Overcoming Distributed File Storage Challenges for Enterprises

by Jaap van Duijvenbode on May 05, 2015

FAST™ combines the best aspects of both centralization and localization for file-level data without any of the compromises.

Overcoming Distributed File Storage Challenges for Enterprises

Global file sharing has always been essential for successful business operations. To contribute and collaborate, enterprise employees must be able to view, alter and add to corporate information resources. Any delays or obstacles will undermine productivity and overall effectiveness for the company as a whole.

Overcoming Distributed File Storage Challenges for EnterprisesIn the past, such data access was more or less taken for granted. For modern enterprises, though, this is no longer the case. Today's enterprises are far more geographically dispersed than their predecessors, and this creates serious challenges. How can organizations ensure all employees have access to the data they need, regardless of where those employees are situated - all while minimizing latency and complexity?

The stakes here are high. Global firms that can effectively tackle this issue will enjoy significant performance advantages over their competitors.

In many cases, distributed enterprise decision-makers mistakenly believe they have only two mediocre choices for data management: centralization or localized data centers. However, there is a third option, one that combines the best aspects of both centralization and localization without any of the compromises: enabling distributed file storage by leveraging Intelligent File Caching via FAST™.

The problem with centralization
Centralization offers a number of significant benefits in terms of simplifying the way organizations manage unstructured data. Most notably, it is far easier to oversee and secure a single set of centralized data than a multitude of individual locations, with their local servers, storage and backup. However, centralization tends to create major latency problems for distributed enterprises. No matter what protocols are used to access data over WAN links, remote users will inevitably run into performance issues that undermine their own productivity, as well as creating employee frustration and resentment.

"For some companies, data latency is detrimental. For others, it's devastating."

For some companies, this latency will prove detrimental. For others, it can be downright devastating, having to wait for our to open or save a large project file. If an organization's employees need to continuously access, manipulate and share large numbers of massive files in real-time, latency issues may mean that centralization is not even a viable option, much less the best possible choice.

The problem with branch office file servers - "Islands of Data"

The latency issues associated with centralization have naturally led many enterprises to embrace localized data centers for their information distribution needs. By placing file storage near remote end users, enterprises can vastly improve performance and eliminate latency issues and enable real-time collaboration with global file locking to maintain data integrity. At the same time, though, this approach creates a huge number of administrative complications. Each remote location must be individually managed, which requires the coordination of independent backups and provisioning. Additionally, ensuring the security of the company's intellectual property becomes far more complicated and difficult, thanks to the increased number of potential entry points.

Just as importantly, the local approach, where users are working on "Islands of Data," prevents true employee collaboration. There's no way to ensure that the enterprise's data remains consistent across every location, and changes made by one employee may not be visible to another. If employees begin to work with inconsistent information, collaborative efforts will result in confusion and inaccuracies.

Collaboration is only possible with consistent data.

Collaboration is only possible with consistent data.

FAST™ benefits
FAST™ is so valuable to geographically dispersed enterprises because it avoids the complications and problems caused by both of the alternatives described above. CloudFAST creates a storage overlay layer on Windows Server deployments and, critically, takes advantage of a hybrid model. Data is streamed and cached on-demand or using pre-population to local branch office sites, but the authoritative data set remains at central locations.

This means that enterprises must manage, administer, provision and secure only the centralized data center. At the same time, though, FAST eliminates latency problems, as the overlay layer manages cache population and data movement to and from remote locations. Employees at every location can therefore utilize the data they need whenever they need it and collaborate effectively, knowing every end user is working with the same consistent information at all times.

Altogether, this makes FAST™ the ideal way for the modern enterprise to approach distributed file storage in geographically challenged environments.

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