations. Second, when the impacted location is reestablished a new appliance is installed and data is reloaded. But while this data reload is occurring, all the data is still accessible via the cloud.

What About Cloud Failure?

A legitimate concern to a solution like The Nasuni Service might be what happens if the cloud backend fails? Nasuni uses Microsoft’s Azure as its standard cloud storage or Amazon AWS, if a customer requests, and both of these services have been down for brief periods of time. Customers using The Nasuni Service have never been impacted by a cloud outage because the most active data set was cached in each location’s node. If there is a cloud outage most of the data can still be accessed, in fact most customers never realize there is an outage when one occurs.


File data is a key challenge for the data center and the expectations for availability of this data continues to increase. Users want access to their data anytime, anywhere. At the same time, age old problems like data protection still exist and are also getting worse thanks to growth in the size of and number of files. Services like The Nasuni Service promise to address these issues in a single package that lowers costs and administration time.

Sponsored by Nasuni

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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