Where Is The Copy of Record in a File Sync & Share Service? – CTERA Product Spotlight

When assessing Enterprise File Sync and Share services (EFSS), it’s essential to understand the concept of the copy of record. What is the “copy of record?” The term is borrowed from the legal world, and it refers to the original document, or the official copy from which other copies are made. Another term for the same thing is the authoritative copy. The question is this: When you are using an enterprise file sync and share service, where is the authoritative copy or copy of record? The answer can help you assess the capabilities of the overall EFSS service.

In the electronic world, the copy of record is the “master” file from which other copies can be synchronized. Although data always originates on a user’s laptop as files are created, edited and stored, the EFSS system then synchronizes any new files or file changes to the centralized file system in the cloud. It is the instance of the file within the cloud file system that becomes the master copy of record – all future changes to the file (which can occur at any connected device that has access to the file) first are synchronized to the master, and then are pushed to all synchronized copies.

Let’s extend the concept to a File System of record – a single repository that houses all of the organization’s file data and serves as the clearinghouse for keeping data in sync across many sites and users. It is clear why this would be advantageous. A single, centrally accessible repository for the entire organization would dramatically simplify the process of accessing and sharing data for end users. Users would be able to peruse the contents of the file system from their laptops without the need to have all of the content synchronized.

Achieving this file system of record requires a few things. First, it requires a global namespace so that every file has a single unique identifier, even when scaling to billions of files spread across hundreds of locations and many thousands of users. It also requires caching, so users can access and visualize the contents of the central file system, without the need to store it all locally.

With the delivery of V6.0 of its Enterprise File Services platform, CTERA has moved to a centralized File System of Record, which provides a significant jolt not only to the ability to share and collaborate, but also has an immediate impact on the overall cost of equipment for an organization’s office and mobile workers.

CTERA Adopts the Caching Model

CTERA has a major update to its file services platform, and most of the big changes center around where they consider the copy of record to be. CTERA is a multifaceted product that offers NAS file servers that synchronize their data to a private (object storage) or public cloud, and an EFSS service that can also synchronize file data to a customers laptop or desktop, as well as integration with Office 365.

Intelligent Caching

CTERA customers have always been able to share data with each other. Prior to this update, a CTERA user wanting to share a file with another user in the organization needed to put that file into a directory that was synchronized with any users wishing to have access to that data. The entire directory containing the file was then synchronized to that user’s laptop or desktop, or to the gateway offering them NAS file services. Users wanting to collaborate a lot ended up synchronizing a lot of data to each other, resulting in a lot of files being synchronized to a lot of locations – even though those locations may never access those files.

In 6.0, the directory on a user’s laptop or a folder on a gateway appliance are just caches for the copy of record that is stored in the private or public cloud the appliance is connected to. Once the cached file is synced to the private or public cloud, all other users can see the file in their file managers or browsers. At first glance, it might not seem that different, because files are still created on the individual laptop or appliance and then synchronized to the private or public cloud. The big difference is the file will not be synced to their desktop or gateway until they access the file.

All files stored anywhere in the CTERA universe are part of a global file system that everyone can access. Only permissions dictate the folders and files that they are ultimately able to see. Prior to 6.0, users could only see folders that had been synchronized to their desktop or gateway. Now they can see any files that have been given permission to see via the organization’s permissions and authentication system, such as Active Directory.

Prior to 6.0, the amount of data you could share with your coworkers was dictated by the amount of storage they had on their local desktop, laptop or gateway, because all files inside a directory would be synchronized to that location. That means they had to have enough storage for all files, whether they needed them or not, or were actively using them.

There are advantages to treating the private or public cloud copy as the copy of record and the local copy as simply a cached copy. It solves the multiple editors problem by locking the file in making sure to users don’t edit the same file at the same time. For some environments that will be crucial.

Space Savings

Other advantages come in the savings in bandwidth and storage by only replicating files that are actually being used. By only caching files that users are actively using, the appliance or desktop only needs to have enough space for files in active use. Files that have not been used by a local user, or files that have not been used them in a while will be found only in the private or public cloud the system is connected to. The file will still be visible in their file manager, and will be cached to their local system if they open the file. In addition to seeing all files in their desktop or NAS gateway (not just cached ones), users are also able to see any files they have access to by logging into the web portal or mobile app.

Not all users will be able to use this new functionality, such as users that are often off-line or on very slow connections. Waiting until a user opens a file before pulling it from the private or public cloud it is stored in could be problematic in those scenarios, which is why CTERA offers the ability to “pin” files or directories to a location so that they get replicated in the old way. In this scenario, two users could create conflicts, but there is really no way around it if they are offline.

Advanced Data Security

In addition to these performance-increasing and space-saving advances in 6.0, CTERA also offers advanced security for all of your data. Data is encrypted before being sent to the private or public cloud, using keys that are managed by the customer and never accessed by the vendor. They also support strong authentication, including active directory, two factor authentication, Smartcard, and CAC. They have various levels of sharing and ways to verify the data hasn’t been corrupted, including the ability to monitor files for viruses and automatically quarantine them if infected. They also support electronic shredding any data that is cached to a particular appliance or mobile system in case it is compromised.

StorageSwiss Take

The CTERA platform offers a strong solution, including remote office filers and client applications for desktops and laptops, as well as mobile phones. Customers can access their data anywhere, including via the web client, and be assured the data they are receiving is the copy of record. All data is stored in the cloud (either private or public) at all times, and only active data is synchronized to the local system, saving bandwidth and space.

Sponsored by CTERA

Watch On Demand

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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