Selecting the most effective file storage and sharing solutions for your organization is a complex proposition. There are many facets to consider, including data type, usage, security, and regulatory requirements, user accessibility, retention policies, and user access audit tracking.
Handling sensitive data such as employee records, contracts, financial data, and intellectual property assets requires a file storage solution to manage user permissions and appropriate protection and controls available.
What type of data?
Not all data is equal. Companies have legal liability around certain types of data, though this varies by industry, geography, and regulatory compliance. For instance, there are serious consequences to losing control of your human resources data. If your firm is in the aerospace industry, and falls under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), then much of your engineering, manufacturing, and transactional data must also be tightly controlled; failure to do so carries criminal liabilities. However, marketing brochure data is unlikely to be of any significant consequence since it’s intended for public consumption. Avoid treating all data as equal. Doing so places a burden and overhead on all data, which adds cost and no value.
Where are the users?
If your data users are all in one location, keeping data stored locally to that group may make sense. However, if your users are decentralized, your data should be stored to facilitate distributed access, e.g., the cloud.
How much data—and how large are the files?
A small amount of data in small files is relatively inexpensive to store in the cloud, but large volumes of data (10 TB or more) could be costly. Most cloud storage solutions are built with single file-size limitations (25GB is a standard size limitation). If you have large files or large amounts of data, you may need to consider alternative storage solutions.
How do we control access to the files?
Many cloud services have their own stand-alone security and access control mechanisms. Some allow for seamless integration with Directory Services (e.g., Microsoft Active Directory and Azure Active Directory). A proven way to improve security is to integrate the management of access controls, so all are managed consistently rather than as separate instances.
Do you want your data backed up? What about disaster recovery?
When you store information on local servers, you are responsible for backing up the data. Surprise—the same is true for cloud file services. Be sure to read the End User License Agreement (EULA). Most cloud services do not back up your data for your benefit; they only save enough to recover your site. If you want your data backed up, you may need to engage a third-party application or service. This also applies to local servers.
Disaster recovery of local servers to local failover servers is difficult and costly. Comparatively, disaster recovery of local servers to the cloud or disaster recovery of cloud-based systems and data is easier and less expensive.
So, how do we choose what's most appropriate?
For many businesses, their current IT infrastructure includes physical servers located in corporate offices as the primary method for hosting major business applications, managing access controls, and storing files. A common shared drive is used for employees to access the information needed to do their jobs. These drives are typically stored and hosted on local servers, accessible via secured and internal network connections.
For companies who quickly had to shift gears and work remotely during the past year, a secure method of accessing files remotely was through a VPN or Remote Desktop. With a wide range of internet connection speeds for employees working from home, accessing files remotely proved challenging.
Supporting a physical infrastructure for any business requires an investment in continuous upgrades for hardware, software, and security. Sustaining your own data center is an expensive operation. Not only will a company spend money on the initial setup of their infrastructure, it will also pay for ongoing maintenance and the people responsible for maintaining it. Having a knowledgeable systems administrator is required for server patching, monitoring, and maintaining the overall infrastructure health.
Cloud Hosting + Security
An alternative to maintaining physical servers in your company office is cloud hosting and cloud storage, which uses another company’s infrastructure. There are many advantages to cloud file storage, such as more easily accessible company information for remote employees, ease of sharing information with others outside your company, and, with some solutions, robust security features like encryption and data revision tracking.
Companies who choose to store their data in the cloud may be required to pay for additional storage capacity and monthly licensing fees. However, in the end, it might be more cost-effective than maintaining physical infrastructure.
Most businesses with both an office location and remote employees may use a hybrid solution where a physical server is necessary to support specific applications, users, security groups, etc., while email, file storage, and other business applications are in the cloud. This scenario is the most common we encounter.
How to Choose
With so many business-critical considerations and potential options, evaluating file management solutions for your business can be a cumbersome project to take on alone. It isn’t just about the “right” technology; it’s the marriage of your business plans, culture, marketplace, and technology.
If you have questions about selecting or implementing new tools for your business, let’s talk.