What is cloud file storage?
In recent years, the use of cloud storage to save personal documents has soared with services like Dropbox, One Drive and Google Drive widely used, driven in part by limited storage on devices like mobile phones combined with the flexibility to be able to access cloud storage from almost anywhere.
Many businesses have found it challenging to apply this technology for reasons including:
- Large amounts of documents currently stored on legacy file servers accessed through the corporate network
- Users familiar with current ways of accessing files may need retraining on cloud file storage
- Internal systems may contain links to automatically read and write documents to specific network locations which need re-coding
- Concerns around security of company data being stored, managed and accessed outside the corporate network
- The amount of analysis and planning involved in performing successful file server migrations
There are still many companies using legacy file servers which are mapped to familiar network drives which have become ingrained in company culture…
“If you want to see the latest HR policies, you will find them on the S: Drive”
However, cloud-based file sharing has come a long way, and by staying with traditional file servers, companies are potentially missing out on the many benefits of moving to cloud based file sharing systems.
Why should my company use cloud storage and file-sharing services?
Using an online service to store and share files and documents opens the door to a range of functionality over and above that afforded by a traditional file server, and whilst there are differences between the services offered by different vendors, general themes include:
Many cloud-based file storage services including the ability to check in and check out files to ensure that only one person can update a document at any time (some vendors use clever multi-editing solutions to enable multiple users to edit a document simultaneously) but essentially, every time the document is saved, a new version is created. This ensures that everyone is referencing the latest version of a document and prevents the issue where there are several version of a document which have been worked on independently, which then need to be merged without losing updates, which may in some cases conflict.
Many vendors also include the ability to save previous versions, and roll backwards (and forwards) through versions if needed.
Files stored on a traditional file server are going to be vulnerable to hardware failure. This can be mitigated by using RAID disc mirroring, backups and other techniques to prevent data loss, but in the event of catastrophic hardware failure, there will be limits to what can be restored.
Files in many cloud-based file stores can be accessed via links which can be sent to colleagues or external third parties using sharing capabilities which use enhanced security which may include features such as time or location limited access and enable users to perform full or restricted activities on the file. Access can also usually be limited to files, folders or folder structures and can be tracked.
One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based file sharing is that documents can be available to you or your audience from anywhere with internet connectivity without the need to configure technical resources. Obviously security can be a concern, but service providers understand this and include ever-more sophisticated methods into their platforms such as multi-factor authentication to facilitate technical security aspects leaving end users able to autonomously manage their own file sharing with confidence.
Our migration process
Before carrying out file server migrations, Devon Digital Services will explore the current file storage locations, reporting on file types, sizes, meta data, permissions and folder structures, also logging any dependencies on external systems or automated functions. Using this information, a phase of rationalisation and de-duping is carried out to ensure that only current and useful information is migrated across, and that all old or unused information is archived or deleted.
The destination platform will need to be organised with a meaningful structure. Working with your business, DDS will agree an appropriate destination structure hierarchy, and create a mapping document to map the source to the destination.
Ownership and Permissions
Each area within the current structure will need to have a defined owner who can make decisions about the data. All folder and file permissions will also be logged ready to be applied to the new structure.
As file stores build up, it is very common for files to have links between themselves within the existing structure, and also links into internal systems and external sources. The current filestore will be analysed for links within files, and potential post-migration issues highlighted. A strategy will also be created to re-link and validate all links post migration.
Many platforms come with tools to assist with data migrations, and there are also many third party tools available which may be useful if there are specific data requirements such as the retention of file meta data throughout the migration process. The tools will be evaluated against the migration objectives, and tests run prior to the full migration to ensure that we use the right tool for the job.
Once all the planning and testing has been completed, the full migration will be scheduled for a suitable time agreed with the business. During this process, data will be migrated across into the new file structure, permissions assigned and links validated. Also, it is common to shut down the original file store to prevent users from continuing to use the original location and avoid old documents being updated.
Post-migration, it may be necessary to put redirects in place to re-point systems to the new location in case of delays in re-coding hard links within systems. It will also pick up users trying to access old locations and redirect them to the new location.
If you would like to explore cloud-based file storage options, or discuss potential file server migrations for your business, please get in touch.