Introducing Drop Folder for Azure, Google Nearline, S3, OpenStack and other Cloud Storage Services

Today we are introducing a new, much requested, feature that can securely allow anyone to upload files to a folder in OpenStack, Google Nearline, Amazon S3, Azure and any of the other Cloud Storage services that Storage Made Easy supports.

One of the drawbacks of most cloud storage services is that they do not allow anyone but an authenticated user to upload files to a users account.

For example  as a company you may want to invite a partner or associate  to upload documents to a folder stored in OpenStack or some other Cloud Storage service such as Amazon S3 or Google Nearline. The problem is that to achieve this it is needed to know the Cloud Service’s account’s username and password.

The new Drop Folder feature feature from Storage Made Easy solves this.

Continue reading “Introducing Drop Folder for Azure, Google Nearline, S3, OpenStack and other Cloud Storage Services”

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Top 5 Sync Share and Collaboration predictions for 2015

2015 Enterprise File Share and Sync predictionsThe SME EFSS white paper gave a good view of the Enterprise File Share and Sync Market for 2014 and below we lay out our top 5 predictions for the Sync, Share and Collaboration Market for 2015:

1. Enterprises will look to adopt hybrid cloud services that aggregated on-premise and cloud services: 

Enterprises, and most companies, use a myriad of on-premise and on-cloud services. Almost all of these services now store data either in the form of attachments or direct use of storage. Companies will embrace solutions that work with what they have.

2. Solutions  that can be deployed on premise as well as in a range of clouds will be attractive to strategically thinking companies.

Not everything will end up on Cloud and for bigger companies they will act as their own service providers so companies want the choice of private, hybrid or public implementations.

Research by the Enterprise Strategy Group pinpointed 97% of the organizations that use public cloud-based File Share and Sync had an interest in storing some of their file data using their on-premises storage.

3. Security and control will be top of IT’s agenda amidst the well publicised Sony Hack

The Sony hack was the enterprise’s Snowden moment, when all those doubts and thoughts about their own security policies around files bubbled to the surface. This has resulted in data security and control becoming even more of a concern for IT departments who are tasked with protecting corporate data.

4. Remotely stored data will have an encryption first policy

Enterprises will force an encryption first policy for sync and share data to mitigate disaster for data breaches of service infrastructures outside of their control.

5. Vendors will continue to be acquired or die as the drive to zero pricing affects all

There is no doubt the Enterprise File Share and Sync space is crowded with backup vendors, gateway vendors, collaboration vendors and content vendors all looking to add some form of sync and share to their features set. Coupled with this the price war that has raged throughout 2014 between Google, Amazon and Microsoft is likely to continue driving some vendors out of business and causing others to look at acquisition as an early exit.

About Storage Made Easy:

Storage Made Easy is the trading name of Vehera LTD who has offices in the UK, USA and Switzerland.

The SME solution allows IT to regain control of “cloud data sprawl” by unifying private/public company data and privately used employee cloud data solutions into a single converged infrastructure. This can easily be managed and be used to set and enforce governance and audit controls for file access and sharing in addition to providing deep content search of indexed data.

This approach provided a solution to the “shadow IT” conundrum and makes it possible for companies to find a balance between the protection of corporate data and employee data by allowing businesses to monitor, secure and audit all data silos, be they private or cloud or company or employee, from a single access point.

Further information can be found at www.StorageMadeEasy.com

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Storage Made Easy Improves Its Unified Web Cloud File Manager

Today we have upgraded the Storage Made Easy Web Cloud File Manager.

The Storage Made Easy Web File Manager is different to a lot of file managers that you see today as it is hierarchical in nature and resembles a true file tree (akin to windows explorer). It’s hierarchical nature enables it to easily work with and manoeuvre around large data sets.

Over the years we have had a lot of feedback from companies and users about how they would like to see the File Manager work and what features they would like and we’ve used this feedback to make improvements, which are outlined below:

Large Layout in inline Mode

The File Manager layout is now larger in inline mode taking more advantage of the screen space.

SME Cloud FIle Manager

 

The File Manager has been optimised for iPad / Tablet

A number of optimizations where done for working with the desktop Cloud File Manager on a tablet. The first is that it opens in full screen mode when being used on such devices. The second is that there are optimizations that make it easier to use such as being easily to widen / constrict the view on each pane. Also interactions have been optimized to work with touch events. The selection of files has also been made easier with checkbox selection options (these selection options are also available when using the FM from a PC).

Cloud File Manager iPad

 

Easier File Selection

A lot of feedback has been made to us about making file selection easier. To that end we have made it easier to select files by using a checkbox paradigm. Check boxes appear so that a file can be selected when the mouse is placed at the left hand side of a file.

Select Cloud Files

 

Image Previews

Image thumbnails can now be previewed as the File Manager is browsed.

Image Previews

 

Help Inline

The File Manager now contains help guides showing how to action the most common functions such as copy/paste:

Cloud How To Guide

 

 

Default PDF Viewer is now native

The default PDF viewer is now a native viewer rather than Google Viewer (although Google Viewer can still be used and be setup to be the default). This means the viewer sandboxes any data viewed in this way just to the SME service.

Cloud PDF Viewer

 

New Themes / Custom Themes

There are two new large themes for the File Manager a blue theme and a normal theme. The existing themes have been rename to “tiny”. Also now, for Appliance users, custom themes can be created. This will be available in the next Appliance version.

File Manager themes

 

The File timestamp to be used can now be selected

As SME is an abstraction between the remote cloud it works with more than one timestamp. Firstly it has its own concept of time, based on UTC, as to when a timestamp was modified through the SME service. Next it handles what the timestamp shows on the remote cloud service, and lastly it can show the local file time of a file uploaded to a remote service via SME (this may be different to the remote cloud time as some cloud services ignore the local file time and simply timestamp the file at the time it was uploaded to their service). Although all three are handled the user can now set which they want shown by default.

Cloud Timestamp

 

Edit on Hover

When hovering on a file, certain options are displayed for easy access. This has been enhanced so that files that can be edited, such as documents, text files etc can be edited by clicking the edit icon on hover.

Edit on Hover

 

Comments view is now collaborative / real time

When working in full file / comments view, if another user is also reviewing the same file and making comments then the comments will appear in real-time like an instant message

Cloud Collaboration

Search inline

The File Manager now features an inline folder search (rather than having to move out to the tabbed search). This is a quick search mechanism to search for files in folders and sub folders.

Cloud Search

 Favourites and Quick Upload placed at top of file tree

Favourites and Quick uploads have been placed at the top of the file tree for easy access. These can also be configured to be hidden.

Cloud Favourites

 

New way to copy / move files

Copy and Move can still be done by selecting files and drag and drop but now there are buttons and a wizard to make copy and moving files between folders or cloud services even easier.

Cloud Copy Move

There are also other numerous small changes and bug fixes but this post highlights the main functional changes.

 

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Integrating Google Calendar to a Storage Made Easy Team Account

Google Calendar can be added as a “Widget” to a Storage Made Easy Team account. Team accounts are available on Business SaaS, IaaS and Enterprise versions of Storage Made Easy.

Widgets are  small self-contained Apps that can be added to your home page, and Google Calendar is an option when you add a Widget.

Storage Made Easy Widgets

Choosing the Google Calendar Widget presents a screen to add a Calendar ID and a link to a short 10 second video showing you how to find this from your Google Account:

Google Calendar Widget

Once the Calendar is entered the Google Calendar is displayed:

Calendar Widget

The view can be changed to a daily event list as needed:

Calendar event widget

Calendars are only one of the widgets that can be added. Other’s include RSS and Twitter widgets and even custom designed widgets.

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Collaborating with Bookmarks and Web Links in Teams

There are a lot of articles about document collaboration and project collaboration from a variety of vendors but rarely do they talk about bookmark or web links collaboration which is can often be a key part of any project.

This blog post will outline how easy this is with Storage Made Easy in which it can be done against any Storage back-end, be that a consumer storage cloud such as DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc or a business or private back end storage cloud such as OpenStack Swift, Cloudian, CleverSafe, Amazon S3, RackSpace etc. In all more than 45 different private and public storage clouds are supported.

Requirements:

– A Storage Made Easy Business or on-premise account
– The Storage Made Easy web collaborations links plug-in available from the SME Cloud Tools Page.

We will be using a Storage Made Easy SaaS business Account to demonstrate this functionality.

First we simply add the Collaboration links plugin to our web browser. In this case it is Safari but Chrome and Firefox are also supported.

Web Link share

 

Once logged in all the folders from the various private and public cloud repositories are available to capture /  bookmark links.

Once you find a page you want to add to your team repository you can use the Collaboration Links plugin to capture it.

In our case this in iOS 7 page on multi-tasking that the iOS Dev team would be interested in.

iOS 7 multitasking

web link share

 

If we log directly into the Cloud File Server from the web (or any of the mobile tools or desktop clients) I see the link I just shared in my team folder. Any team member can launch the link or visit the site by double clicking on the link. I can also choose to collaborate on it with other team members by adding comments.

Web Bookmarks collaboration

 

These comments are shown on all devices and the team users who have permissions to the folder/file receive an email notification that there is a comment for review:

Web Bookmarks collaboration

 

As usual with StorageMadeEasy all the events related to the file are audit tracked:

Cloud Storage Audit Tracking

 

To summarise this post has shown how it is possible to collaborate on web links / bookmarks in a way that centralises collaboration with the alternative often pinging the link over email and any subsequent comments between team members delivered the same way. In the SME as well as centralising the collaboration the comments and interactions are indexed and therefore appear in search results and also the link itself becomes part of the corporate repository.

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New Folder Sharing feature for team users

We have implemented a new folder sharing feature for Business Cloud / on-site Enterprise File Share and Sync Users. It simply provides the ability to share folders and sub-folders of files with external companies or other users who can receive the link, enter the password and gain access to the files without the need for an SME Account.

The video below shows the feature in action.

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Cloud Storage predictions for 2014

Cloud Storage Predictions for 2014

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

It has been some year in the world of Cloud and Cloud Storage in particular. We witnessed the demise of Nirvanix, as well as the revelations of Edward Snowdon outlining the surveillance of the PRISM surveillance program and the alleged collusion with major US Service providers

Amidst all of this the behemouth that is Amazon continued to move forwards apace and continuing to add new services and reduce pricing.

There has been space in the market for new vendors such as Dump Truck, which launched almost exactly 1 year ago, and Copy, both of which predominantly offer services aimed at the consumer market. Many new Enterprise cloud storage services were launched in 2013 such as Verizon, EMC, Colt Telecom, Lenovo showing that vendors anticipate a huge enterprise demand for cloud related services from their incumbent customers.

The OpenStack open source cloud platform continued to go from strength to strength with vendors, such as RedHat offering new OpenStack related products and aiming for OpenStack dominance.

Meanwhile Amazon S3 continued to be the de facto storage API for developers and storage product compatibility, something we predicted over 3 years ago when we added the S3 API to the SME platform.

Another interesting recent development in 2013 was SugarSync announcing plans to stop offering free accounts and close all existing ones. A pretty big step that upset a lot of (free) customers.

CLOUD STORAGE PREDICTIONS FOR 2014

1. Following on the from the round-up of 2013 above and the latter entry on SugarSync, it is likely we will see other services shutting down their free storage offerings. The key lesson here is that free is not free for ever it seems.

2. Expect to see a DropBox and Box IPO in 2014.

3. Due to the PRISM and NSA debacle we expect to see more non US companies wanting to stop their data from being hosted in the US.

4. Security has become the number one concern for companies when dealing with data. Expect more file sharing vendors to follow SME’s lead and try and retrofit logging / auditing / enhanced security in their product offerings.

5. Expect more companies to want remote data to be encrypted with keys they control. This will become part of a companies security playbook for 2014. (see our prior blog post for how SME does this).

6. 2014 will see companies want more from their Storage solutions – how do they solve their businesses problems, how do they fit in with corporate governance and help implement common policies ?

7. Big Data will continue to dominate hype cycles for storage vendors and expect to see a slew of new products.

In the meantime all that is left to wish you all a Happy New Year !

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Coming soon access your Cloud Storage / Data directly from SFTP !

Regular users of our business cloud will know that we offer a variety of protocol adaptors as entry points into the various back end private storage and cloud storage products that we support. Currently we support:

WebDav

FTP

Amazon S3 API

Companies can access data using any of these protocols irrespective of whether the underlying data store supports such protocols. A good example is users who want to use DropBox directly with Apple iWork for example. iWork only supports WebDav or iCloud therefore you cannot use it to directly open and save data to DropBox from an iPhone or iPad. SME enables this not only for DropBox but also for almost any other cloud.

Also any data that is accessed from a protocol adaptor is also governed using the same access controls set for any other clint access mechanism and all interactions, as always, can be fully audited and logged.

We have had requests from  the medical sector and from federal government to make access available via SFTP as  in many cases this is the only mechanism they may have to access data. The good news is that we are about 50% through the work required to enabled access to any Cloud Storage over SFTP (screenshot below of a user logging into the SME virtual cloud file system using SFTP).

SME SFTP  Cloud Storage Access

The benefits of SFTP is that it is very secure and from the command line it has a great variety of windows tools and is installed by default on Linux and Mac. We will continue to post further updates.

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Why must all Team Storage Accounts charge monthly ? – Meet the SME Lifetime Option

Storage Made Easy Lifetime Pricing

Most cloud storage plans that offer team pricing do so on a monthly basis using the typical SaaS pricing model where the simple calculation is:

No of Users * Monthly Price

Storage Made Easy also offers this plan but we realised when talking with customer that many companies would prefer to have the option of an alternative of what they term “perpetual” licensing.

This is the “old” software model in which licenses were procured on a one-time pricing “capex” basis and the only recurring costs was a monthly recurring “open” support and maintenance cost.

After numerous requests for such pricing for our online hosted team service we thought why not ? We can surely construct a model that works for companies who want a pricing model where the majority of the costs is up front in capex and the longer you use the service the more money you save.

Support enables access to SME support and Maintenance enables access to future product versions and this payment is mandatory for continued use of the service.

Support and maintenance is 22% of the initial purchase in year 2 and then year 3 and the thereon.

So how do we calculate this ? The algorithm used to calculate this yearly pricing for business team users is simply:

No users * $5 (monthly Price) * 12 (industry average customer churn)

This results in companies who use the service for longer than 12 months effectively using it for free thereafter other than the one time recurring annual 20% payment for support & maintenance.

Now lets look at some practical examples

Company with 15 users:

SaaS Cumulative Spend

12 Months 24 Months 36 months
      $900         $1800          $2700

Initial Payment (15*$5) = $75
Monthly Payment thereafter $75

Lifetime Cumulative Spend

12 Months 24 Months 36 months
      $900         $1098          $1296

Initial Payment (15*$5*12) = $900
Monthly Payment thereafter $0
Yearly Payment thereafter $198

Savings over 3 Year period

1 Year savings = 0
2 Year savings = $702
3 Year Savings = $1404

Savings go up the longer the time period and the more users deployed !

Are there any differences between the accounts ?

There is only one difference.

In the SaaS service each users gets access to 10GB storage per user (hosted on Amazon S3)

In the Lifetime service each user gets access to 5Gb storage per user (hosted on Amazon S3)

In each case the cumulative storage for all users can be used as a ‘pool’ and spread between users as per the Administrator quota policy.

Also each Company can add additional storage or services from any of the 40+ clouds that SME supports.

Features also included for The team service also includes in both lifetime and SaaS pricing options:

    – Encrypt sensitive data stored on remote cloud services with a private key
    – Integration with Active Directory (optional)
    – Full Audit and event history of all files
    – Access via FTP, WebDav or the S3 protocol to any cloud or service added
    – File versioning and locking
    – Folder permissions and ACL
    – Joined up collaboration
    – Secure file sharing

More details on features can be found on the SME features page.

All pricing information is on the SME Pricing page.

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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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