If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Egnyte we are flattered !

Here at Storage Made Easy we have been touting the benefits of not selling YASS (Yet another storage Silo) and providing an ‘Enterprise File Share and Sync Fabric’ with a single control point / pane of glass for all files within a company for several years now, something that Egnyte cottoned onto and attempted to move its focus to only recently.

This strategy and product focus is the reason SME has connectors to over 50 storage clouds and why we have focused on letting companies install our entire EFSS stack on-premise, on IAAS or in their own data centre.

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Egnyte on Europe – a response

Patriot Act SnowdonWe see that Egnyte has been making statements about Box and their lack of an EU data center (whilst at the same time promoting their own).

Egnyte seems to be wanting to put the point across that prospects may prefer to use Egnyte as opposed to Box as they have a data center in Amsterdam. We believe there are a few additional points that should be highlighted with regards to Egnyte’s comments:

The Patriot Act – The Patriot Act is the white elephant in the room as in a nutshell it provides a legal framework for the US Government to have the right of search and seizure of data that is stored outside of the US where a US company is US incorporated. There are various articles on the Patriot Act such as this one from ZDnet and a quick Google Search will provide many more. This has of course gained more prominence since Edward Snowdon and the PRISM revelations. Even though Egnyte will have an EU presence it is still a US Inc. company bound by the laws of the United States.  Of course it is only fair to point out that non US companies can still be compromised but the EU provides more protection and there are new European data protection directives being introduced that will strengthen this.The point is not just about “Data crossing the pond” it is about who could potentially have access to that data, and how.

Protection US stored data – US stored data can still be protected. There are various ways to do this using tools such as TrueCrypt and BoxCryptor which we covered previously and in the case of Storage Made Easy, we act as a Cloud Control point for all public / private data so, if you wish, you can encrypt all data being stored on Box or any other service with a private key and this can made transparent to team users. More on that here.

For many EU companies it’s about private data not data centre data: The PRISM / Snowdon / Snooping issues have damaged confidence in a lot of companies about where they store their data, especially sensitive data, especially in the US or with US companies. Storage Made Easy is a UK Limited company that provide a complete behind the firewall Enterprise File Share and Sync Cloud Control solution. It works with your existing private and cloud stored data putting the control back in the hand of the companies. It can be entirely run in a companies data center or trusted IaaS infrastructure or entirely on-premise i.e.. completely the companies choice, and that is the key word here “choice.”

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The Top 5 things to Consider for Business File Sharing

20130309-165632.jpgFile Sharing is a key part of a companies ability to collaborate and share corporate data, which increasingly can be stored in many disparate services. The purpose of this post is to offer suggestion businesses should consider for their corporate file sharing strategy:

Many business just let employees share files with no control and no checks. This needs a policy. This is the businesses core asset and it needs to be protected and secure. Also, compliance and legislation of data is increasingly becoming important. The business needs to ensure it does not get caught in a compliance trap.

Point 1: Implement a control mechanism for your users. For example Storage Made Easy enables users to share files using links that can be password protected and in which the link can be set to expire. This protects against the user forwarding file. The file link can be set to expire on first download for example or set to download after 24 hours (or any other specified time period). If the file is password protected, even if the file is forwarded by the recipient then the file cannot be accessed unless the password is provided. A control mechanism promotes best practice security management of files and reduces operational risk.

Point 2: Point Solution or not ? Consider whether your strategy should be a point solution or whether it works with your existing data sets. Many vendors may purport to promote managed secure file sharing but often you find you have to move your data to their Cloud to have the solution work for you. Storage Made Easy works with private on-premise data, public cloud data such as DropBox, SkyDrive, Box etc and also with SaaS services such as BaseCamp. This promotes a ‘joined up’ strategy for company file sharing.

Point 3: Integrates with what you have ? Consider whether the solution works how you work so that it does not get in the way of business or productivity. For example Storage Made Easy integrates directly in the desktop as a network drive with simple right click options to share files. This behaviour supports Windows, Mac and Linux.  Also integration has been done with other core business productivity tools such as Microsoft Outlook and Mac Mail to promote easy secure file sharing using links directly from the corporate mail client. Similar integrations exists for core productivity tools such as Microsoft Office and Open Office or Libre Office.

Point 4: Compliance, Compliance Compliance – Compliance is fast catching up with all verticals when it comes to storing and accessing corporate files off site. There is specific industry legislation related to this, such as HIPPA in healthcare and FERPA in education, but  there are various legislation proposals being processed at various levels in the USA and EU and it is a safe bet that  the ability to track historic file events will become more of a requirement not less of a one. Also for companies, the ability to search against historic file sharing or data access should be just part of an overall joined up corporate security policy.

Point 5: On-Premise, Hybrid or Cloud ? The last point is to do with implementation. You should be able to decide how you manage data or metadata associated with storing files and sharing files. This can be behind the corporate firewall, totally on Cloud., or some combination of both. The key word here is choice.

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Azure Cloud Outage: it’s not unique, it will happen again, how to protect from it

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The recent highly publicised outage of the Azure Cloud infrastructure had the Cloud doomsayers out in force. They pointed to the outage and the prior highly publicised Amazon infrastructure outage as illustrations that Cloud had a fatal flaw or was too unreliable to use:

Point 1: Such outages are highly publicised because they happen so infrequently. In general most of the major Cloud Providers are averaging 99.99% up time and over per year.This is only 52.56 minutes unscheduled downtime per year !

Point 2. Imagine the alternative of providing similar infrastructure services and achieving the same, could you do it ? Not likely, and you would not benefit from the agility and productivity of it “just” being available ready for use.

Point 3: Bad things can happen to the best laid plans, so no matter what, you should have a disaster recovery plan based on total outage. This is applicable whether you are a business using the Cloud or a consumer using Cloud Services. It may not mean that you’ll be back up and running immediately, but it does mean you’ll be organised with steps to take if an outage occurs.

For Azure and Amazon, our particular focus is data rather than the infrastructure services, and this means Azure Blob Storage and Amazon S3.

If you believe what the Egnyte CEO, Vineet Jain, says the outage exposed a flaw in Cloud Computing infrastructure and only his Egnyte hybrid product can fill the gap ie. Move all your data out of Azure and S3 and into Egnyte. Hmmmmm…. Don’t think so.

So what can you do if you store your data on a Cloud Service? Well, here is how SME Azure Cloud users can deal with it:

1. First SME personal business or Cloud File Server business users can simply assign a backup Cloud Provider to a primary Cloud Provider ie. If your using Azure, then add S3 (or another cloud provider) as a backup and all data will be replicated from the primary to the backup, including any new data you upload.also if the primary cloud goes down, when you try to access you data we will retrieve it from the Backup.

You can do this for up to 1GB of data using our hosted service and with as much data and you need using the on-premise or managed hosted Cloud Appliance. See the prior blog article on backup clouds for more information.

2. You can simply backup Cloud Data to an on-premise NAS, SAN, or other data store. We provide our own desktop sync tools for doing this, or you can of course look at other tools that enable you to achieve the same thing.

The key thing is, don’t do nothing as murphy’s law predicts the services you use will be unavailable when you really need access to them.

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2012 signals the death of the file server? No, it signals the year of data unification

Given the recent press release by Egnyte signalling what that 2012 is the death of the File Server (shock, horror…) I felt we could not let it pass without a few comments.

Firstly the press release itself is a great example of marketing ! Take a topic that is outlines your proposition and make it incendiary or a little controversial to get attention. Touche.

The reality is that for many small businesses and companies the File Server is not going any where soon. There are many reasons for this, from ease of use, entrenched IT, site policies, existing app integration – a whole plethora of reasons why many organisations will either choose or have to keep the box in the corner of the office. And while we are discussing this, lets not forget the very term “File Server” is not limited to one server that servers files, despite what vendors who purport to have a ready made replacement would like you to believe. It also encompasses other Apps that can keep / store files, such as SharePoint for example, or perhaps some project management tool etc.

What’s required is something that can take systems that already exist, augment them, and present them in a way in which company information, including systems that s’erve files’, can be easily searches and managed, ideally from one cohesive interface.

Now lets go back to the press release and some of the interesting stats that exists in there:

“Forrester found that 41 percent of U.S. information workers were using various unapproved online file storage and data services for work purposes.”

That’s interesting and I expect this will not go away and is not easy to restrict, especially with all the ways that Clouds can integrate into App and smartphones these days. If this is the case, and I purport that it is, then why not encourage users to add any personal clouds into a single system that can provide some governance and management around  the problem ?

Lastly, the issue is not limited to file servers as I said earlier but the integration of other SaaS type services into one system that can add some management and governance. For example a company may have a file server in the corner of the office, but they may also use Google Apps as a company and their users may well each get a fairly substantial Google Docs account as part of this. How does this fit into the scheme of things ?  Ideally you want each users Cloud to also be integrated into some sort of ecosystem that can enable audtitng and management.

Here at SMEStorage we believe that a Cloud File Server should do more than just replace a File Server. We believe it needs to unify data services and help companies tame the data sprawl.

Information Manageability, information governance, and promoting information ‘visibility’ within a company is something we  view as a second generation ‘Cloud’ challenge that will need to be addressed by all companies., and which we address with what we refer to as our ‘Data Access Appliance’ and our own definition of a ‘Cloud File Server’.

The first way we deal with this is to enable either public or private Cloud data stores to be connected using our Cloud Appliance. This is a software appliance that can ‘broker’ the connections to different information Clouds ,which can either be used using SaaS with access tools or from in-situ appliance that a company can choose to sit inside their own DMZ.

Once public and private data stores are connected to the Data Access Appliance they can be configured as to which users have access to the different data stores, which subsets of different data elements can be shared amongst users, and what access permissions users have.

No data is moved. It remains in the same place. The Data Access Appliance indexes and ‘mines’ the data and creates a meta-data repository.  This makes cross data searches seamless and easy, and it also makes grouping or tagging data from different data stores simple. Imagine searching across all Email. Skype, SalesForce, BaseCamp, Google Docs and SharePoint for specific project details seamlessly and you can well imagine the power that this brings.

Once configured, end users simply see a single view of all data that they are given permission to see. This is accessible and manageable from  a single ‘Cloud’ file tree from either the web, desktop[1] or mobile[2]. Accessing and moving data from different data stores is as easy as ‘drag’ and ‘drop’.

The Appliance also provides services that supplements the various data and information clouds that have been added as a means to enable greater company productivity. For example every data store that is added to the Appliance can be accessed using the WebDav or FTP protocols independent of whether the data store natively supports these protocols or not. This means for example that companies can enable users to use iWork on iPad with DropBox or Google Docs, or backup their website to Amazon S3 using automated backups with Plesk and FTP. Neither of these would be possible otherwise.

The Appliance can also be used to ensure high availability and backup of local and remote Cloud Data. For example you can configure the Appliance to keep a backup of all files stored on Google Docs to Amazon S3 or all files stored on Office365 to RackSpace, or even files from a local file system to EMC Atmos. This takes away one of the key issues of using Cloud Services for data ie. the ability to access data if the Cloud Service is down, or in worst case if it loses the data.

Governance and auditing are other key aspects of working with public/private Cloud Stores. The Appliance features event auditing for all user access and all file events. This can be controlled at a very granular level. This is a key requirement for industries such as healthcare and legal which need to provide audit tracking of documents stored offsite. It is also best practice for all company data.

The Appliance also features GEO-Location tracking of files. This tracks precisely the location from where files are uploaded and also where they are uploaded and stored. This is useful governance for legislation such as Safe Harbour and the Patriot Act.  The GEO Location governance can also be used to restrict file viewing based on locality. This can be useful for example to comply with country specific legislation , such as restricting user access to personal data from a specific country.

Secure AES-256 military grade encryption is also added as a governed service above all Cloud Stores that are mapped to the Appliance. This uses a public / private key ethos and adds security to file stores that do not offer it and enhances security for data stores that do. If any encrypted files from any of the mapped Cloud Stores are accessed via the web or any of the desktop or mobile clients, then a user is prompted for a password before the file can be viewed or downloaded.  This security can also be integrated with existing security systems such as Ping Identity, OAuth etc.

Just-in-time visibility of data can be a key requirement for many companies. The Appliance can be setup to provide real-time notifications based on file events, including file comments, across data stores. For example, it may be you are part of a project and you have set a watch on a folder, or you have requested to be updated when a specific version of a file is updated.  The built in notifications can be setup not only to deliver an email, but also an SMS directly to your phone when such events occur. For the cost conscious it is even possible to setup Twitter as an SMS backbone so such direct messages over SMS can be sent free.

There are many other features and benefits of what we see is required from a Cloud File Server, and we have touched upon only a few to outline how a second generation Cloud Service can help tame the information sprawl that is only getting worse, not better. The key is data unification and helping companies, manage and get access to the information stores that exist in their business, be they private or public and be they existing applications or new SaaS applications.

 


[1] Native Mac, Linux Windows clients supported

[2] Native iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7, and BlackBerry clients supported

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Turning a NetGear ReadyNas into a Cloud File Server with WebDav and SME

NetGear ReadyNAS is a fully featured NAS appliance for individuals and small businesses (SMB’s).

The ReadyNAS is a great way to store locally accessible content but it would be even better if you could get to that content when out of the office and on the road. Even better what if you could organise that content, assign which users can access which files remotely, set file access permissions, and more, in essence turning your ReadyNas into a private Cloud File Server.

Thankfully, the ReadyNAS supports WebDAV, or “Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning”, which is an an extension to HTTP that allows access to files remotely over HTTP or HTTPS. This enables you to map your ReadyNAS as a Private Cloud to SME This is a true Private Cloud in that your files do not need to be moved or synchronised anywhere else for this to work.

First you need to setup the ReadyNAS for WebDav. You can find a detailed guide on how to do that here.


Once this is done we can begin to add the The WebDav enabled ReadyNAS as a Mapped Private Cloud to SME.

To do this the first thing to do is setup an Account at StorageMadeEasy.com. We will be stepping through the setup of a Cloud File Server Account, but this will also work for free or personal accounts.

After creating an account (in this example a Cloud File Server Account) let’s first configure the WebDav connector to work with the ReadyNAS.

To do this navigate to ‘My DashBoard’ from the sidebar and choose to add a new WebDav Provider.


Choosing ‘Add Provider’ will take you to a screen where you can add the ReadyNAS WebDav provider details.


For the WebDav Server host enter the “IP Address (or DDNS name)/sharename” that you setup when getting your ReadyNAS for WebDav. For username and password use the same name and password that you use for accessing a share on your PC. Change the port to 443 as SSL is enabled. Enter the ReadyNAS share path that you previously entered.

Once done click ‘continue, and you will be prompted to sync the ReadyNAS file meta data from the share that you just created.

Once this is done your ReadyNAS device is available to be used as a CloudFile Server.


If you navigate to the file manager you will see the ReadyNAS files/folders from the share you created on the ReadyNAS:


As well as the ReadyNAS files we can also add other Cloud Files, from any of over 25 Cloud Storage Providers. In this case I’ll add Google Docs using the exactly same procedure as adding the WebDav provider we outlined earlier except this time I’ll choose the Google Docs Provider and step through that wizard. Once Added I’ll be able to add both sets of files in a virtual file tree:


This is now setup to be able to access files using iPhone / iPad, Android, Windows Mobile 7, BlackBerry or any of the Mac,Windows, and Linux desktop drives that SME Supports:


Now we’re ready to create some users. We can do this from our Web Dashboard:


Users login become <username>@<Cloud File Server name>. In this example we used marketing@ReadyNAS.

Once the users are setup we can add some shared Organisation Folders from the File Manager and then set some access permissions against them. These folders can be a mixture of folders that reside on the ReadyNAS or Google Docs, or indeed any other Cloud you have added.


The Cloud Admin can also enable users to be able to setup their own private Clouds with data only they have access to, for example Google Docs Apps accounts that are allocated to each user, or SkyDrive Accounts etc:


There are a myriad of file sharing options which include file links, file links with managed expiry, sharing with collaboration groups, making files public (and if required protecting them with passwords even if public). All these options are also available from mobile devices and tablets:


This is the end of the brief overview of setting up a ReadyNAS appliance to work with the SME Cloud file Server.

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