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 Cloud Hiccups & The Future of File Sharing & Sync

Cloud Hiccups & The Future of File Sharing & Sync

The cloud is enabling new businesses, new business models, and new ways of doing business.  For example, the elasticity of the cloud can be used for computer modeling where the project requires a massive amount of resources for a short period of time. Before the cloud, the cost of procuring the computing resources for this type of modeling would have been prohibitive to most companies.

Another great use of the cloud is “cloud-bursting” where an organization has a fixed set of infrastructure on-site and will “burst” into the cloud when the application has consumed the entire on-site infrastructure.  A good example of this is seasonal website activity where the company can procure enough infrastructure for the “regular season” and essentially rent by the hour for extra infrastructure during seasonal peaks in traffic or commerce. 

The cloud has also been a disruptive factor in the applications space. There are many applications that live entirely in the cloud. Salesforce.com is the first company that everyone normally thinks of when hearing the term software as a service (SaaS).  While there are other examples of SaaS applications that live entirely in the cloud, there are also applications that live behind the firewall for one reason or another.  A company will have a mix of some cloud applications and some on-premise applications.

The Hiccup

But this application space is where the “hiccup” comes in. Thanks to the success of SaaS applications living side-by-side with on-premise applications, assumptions were made that “live in the cloud” was crowned as the only way.  This ultimately resulted in a bit of a hiccup as the market corrected back to more of a balanced approach between cloud and on-premise. 

Another good example is the storage space. Despite the fact that cloud storage vendors are dropping prices on a regular basis in a race to the bottom, enterprise customers continue to leverage some cloud storage and some local storage.  The determination of what data is sent to cloud storage and what data is kept locally is normally centered around speed of access, which is a function of adjacency of the data to the consumer of that data.  The “consumer” in this case does not have to be a person.  It can also be an application or process.  For example, with Desktop Virtualization, or VDI, the data or storage has to be adjacent to the VDI application or process to provide the performance required to make the users happy.  Without that adjacency, and corresponding speed, the desktop experience for users would be slow and provide an inferior user experience. 

File Sharing and Sync

We are now seeing that same cloud hiccup with file sharing and sync for similar reasons in the  cloud storage market.  Users want the fastest access speeds possible.  There really is no comparison between accessing files over a high speed gigabit per second network and a 20 megabit per second cloud connection.  Further, that 20 megabit per second cloud connection is eroded quite quickly as more and more users access and share files, use voice over IP, video, myriad SaaS applications or just general internet traffic.  And what happens if you lose the Internet connection?  Well, that’s similar to “persistent hiccups” – hiccups that last for an extended period of time. 

For these reasons, the cloud hiccup is eroding the clear schism that once existed between on-premise (access to files from storage that sits behind the firewall) and cloud (access to files that are synched to any number of public cloud providers).  Distinctive boundaries are getting fuzzier and both worlds will co-exist, albeit in a totally different shape -– the ease of use and economics driving cloud, merged with the speed of on premise access (the “I want it now” factor), all combined in one solution that addresses the needs of governance, control and compliance that companies require.  The irony is that cloud applications are one of the main drivers for on-premise file sharing.  Organizations will always have many users accessing files from inside the firewall.  In this case, cloud-only solutions turn the internal network connection to the firewall into a chokepoint or a point of bandwidth contention.

Keeping Some Files On-Premise

To illustrate this point, an organization with 1000 file sharing users will probably have 250 users accessing or sharing files at any instant.  Imagine each of those users sharing a 50 MB file.  Now also imagine all the other cloud services that you have running:  VoIP, corporate video conferencing, personal video conferencing, ERP, CRM, SFA, HR, etc.  You can see where having some files on-premise will reduce this network chokepoint and not have the rest of the organization see the spinning icon while their browser or application waits for the network. 

The moral of the story is while pure cloud may be good for some applications or services; it is just part of the solution for other applications and services.  If you do the research around use cases and associated deployment models ahead of time, you’ll know where “cloud-only” works and the cases that require a combination of on-premise and cloud.  Put a solution in place that lets you quickly solve your immediate need (which may be cloud-only TODAY), but can also expand to other use cases down the road. 

Barry Phillips is chief marketing office at Egnyte, a provider of cloud-based file sharing and storage.

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