A few years ago, we had to use all our powers of persuasion to convince organizations to move their files from on-premise servers to cloud-based file storage solutions. Now, associations and nonprofits are on board with that approach because they want their IT staff to spend less time managing servers and more time helping colleagues achieve strategic and business goals.
If you plan to replace your traditional Windows file server with a cloud-based file storage service, first of all, good move, and now, let’s look at the available options.
The range of cloud-based file storage solutions
Enterprise file sharing solutions include ShareFile, SmartFile, and FileCloud. You can snap these solutions onto your existing file server, creating ubiquitous file access with differing levels of capability. These solutions provide an easy entry into file sharing—and that means quicker implementation and adoption—because they leverage your current structures, backup/restoration configurations, and permissions.
SaaS offerings include Microsoft OneDrive and Microsoft SharePoint Online (SPO). Before you decide to skip over this paragraph, here’s something you should know: these Microsoft products have really matured over the past six months. We've had very successful deployments of both OneDrive and SPO. The newer OneDrive syncing technology makes working with SharePoint reliable and seamless—something we would not have said a couple of years ago. We've even seen good performance with larger media file sets.
You could also opt for a hosted private cloud that offers enterprise-level redundancy, business continuity, and disaster recovery.
A hybrid approach offers “cloud-extended” file shares. The application sits on top of your current file server and permission structure. Essentially, it's an enterprise file sharing, sync, and backup solution that works with existing permissions. It allows staff in the office to access files via file shares, while also giving ubiquitous file access and syncing capability to staff that travel and/or work remotely without the need for a VPN or remote desktop connection.
All these options have their pros and cons, but it really comes down to requirements and your association’s work style, for example, your telecommuting policy, file structure taxonomy, and departmental cross-sharing. If you’re already on Office 365, start by evaluating SPO since it checks most of the boxes and is wrapped into Office 365.
Issues to consider before investigating cloud-based file storage solutions
ROI and hidden costs. You know what your boss will say when you make a recommendation for a new file storage solution: what’s it going to cost and is it a better value? Other issues may loom larger in your mind, but value for cost is going to be of concern to the C-suite.
Keep an eye out for hidden fees for reading data—Amazon Web Services (AWS) is known for that. Find out how much it will cost to build out redundancy and backup. Ask about bandwidth charges for moving data back and forth, another AWS concern. To get the best value for your budget, engage with a partner who will help you keep an eye on costs, like DelCor, a Microsoft Direct Cloud Service Provider.
Latency. Should you worry about latency? Not with a hosted private cloud, and thanks to its integration into OneDrive, Microsoft SPO has come a long way in negating latency issues.
Limitations on larger files. Media files can pose a problem, but a cloud partner, like DelCor, has the experience and tools to mitigate this issue.
Data "leakage" or exfiltration. How are you going to control data flowing out of the organization? It’s inherently easier for users to access files over the WAN, but it’s also easy for them to share files too and risk sending your intellectual property out of your control. Many cloud file storage solutions include audit logs (like a report on “all folders or files that have been shared in the past 30 days”) and sharing controls (like “do not allow sharing of this folder outside the organization”).
Paradigm shift. To fully implement and effectively use a cloud-based solution like SPO, your organization may need a paradigm shift. You should invest time in training staff so they can realize the potential of this technology. Only then will they become comfortable and efficient in collaborating in documents, as well as sharing content and collaborating with external constituents.
A task list for preparing your association for cloud-based file storage
Identify your overall data set, including file type and size. To make this job easier, clean up your on-premise file server before migrating. Remove duplicate and unnecessary files and folders.
Select a cross-section of users and departments to get a good representation of files and usage.
Develop a plan to manage organizational files. How are you going to work with large files?
Determine your collaboration needs, both within documents and for sharing documents outside the organization.
Identify document retention and protection needs.
Develop and/or update backup and disaster recovery strategies, including restoration points for disaster recovery and business continuity, i.e. recovery point object and recovery time object. Document these strategies. Know what the SaaS provider’s recovery process is, what they will do for you, and how you will need to augment it to fit your business needs. However, with SaaS, you need a secondary backup strategy.
Moving file storage to the cloud is a wise strategy but you must approach it with eyes wide open. Know your options and understand potential issues. An experienced partner, like DelCor, will help you make the right choice, run a smooth migration, and get the most out of your new cloud file storage solution.
Read how one association determined that a managed private cloud was right for them. Download our free white paper, Out of the Server Closet, Into the Cloud, to learn how Enterprise Wireless Alliance’s move to DelCor’s private cloud began with a network assessment and how they turned IT from a cost center to a mission-enabler.