File Servers Are Dead; Long Live File Syncing
This morning I experienced a painful reminder: Traditional file servers kill business collaboration. Let me give you a real-world example that occurred less than a hour ago. Read on, and you'll have some new ammunition to promote business-class file sync and sharing services.
The background: Today I joined a meeting hosted by an educational organization (to protect identities, let's say they are located in Detroit). I accessed the meeting using Microsoft Lync from my home office in New York. A few dozen attendees (including me) were given VPN access to grab content from a file server. Where is the file server physically located? Like every other modern IT user, I don't know and I don't care.
Alas, the meeting stopped before it started. Among the problems during a 20-minute delayed start: The file server…
- was slow;
- didn't work for some Mac users;
- offers only rudimentary file version controls; and
- depended on a long, confusing, impossible to remember file path (\\OhMyGosh\0131412\BetUCant\wtf\rememberThis)
It's 2013… but I felt like I was back in 1995, leveraging Novell NetWare or Microsoft's latest-and-greatest (at the time) Windows NT Server 3.51 while working over a dial-up connection.
Where to Next?
What's the solution? One approach could involve consumer-class file sync and sharing services like Google Drive and Microsoft Skydrive. Generally speaking, the consumer services are (1) fast, (2) easy to use, (3) fast, (4) easy to use and (5) fast… are you seeing the trend?
But here's the problem: Many consumer-class services lack corporate-class security and compliance controls. Plus, some of the consumer-class services lack revenue and management opportunities for MSPs.
The solution: Poke around the MSP industry and you'll find business-class file sync and sharing services. Just make sure they include MSP-friendly partner programs that allow you to brand, manage and price the service on your own.
Did I Mention Email Problems?
So how did my meeting today proceed? The host bypassed the file server and ultimately emailed seven files to roughly 50 meeting attendees. And that brings up another modern reality: Deploy a business-class file sync and sharing service, and email-clogging messages — filled with bulky attachments — may decline significantly.