Data Management and Collaboration for Ceph and File Based Data Storage – ITRI and the Enterprise File Fabric Case Study

ITRI (Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute), is a world-leading applied technology research institute which is also a key player in autonomous vehicle development.

Its technology combines real-time positioning, mapping technology, machine learning, and a range of sensors to simulate driving and capture test data in real world situations. This process generates massive amounts of data that need to be analyzed quickly and precisely, and here is where the the Storage Made Easy (SME) Enterprise File Fabric comes into play.

Continue reading “Data Management and Collaboration for Ceph and File Based Data Storage – ITRI and the Enterprise File Fabric Case Study”

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CISO Bulletin: Companies use of Multi-Cloud is on the Increase

multicloudA new 2020 survey by Flexera highlights the increasing use of multi-cloud services within Companies.

Over 750 SMB’s (Small to Medium Businesses) took part in the survey which was conducted in the first quarter of 2020, in February and March.  Of the respondents  554 where classed as enterprise respondents as opposed to 196 Small to Medium Business respondents. SMB’s were defined as having fewer than 1,000 employees whereas enterprise was defined as having more than 1,000 employees.

Continue reading “CISO Bulletin: Companies use of Multi-Cloud is on the Increase”

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My Favourite Feature: Folder Permissions

I am Zaeem, SME’s Pre Sales Executive. I was asked to share my favourite SME feature with you all, so I thought hard about what was it for me that really stood out.

From the colossal arsenal of features like locking, client tools, file-sharing annotations, auditing, AD integration …….. so on and so forth. I had to pick one, but it was not that difficult for me, to decide what I think is one of the best, if not the best feature. My winner is Folder Permissions. Continue reading “My Favourite Feature: Folder Permissions”

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Does your Share and Sync handle global file locking and versioning ?

Cloud File LockingAs more and more companies use the Cloud to replace their existing file server the need for similar functionality to that which existed on-premise becomes important. Once such features is file locking.

File locking simply allows a user to lock a file whilst updating to prevent another user editing the same file. If locking does not exist then at worse conflicts occur, at best file updates get overwritten and perhaps even lost. It is a key piece of a collaboration experience.

Storage Made Easy private enterprise file share and sync solution fully supports file locking through all of its web, desktop and mobile clients. When a file is locked, other users only have read only access to it.

Cloud File Locking

Cloud Drive

iOS Locking

In addition to locking, file versioning goes hand in hand as a key feature. Versioned files are files that have been superseded by newer files but which can be kept for audit or archived purposes and which can later be promoted to replace newer version of a file if needed. Storage Made Easy EFSS solution provides full support for both of these features using its unique visual versioning feature.

Visual File Versioning

Updating file versions

The problem with current file sync and share solutions is they miss many of the features needed to really use them as a file server replacement. This do not just include locking and versioning, but also CIFS access from the desktop, file event audit, access over common protocols such as WebDav or FTP, ability to be deployed private and to work with other storage clouds or data points, solve the shadow IT problem etc. The solution from most solution providers is the “my cloud is better than their cloud” approach i.e.. “move to my solution as we have that feature”. This promotes more silos and exacerbates sprawl.

The Storage Made Easy is storage independent and promote interoperability and integration, working with any combination of storage points, be they public or private, so if you have existing solutions that require global locking, versioning, event Audit, Cloud Governance, amongst other things, SME can help.

SME Private EFSS

In summary For companies that have data stored in the cloud, in one or more storage providers, global file locking and versioning should be considered a mandatory feature for enterprise file share and sync.

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Cloud makes control of enterprise content silos key for Enterprises

As the Cloud permeates all aspects of business enterprises in particular are waking up to the cost benefits that Cloud can bring, from outsourced pay-as-you-go applications to cheaper and easier archival, to storage of non sensitive documents and data.

An often repeated truth is that Enterprises have 3 of everything. When I worked in the Middleware space it was not unusual to see one department using IBM WebSphere, another using WebLogic and yet another experimenting with JBoss. The same adage goes for enterprise content management.

In the not to distant past if I brought up Enterprise Content Management then it could be referred that I was only discussing Documentum, Alfresco, SharePoint or some CMIS type product, but in today’s world the term can also apply to documents stored on OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 etc. Throw in CRM’s that store documents such as Salesforce and online project management tools such as BaseCamp and you start to grasp just how many independent content and documents silos that companies have to deal with.

This is bore out by a recent survey by AIIM called “Get more from on-premise ECM”. The highlights of that survey are:

50% of companies already use 3 or more storage solutions (this echoes prior research that SME also undertook.)

40% of companies are investigating cloud

This presents two large challenges to companies:

Accessibility of data – where is it ? which App ? Which data store ?

Governance of data – How do you you universally secure data and set polices across data silos and Apps ?

The Storage Made Easy EFSS Cloud Control Solution was built specifically to address these types of challenges.

Cloud Control

It supports over 45 private and public cloud stores and Apps, with an API for those not covered so it can pretty much connect to anything.

Cloud Connectors

Connecting to private and public content stores and Apps that functions as content stores, such as Salesforce, is a facilitator to make accessibility easier as when users search for a document the search is conducted across the content estate, not just in an App silo.

Also SME has an Enterprise connector to Apache Lucene / SOLR to enable deep search of file content from any desktop and any App. This not only increases the accessibility and availability of data, it also immeasurably increases worker productivity.

Governance of data is a thorn in the side of Enterprise IT when it comes to the storing of Cloud data and the NSA snooping scandal and recent celebrity photo hacking has not done anything to help the sensitivity of it. Cloud Governance and Control is firmly in the spotlight of Enterprise IT and more importantly Enterprise Management.

Often what you see from vendors is a “my cloud is better than your cloud” approach to this problem ie. a vendor adds one specific security feature and tries to use this to get companies to move their data or sensitive data to this solution. Alternatively a company can target one facet of Governance and Control, lets say encryption for example, and build their product and service on this one feature only.

The SME solution takes a more holistic approach to provide governance and control across the whole content estate. It does not try and get you to move your data to it (it’s data agnostic and does not store data) and it does not just work as a silo or offer one feature. It provides an integrated sensible approach to corporate content governance and control:

– It integrates with existing Active Directory or LDAP systems to provide a single-sign-on solution for identity management.

– It provides an encryption service to enable remotely stored data to be encrypted and only accessible with authorization.

– It provides secure file sharing and combines this with pre-set business policies. Files can be password protected and time expired and these can be applied as policies. For example you can choose to set a policy that all files have a 24 hour expiration time and which must require a password for sharing.

– It provides a comprehensive audit log of all file events for all content. For remote file shares it tracks the IP address of the remote users accessing the file.

– It provides GEO Locations restrictions to enable restrict or prevent access. For example if you have an outsource accounting company who require access to a particular folder you could restrict their access to being over a certain IP address and only from a web viewer.

– It has built in Bring Your Own Device controls that allow the setting of per user permissions with regards to web, desktop or mobile device access. It also works with Oracle Mobile Security and OpenPeak Sector in the event the company already has these BYOD controls in house.

– It integrates with what you have providing desktop cloud drives, plug in’s for Microsoft Office and Open Office as well as email plug in’s for file sharing.

Content Management, Cloud Governance and Collaboration is only going to get harder, not easier, as companies embrace new data stores and new applications that store data. To facilitate a productive, accessible, controlled experience the control points simply have to be joined up.

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Document Management is more than just managing documents – it is also securing them

Enterprise file share and sync

Document control and management is of vital importance to any organization. If sensitive information is sent outside of your company, once the documents have been sent electronically, control is lost and this can put files you shared at risk. They can be copied or forwarded anywhere in the world, in seconds.

For most businesses, the focus of their attention is on document management and on the organizational workflow and the storage of documents. Companies want to be able to integrate documents into a workflow and store documents in an organized and secure way that still allows documents to be found easily . Where the document is stored can frequently change. It could be SharePoint, it could be FTP, it could be on some external repository etc. Where the security process can fall down is when documents are shared externally or how they are available to be collaborated on.

The proliferation of employees bringing there own devices to work (BYOD and BYOC) and using preferred SaaS applications of their own choosing has led to corporate governance becoming even more of a challenge for those tasked with its enforcement as an increasing number of end users bypass corporate protocol.

Such ‘Shadow IT‘ can pose a significant security risk, as unapproved hardware and software that are used do not undergo the necessary security checks and the storage and dissemination of such documents is outside of corporate control.

solving shadow it problem

Storage Made Easy provides a unified Enterprise File Share and Sync solution, which works with a companies existing private and public data, presenting these files in a unified view.. It enables enterprises to not only securely sync, but also to securely share and work with files, wherever they need to go, even on devices that are beyond IT’s control.

IT benefits from a solution that gives them control, and users benefit as they have automatic access to documents and files from multiple data repositories, with robust security wherever behind the corporate firewall, or using any tablet, smartphone or PC.

Storage Made Easy uniquely provides:

• The ability to view, annotate, edit and sync almost any cloud or private file from almost any storage to any device.

• Internal and external collaboration features to work securely with anyone without losing control of enterprise data.

• Complete audit tracking to ascertain who accessed files, where form, and what action was taken.

• Provides a secure way for the organizations to collaborate with external partners using business workspaces.

• GEO Restrictions – restrict access to documents by IP address and by client. For example let an external sub office only have access to a folder from a specific IP address from the web browser (or any other client you nominate).

• Full Bring Your Own Device Support to restrict access to by employees by device type.

• Sophisticated permissions that unify permissions to different back end document storage and which can also be used with Active Directory or LDAP

• A way to solve the “DropBox” “bring your own cloud” problem be auditing such clouds even when documents are uploaded direct.

• A way to encrypt files stored on remote clouds which a key that is stored behind the corporate firewall this protecting remote sensitive data.

Secure document file sharing

In summary you do not have to choose between a homogenous and restrictive system or a lawless fenzy of different unapproved systems. The Storage Made Easy Enterprise file share and sync solution is storage agnostic. It is compatible with most private or public file sharing cloud data stores allowing users to continue using their preferred cloud storage provider while at the same time converging off-site and on–site private and public data. This allows a centralized point for corporate governance, thus providing a real solution to the Shadow IT and corporate governance problem.

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In a post PRISM world why your Company needs joined up File Sharing and Governance

The recent controversy with regards to Prism and data snooping has brought the security of corporate data to the fore however the biggest threat to corporate data lies not with the corporate nemesis that is Prism but with the number of data leaks that occur every day in companies.

These include new phenomena such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Bring your Own Cloud (BYOC) as well as the thorny issue of what files are shared over email.

Data is any companies biggest asset and not controlling how corporate data is disseminated is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode in your company. Why? Take your pick, Legislative reasons, fraudulent reason, competitive reasons. There are many reasons why not controlling data dissemination could trip your company up.

Companies need to consider how to build an Effective data governance serves ACROSS their enterprise data silos. Doing so will define a cohesive set of parameters for data management, data usage, as well as the ability to create governance processes for a companies internal use, and for their supply chain, which ultimately leads to information assets that are well managed.

SME Data Governance framework

In the world of Cloud it is key that Data Governance and data policies work not only with data behind the corporate firewall but also cloud data and cloud services.

So what should you consider as a company to manage your data assets ?

1. Understand what information is sensitive across all data silos, have a federate access control mechanism that works with your user across this private and cloud data silos. Storage Made Easy provides such a federate mechanism to assign and control user permissions and access at a very granular level that overlays one or more data stores.

SME federate permissions

2. Set policies for data access and enforce them through common tools. For employee sharing of data through tools such as email, make it easy but also set policies that can define expiry time and password protection. Storage Made Easy has plug in’s for Microsoft Outlook and Mac Mail that enables productive file sharing across all cloud / private data but which has built in support for policy enforcement.

Mac Mail large file sharing

These policies should also ripple through to the mobile Applications used in a company:

iOS secure file sharing

3. Use Cloud Encryption for sensitive data and ensure that you control the private key. See our previous post on encryption and securing data for further information.

Cloud File Encryption

4. Audit all your company data. Irrespective of the policies set you should get in the habit of auditing your company data. SME enables the setup of an automated email to a specified user of the previous day file events such as sharing, files updated etc.

Cloud Storage Audit Log

5. Set BYOD policies and device access policies that work like your company works. For example, have a contract firm that you gave access to a specific folder ? Then designate that they can only access the folder using a web browser and only from a specific IP address.

BYOD GEO Restrictions

Summary

Companies need to connect disconnected information to enable corporate governance.

Cloud Corporate Governance

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Everything is a Storage Cloud now – the commoditization of Storage into Apps

20131031-210708.jpgOne of the more interesting trends of the recent developments in Cloud Computing is how we define “What is a storage cloud” . This used to be easy – it was an FTP or a WebDav Server. Even 3 or 4 years ago this was still relatively easy, it was DropBox, or SugarSync or Box etc. Now however, the lines are becoming a little blurry. We are seeing many application services offering the ability to store documents.

For example BaseCamp, the project management service lets you store files as do other project collaboration services, however I doubt any of these services would like to be categorized as “storage”.

SalesForce is another good example. It’s a CRM service right ? Well, yes but it can also be used to store files and in fact it is promoting this ability as a “first class feature” from what was called Chatter but which has now been rebranded to SalesForce Files.

The list of examples are endless Jive, Yammer, Evernote, a plethora of services that offer file storage specific to the use case they satisfy within a company.

Dedicated Applications of this nature provide file storage as a bi-product of their service and for many companies, large and small, policing this sprawl of data is challenging enough without employes doing their own thing with Bring Your Own Cloud.

We believe that this trend will continue to accelerate apace and it is why we at Storage Made Easy have been concentrating on “joining up” these different data stores and providing unification, management and control across what are effectively many independent silos of Applications and Data. The more cloud services that offer ways to Interact with and store files the worse the sprawl gets.

Storage Made Easy Cloud Control

In fact this “joining up” of data sprawl and the reason it is important to get right, and the results of ignoring it, will be a feature of our very next blog post.

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Storage Made Easy: Reflections on 2012 and looking forward through 2013

Now that 2012 has drawn to a close and we are in mid January we thought it would be useful to reflect on what we have seen through our own business as trends and pointers, look at some of the things we have done over the course of the last year and finish by looking at what Storage Made Easy brings into 2013.

Key Trends:

A key trend for our business was a switch from online personal and SMB clients to more direct channel and corporate clients using our hybrid Appliance. The work we are doing with Huddle on the channel side and Xtime and Finser on the direct side are great examples of this trend. From July our business moved from a model of online Personal / SMB SaaS to Direct Corporate / Channel sales utilising our hybrid on-premise cloud appliance. Pre July the revenue split was 90:10 online SaaS and today the model is 10:90 weighted towards the direct business/channel revenue stream. We see this as a key indication that :

a. Larger companies want to ‘own’ their own data and are focused on making their storage integrate with what they already have such as their existing identity management systems (in many case Active Directory) and existing structured data systems.

b. Companies want to stop staff using un-authorised services and have come to the conclusion that they need to put structures in place to not only prevent this but to offer an alternative.

b. Companies are focused on the data legislation and governance of structured data so that they can track all file events, a mandatory requirement for certain verticals, such as government and healthcare for example.

c. The ability to search across disparate data sets easily and also on the move is becoming more and more important for companies as they try to make productive use of their core corporate asset, their data !

Our Focus for 2013:

Our Focus for 2013 is going to be as follows:

1. Simplifying our pricing proposition. The result of this will be visible over the next few weeks. We have tried to be as flexible as possible with what we provide to users but we find that this can result in users being paralysed by the paradox of choice so we will be making these much easier to understand.

2. Concentrating on formally launching our on-premise cloud Appliance. Having done a limited release launch in 2012, we will be shortly making available the ability to download the Appliance direct from our site.We have spent a fair bit of time re-designing the installation procedure with regards to networking, https keys etc,  to make it easy to install and get going. Below is an overview of the Architecture of the SME Appliance.

3. Enabling easy IaaS deployments so that users and companies can easily deploy their own personal or company cloud onto IaaS infrastructures. We already do this for Linode  but we will be expanding this to Amazon EC2 (and maybe one other provider we cannot discuss yet) and making the whole process an easier click through process.

We had a great growth year in 2012 and we look forward to continuing that in 2013.

 

 

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IBM Bans DropBox. Here is why you don’t need to follow suit

You may have missed it but IBM recently banned their 400,000 user based from using DropBox and other services like it. Jeanette Horan, IBM’s chief information officer, said that the restrictions has been in place since a review of IBM’s BYOD policy.  A great article underlining the reasons IBM made this policy change can be found in this Information Week article from Kevin Casey.

“The risk of allowing BYOC is inherent in any organization that owns confidential or critical information, which I would assume is every corporation in existence”

however how do you enforce it ?

“There’s also that minor matter of enforcement. IBM has the wherewithal to practice what it preaches, but when IT and financial resources are already spread thin, trying to keep people from sending corporate files to their personal Gmail accounts might be an exercise in futility.”

Enforcement of policy is of course a good question and one that we are happy to expand on. What IBM are really describing is the issue of what is being termed as “Cloud Sprawl” ie. the plethora of online services that can be responsible for not only information leak, but also prevent cohesive company information visibility. We have blogged about this previously.

The SME Cloud Appliance  and service is the enabler for governance and control of different Cloud Storage providers, such as DropBox, and of SaaS Services, such as BaseCamp for example. There are specific controls built into the Appliance to enable IT to govern how access is granter to information and also specific controls to not only restrict access but audit access:


This can audit access of all cloud storage types including personal clouds (if it is decided to allow them in the organisation). The auditing is granular and logs each event type and IP address of any file or resource interaction:
class

User login can groups can be controlled by Active Directory integration and Access permissions can be set against groups/roles across all information resources:

As we have shown, the Cloud File Server Appliance is a mechanism for IT within SMB’s and other companies to keep control of diverse information clouds and SaaS Cloud services whilst still promoting things such as BYOD and can be used as a SaaS hosted service or can be obtained as a Virtual Machine and hosted in-house.

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Thoughts on Amazon’s new onsite Storage Gateway announcement

Amazon Web Services has announced that it now offers a new storage gateway appliance (virtual machine image) that can be placed on a customers site. What benefit is this ? It really provides an easy way to integrate local storage or systems with the facility to replicate data to the Amazon Cloud. For example you could add the technology to an existing data center so that it resided between servers and storage  so that you could easily start replicating data to Amazon S3.

Note,however,these are actually stored as EBS Volumes. So although users can access data stored in this fashion locally from the gateway, if they wish to access this data directly through AWS they would need to start an EC2 instance and attached the EBS volume. . This in and of itself makes it easier to then integrate S3 stored data with other AWS services (if this is important to you). Note that this is not ‘replacing’ what you already have (ie. “great, I can just use the Cloud”), it is in addition to what you already have.

Firstly lets look at what the requirements are to host the Gateway.  These are:

  • VMware ESXi hypervisor (v4.1) on a physical machine with at least 7.5GB of RAM
  • Four (4) virtual processors assigned to the appliance VM along with 75GB of disk space for the Open Virtual Alliance (OVA) image installation and data.
  • A “proper” sized network connection to Amazon.
  •  iSCSI initiators on either Windows server 2008, Windows 7 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux

(Also note that the Gateway beta is optimised for block write sizes which are more than 4Kb.  AWS warns that using smaller I/O sizes are likely to cause overhead which can result in storage space that is effectively ‘lost’. This means that prior to installation there needs to be a check made on the file systems / volumes to ensure they can use the larger allocation sizes).

Firstly we’d like to point out that it’s great to see Amazon adding their own on-premise Cloud Gateway. It’s great to see them competing with the likes of  EMC, TwinStrata, and Nasuni. It would have been nice to see NFS or CIFS supported as interfaces, as from our own interactions with customers, we believe that is what customers really want to see, but maybe we can expect to see that added as the Gateway offering matures.

(Differences between iSCSI & NFS: iSCSI and NFS both allow storage access over an IP networking infrastructure. The difference is that iSCSI enables block storage transfer whereas NFS and CIFS transfers files.)

Many customers may find that they already have the capabilities for which they would use the Gateway, such as snapshots, backup and archiving, which is a pretty old, mature and I would expect a little more cost effective mechanism of achieving similar goals. However with that said we can see many use case where, with our own Cloud File Server Appliance where customers will really embrace the Gateway.

So where does the AWS Cloud Gateway end and the SME Cloud Appliance begin ? Well, the first things to understand about the SME Cloud Appliance is that it acts at a layer ‘above’ the storage. It provides a mechanism to unify disparate data sources into one file tree, add unified user access management and permissions, add unified governance and e-compliance, has focus on enabling companies to manage ‘Cloud Sprawl’, and leverages the ability for companies to let staff “bring your own device” (BYOD). In short, as I often say when asked to comment about Storage in general, the response is “it’s all about the App”. Storage in and of itself is not a single source in companies and secondly having things stored is no good unless you have unified, search, logic, control and anytime anywhere access that supports all desktops and all devices. This is what we essentially are bringing to the table with our Cloud File Server Appliance.

To take advantage of the Amazon Cloud Gateway what would be required is for us to connect to the local iSCSI stored data within the Gateway and this is something we will be looking to do in the short term.

For further information see the Amazon Cloud Gateway Storage FAQ’s. Also note that Amazon are also doing a free webcast on 23rd February.

 

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