So far, 2020 has been a year of tremendous upheaval. Businesses are trying to tackle new challenges associated with the pandemic. IT departments are having to scramble to roll out effective solutions for a workforce that is suddenly, and unexpectedly, no longer on-premises.
On-Premises File Sharing (The Good Old Days)
One of the great benefits of having your team together in a physical location is providing a shared file server accessed through a high-speed low-latency LAN. The advantages of this are increased productivity, a reduced threat surface for attackers, and greater control over permissions and access.
So, what is an IT director supposed to do when the majority of the team is suddenly not in the building? How can you maintain productivity, permissions, and security without causing fatal damage to your budget?
First Attempt: VPN
It seems like an obvious route to take. If you already had a VPN in place, just allow your team to use it to connect to the office LAN and keep working as if nothing had changed. But the downsides start showing up almost at once.
Your existing VPN was probably implemented to support between 5 and 15 percent of your total user base. When 80 to 90 percent of them try to use it, performance begins to suffer. Users complain and start to search for alternate ways to get their work done. This leads to “shadow IT,” which is every CTO’s nightmare.
You are also subject to the whims of your users’ internet connections. When they VPN into their office network, they will expect things to function as if they were in the office. When the 5 Mb/s download speed of their home internet connection kicks in, you are likely to get a support ticket with “server is slow” in the subject line.
Even if you were fortunate enough to have a VPN, built for the whole organization, it remains a single point of failure for your business processes. This puts more pressure on IT support resources that are already stretched thin.
Second Attempt: “Traditional” Cloud Storage
So, if using a VPN to get to your on-premises storage isn’t the answer, cloud services must be the way to go, right? Products from Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, and others have proven track records and user-friendly interfaces. But once again, the shortcomings start piling up.
The biggest downside to these tools comes when you start increasing file sizes, users, and total storage capacity. Quickly, your cost can escalate as you add users and move more of your company’s data to the cloud provider.
There is also a problem with those friendly web-based user interfaces. While they are easy to pick up initially, as the landscape starts expanding in your file structure, users lose their way. Adding a new tool means new training, new naming conventions, new documentation, and a new language around file management for a team that is already trying to adjust to a radically altered work environment.
I can hear you already, “No need to worry about web interfaces. We’ll just install the syncing clients on the user machines. That way, they can use their file explorers the way they always have.”
This seems like a quick and effective solution. But file syncing involves mirroring the files stored in the cloud onto the local machines. This works well until the size of the cloud folders begins to push up against the local hard drive size. Filling up a user’s computer with the entire accounting server is sure to cause some angry phone calls.
We Have Liftoff: Object Storage as a File Service
If connecting through a VPN is out, and using a commercially available web-based cloud storage service is out, what is left?
Enter a relatively new class of remote storage options and a file service client that connects with a variety of best-in-class object storage services. From an IT director standpoint, this presents the best of all worlds.
As businesses continue to adjust to a landscape with remote work as a critical feature, IT departments are forced to rethink the old tools for managing access and workflow for their teams. File service clients are the most reliable, affordable, convenient, and secure way to keep data flowing through an organization.
SaaS offering, no hardware or IT support required
End-to-end security encryption
Works with any object storage
Instant on-demand file access from anywhere
Works with any OS