Cloud Computing for File Servers

This article will help explain how a SMB’s file server/s can be replaced or complimented by a cloud based solution.

Please feel free to comment on the article and ask questions that you may have.

First thing to understand is what your business requirements actually are, and what it means to use a cloud based file server

– Can you afford for your data to be stored in a different location that does not belong to you?
– Do you require very high levels of security for data stored offsite?
– Does your usage patterns require very frequent and fast access to data? Or do users access the odd file every now and then?
– What expenses will you incur by using a cloud solution, and what expesnes will you save by doing so?
– What benefits will you receive by using such a solution?

These are only some questions that would need to be answered when deciding whether or nor a cloud based solution for a file server
would be beneficial.

The first item that needs to be understood is what different types of “clouds” are there for file server solutions? There are 3 main

1) A private cloud: 

This means that all your data is hosted within your office premises and not using another provider’s resources.
This is still called a “cloud” solution as it will enable you and your users to access the files that are hosted within your local
premises from anywhere i.e. via an Internet connection.  This means you woud need to maintain the hardware running the cloud
solution, but may keep some at rest if they have very sensitive data that they do not wish to host anywhere.  The speed of access of
this solution from a remote location would be pretty slow as it will depend on the businesses connection speed to the Internet.

2) A public cloud:

This means that the files are stored in a different provider’s data centre, and again the data can be access by
users from anywhere.  This takes the burden of hardware maintenence from the business owner and all they need to worry about is
paying a subscription fee.  There are many cloud solutions that fit under this category.  Each have their own advantages and
disadvantages, ranging from different security levels to ease of use and so on.

3) A hybrid cloud: 

A hybrid cloud attempts to have the best of both worlds. It involves having a solution physically located at the
business premise, so that when users are working from the office, they access the data with high speed.  But when they are away from
the office, they can access the same data from anywhere by talking to the provider’s servers directly instead of the hardware based
in the businesse’s premises.  And in the background the solution in your office continuosly and automatically synchronises with the
solution provider’s hardware, providing seamless integration.

Which solution that is best for your business would depend on your requirements.

Businesses with a smaller number of employees may look at having public cloud solution and synchronising the data to each user’s
laptop/PC.  We have implemented such solutions before and they suffice as they have low levels of activity.

Businesses with a larger number of employees may look at a hybrid cloud solution as users in the office are not effected by Internet
speeds when data is being synchronised.

Businesses that decide that they do not wish their data to be stored somewhere else at all, no matter how secure may opt for the
private type of cloud solution.

A lot of these solutions also provide apps for most mobile devices so that the data can be accessed from anywhere.  For example, for
real estate agents who perform site inspections Saturday mornings, they can instantly send a copy of a contract to potential buyers
while they are at the inspection site, without having to go back to the office.

Solutions from different vendors provide various levels of security protection. Some encrypt data only while it is being transferred,
and not at rest, while others do both.  Some other providers even offer an additional layer of security known as 2 factor
authentication, which makes it very difficult for anyone to read your data.

Another factor to consider is if your business is willing to host data in a different country, and what that would mean to your
business and your customer’s data.  Some of our customers in the financial industry make the wise decision to ensure their
data is stored only within Australia. In my opinion, in the long run this will protect their business.

Also, The terms and conditions of the provider used should be read carefully as some providers go as far as saying that data stored
with them actually belongs to them, while others say that the only owner of the data is the business itself.

With regards to cost, most cloud solutions are based on a subscription model.  So you would pay a service fee either monthly or
annually.  The benefits from this model are two fold:

1) No need to spend a significant amount on initial outlay, so a smaller recurring cost would be easier on cash flow

2) Because the solution is based on a “service”, then there is no Capital Expenditure, only Operating expenditure, which is
better for tax purposes.

Savings will probably be made, but not always.  I do not think a cloud solution would ever be more expensive than a traditional
solution, but it may be cheaper.  However the benefit that will always come by using a cloud solution is increased efficiency of
running your business and not needing to worry about maintenance such as software updates, license fees, new hardware etc.. Those
reasons alone would be enough to use a cloud solution if it is the right one. You would have one less thing to worry about
maintaining, plus your productivity and your staff’s productivity will increase.

There are many aspects to consider when thinking of utilising a cloud solution.  In my opinion, there is no single correct solution.
It will depend on each businesses requirements as to which solution is best for them.

For those who managed to read all of this – I hope that it was of some benefit.  Would be great to hear your feedback, where i will try to assist where I can…