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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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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Cloud File Server Branding

We’ve been asked many times from our Cloud File Server clients how they can customise their accounts to incorporate a unique link and logo branding. I’m pleased to be able to day this is now live on the site. A short overview on how to do this below:

1. How to brand your Cloud File Server

Branding your Cloud File Server is straightforward, when logged in as the Cloud Admin, just navigate to the Option setting and upload your own logos. One will be use for the login screen and the other will be used for the logo icon in the top left when logged in. 

Any logos uploaded, if larger than the file sizes requested will be cropped.

2. Unique Link

Once you have updated the graphics you will be given a unique link to access your Cloud File Server for your company.

3. Branding complete

Once you have completed the branding exercise your Cloud File Server can be accessed using the unique home page and your brand will be displayed subsequently after login.

You can change this as many times as you wish.

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Turning any Storage Cloud into an Amazon S3 compatible Private, Public or hybrid Cloud

In the past we have written about Amazon S3 and how, aas the 100 pound gorilla, of the Cloud Storage world, it’s S3 API has become almost a de facto interface for developers. This is one of the reasons that we originally added an S3 API protocol adaptor to our service.

Many start up’s, small businesses and even enterprises choose initially to use S3 for storage.  This can be fine initially, however, when the volume increases the monthly bill can become an OPEX issue and small companies (and Enterprise) are looking for ways to slash their costs in any way they can. Aside from this other companies have stringent issues about where data is stored (for clarification, Amazon S3 is PCI DSS 2.0 compliant,   SAS 70 Type II certified, and VPV ISO 27001 certified) or wish to store it within their own data centre or site.

As SMEStorage supports over 35 Clouds and SaaS services, you could very easily turn Google Docs, Box, Windows Azure or DropBox into an S3 Platform, or you could just add your own NetGear or PogoPlug appliance, or other private storage implementation.

The SME hosted service, and Cloud Appliance,  provides the ability access to any Saas or cloud storage mapped to your account via multiple protocols. These include  FTP, WebDav and also S3. These work even if the backend provider does not support the protocol natively. The SME protocol adaptors will do the protocol translation to the native storage provider protocol. One of the benefits of this that the users don’t need any special software to be able to access the Clouds. They can use any FTP, or WebDav client, or in the case of S3 any S3 client or code in which the host endpoint can be changed.

To demonstrate compatibility with the S3 API and tools we will now look at how to use AWS s3curl with a smestorage account.

To use s3 curl you will need to modify s3curl.pl and change the end point to

s3.smetorage.com’ (US Server) or ‘s3eu.storagemadeeasy.com‘ (EU Server) e.g my @endpoints = ( ‘s3.storagemadeeasy.com‘);

Your id is your smestorage account user name and you can obtain your secret key by logging into SMEStorage.com going to “My  Dashboard” (from the sidebar) and copying the API key from  the“Tech Info”  section where the “API secret Key” resides.

Now you are all set to use s3curl. For example to list all the buckets you can use

./s3curl.pl –id smestorageusername –key API secret key http://s3.storagemadeeasy.com

For s3curl command line options please see the README file that is part of the s3curl package. Also note that the secure way to use s3curl is to use the .s3curl file in your home directory to pass the id and and key.

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How to build your own Private Cloud / Sharepoint replacement using Openfiler and SME

There are many ways to design and build an internal Private storage cloud. The components that you need are:

1. Some form of  Network Attached Storage
2. Some form of File Server to enable access to the files
3. Other Data Access or entry points dependent on the access type required

SME provides a data access gateway with rich data access points to files that are stored on the cloud. Our SaaS offering is multi-tenant and can be used with many clouds, such as Google Docs, Amazon S3, Microsoft SkyDrive, RackSpace Cloud Files etc. It can also be used with Private Cloud Storage through the use of FTP, WebDav, or any REST based Cloud API which can be added into our multi-cloud API in under a week.

SME acts as an enabler for richer features and functions of other storage clouds or storage file systems, providing rich tooling, clients and solutions such as our Cloud File Server.

We think of ourselves as  a data access solutions provider. Storage is getting more commoditised by the day and we believe that it’ what you can do with your files and storage that provides the real value.

Aside from the multi-tenant hosted version of SME we also provide SME as an appliance which can run in-house as an enabler for rich access and solutions for storage platforms.

This blog post will describe how easy it is to be build out your own Private Cloud using OpenFiler, an operating system that provides file-based network-attached storage and block-based storage area network, and SME (and you can use either the SaaS hosted edition or the appliance).

Openfiler supports:

  • CIFS/SMB support for Microsoft Windows-based clients
  • NFSv3 support for all UNIX clients with support for ACL protocol extensions
  • NFSv4 support
  • FTP support
  • WebDAV and HTTP 1.1 support

Combining OpenFiler with SME  enables your internal files to be available on all the SME supported devices (web, windows, Mac, Linux iPhone, Blackberry etc) plus the features of the Organisation Cloud platform which enable a powerful File sharing / File access / Collaboration / Intranet/  Sharepoint type platform.

Below are the step by step instructions  to enable Openfiler NAS storage access via the SME platform.

1. Download Openfiler form http://www.openfiler.com/community/download/ For this exercise we downloaded the open filer  VMware image

2. Add a SCSI drive to the VMware Image instance

3. Start the Openfiler VMware Instance and note the browser url

4. Open your browser and login default username/password is openfiler/password

5. Add a volume group and volume in openfiler

6. Enable HTTP / WebDAV server service

7. Add SME to access the openfiler in Network Access configuration

8. Create a share for the volume you created

9. Allow RW access and Public guest access(though this can be configured with security) on WebDav protocol from SME on the share

10. Make sure you can access the shared folder via http using your public ip address

11. Go to StorageMadeEasy.com and add the shared folder as  a webDav provider

12. If you have existing files in Openfiler then you can sync them now or anyother time.In this case we don’t have any files to sync.

13. Go to the SME File Manager where you can see OpenFiler has been added

14. Now you can use the full functionality of the SME platform and Cloud access tools using OpenFiler as the backend storage provider

In summary we’ve shown how to setup OpenFiler to work with Storage Made Easy. In a future post we’ll show how SME can be used to automatically sync files to Amazon S3 or Google Docs (or other clouds).

As outlined in introduction to this post, Storage Made Easy can be used as an onsite appliance with OpenFiler rather than the hosted model being used. If this is of interest to you then please contact us.

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