When presented with all the potential capabilities of the cloud, almost any IT professional can be overwhelmed, especially when all the potential risks are factored into its use. At times like these it is best to simply take a step back and not over-think your cloud strategy. The key is to start small, with something that the cloud is particularly good at and that a data center is not. There are a few obvious choices, cloud backup, and file sync and share for example. One that is overlooked is using the cloud as a file server replacement.
Each of the above use cases are delivered better when a hybrid model is used. As we described in “What is Hybrid Cloud Backup” this often entails putting a physical appliance on-site and having that appliance replicate data to the cloud. This provides a low latency, high performance, local experience while leveraging the seemingly limitless capacity of the cloud.
Cloud backup has come a long way. What started out as a viable way to backup laptops has evolved into business class data protection solutions. You can read our analysis of various companies in this space, including Axcient, Dakota Cloud, Datto and Infrascale.
File Sync and Share
As we discussed in our recent article “How to Beat Dropbox” IT simply can’t afford to ignore the demand for file sync and share. But at the same time they can’t allow users to leverage consumer based solutions outside of IT’s control. There is too much data at risk. If a person leaves the organization, their data goes with them. There are a variety of options ranging from encrypted, cloud based solutions, to private file sync and share products like Connected Data’s Transporter (stay tuned for a detailed write up on this solution) as well as Egnyte’s solution.
File Server Replacement
Using the cloud to replace your file server is often an overlooked option and one that we think the cloud is well suited for. In some ways it has evolved into file sync and share ‘on steroids’. These systems again leverage an appliance model to act as a cache. The appliance is then placed in each facility that the organization has world wide. The appliance intelligently contains the data that each specific location is working on, but users have access, if authenticated, to the entire organization’s data.
As we discussed in our recent article “How to unlock the power of Cloud Storage – File Versioning vs. Locking” many of these solutions now provide global file locking capabilities, something that most file sync and share solutions lack. Global file locking means that a user in London can open and start editing a file, and if a user in New York accesses that same file they will get a read-only notification. This eliminates the “last person that saves wins” problem that many file sync and share solutions suffer from.
In addition, the cloud as a file server replacement also removes one of the biggest data protection problems from the IT to-do list, file server backup. All of this protection is now handled in the cloud and replicated to a secondary location.
Both Panzura and Nasuni are examples of this cloud-as-a-file-server replacement strategy, with Nasuni being a complete turnkey service. Our latest product analysis “Using the Nasuni Service to solve File Data Challenges” details their approach.
Developing a cloud strategy is a lot like eating an elephant, it can seem like a big job, but one that’s more manageable when done in small bites. The above use cases are ideal examples of how to get started with a cloud strategy.