Just like Goldilocks, enterprises are struggling to find the “just-right” solution for file collaboration, one that jointly meets their need for security, privacy and ease of use. For personal use, employees are accustomed to the simplicity that solutions like Dropbox provide to store, share, and manage files – these solutions offer walk-up usability and great functionality with limited or no upfront investment of time and capital. Yet in the enterprise, similar simplicity has been starkly difficult to come by when complete data privacy is a requirement.
Public cloud storage and collaboration solutions like Dropbox and Box are simple and easy as the service provider has a ready-made, already-managed infrastructure in place at their data centers. As a result, the configuration and maintenance burden is minimal – and with access to enterprise data, public cloud services provide great usability in the Web. But use of public clouds is frequently prohibited in highly regulated industries, by enterprises with conservative views and requirements on proprietary data control, and internationally where it is forbidden to host data within U.S. borders. Uncertainty associated with legal rights and requirements of both data owners and service providers also has tempered public cloud adoption in enterprises, particularly since the U.S. government, in a legal brief, argued that users’ property rights are lost or severely limited when uploading data to a third-party public cloud storage solution.
Private cloud collaboration solutions, on the other hand, offer uncompromising security and privacy because the data is stored within the enterprise enclave. At first glance, solutions such as GroupLogic’s activEcho, ownCloud, or traditional options like Microsoft SharePoint seem to be the right choice for most enterprises when security and privacy are required. However, they then lack the simplicity users expect.
Because so many enterprises require both privacy and simplicity, there is great interest in a solution that offers the simplicity of the public cloud with data privacy and security offered by the private cloud. Companies see great value in cloud management solutions that allow data to reside on premise. Just look at Cisco’s newly announced acquisition of Meraki or even Dell’s Boomi buy a couple of years back. In fact, real value can be created if public cloud services are decoupled from the traditional requirement of storing enterprise data. This happy medium – a new category we have termed the “cloud-managed private cloud model” – enables data to reside internally within the enterprise yet still provides ready-made, already-managed infrastructure and user simplicity. By adopting this model of cloud collaboration, where services remain in the public cloud and data remains private, enterprises can experience the traditional benefits of both public and private clouds.
Memeo, my own company Adept Cloud, and Egnyte’s new Cloud Control beta are all targeting this kind of hybrid cloud offering, although each enables different degrees of data privacy.
In this cloud-managed private cloud paradigm, the administrative tasks for cloud, user, access, and organization management are performed via the public cloud, but data remains in the enterprise’s existing internal storage infrastructure. This model enables enterprises to more easily deploy collaboration tools, support collaboration across enterprises, and allow for Web and mobile access – accomplished via publicly or privately deployed resources depending on the privacy needs of the enterprise. Fundamentally, enterprise file data must stay private, and any cloud-managed private cloud must operate without knowledge of files and file meta-data an enterprise has stored.
The private cloud side of this hybrid collaboration model strives to move away from the specialized hardware and complexity typically associated with traditional private cloud collaboration solutions. In this model, a simple private cloud infrastructure and set-up is enabled by moving administration functionality into the public cloud, without the requirement of specialized central authority inside the enterprise firewall. The desire for simplicity across and within security silos pushes a decentralized private cloud inside the enterprise. Doing so enables any commodity computing resource inside an organization (physical or virtual and local or in the cloud) to join the private cloud as both a content source and content sync. This design is viewed as an ad-hoc network, but with the connection coordination managed automatically via the public cloud service. Pushing out this decentralized private cloud eliminates a common drawback of public and private collaboration: the need for a centralized and federated data repository to serve content to clients. In addition, there are no unanticipated fees or file size constraints when data remains inside the private network with a cloud-managed solution, because the data remains on existing storage while increasing asset use.
Enterprises have a difficult decision to make when considering the benefits and drawbacks of the traditional public and private cloud storage and collaboration solutions. But no longer does that decision have to be so black-and-white. With this third option — the cloud-managed private cloud model – enterprises can get the best of both worlds.
Frank-Robert Kline is co-founder and CEO of cloud-managed private collaboration provider Adept Cloud Inc. Jon Schoenberg, an engineer at Adept Cloud, also contributed to this article.
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