Data at Home and in the Cloud

Arthur Cole

It’s taken on faith in many quarters that increased reliance on the cloud puts enterprise data in greater jeopardy. And while individual assessment of risk will vary greatly from case to case, firms like NaviSite are looking to erase much of the doubt over cloud computing through advanced automation to enable broad data access and collaboration while maintaining full control. The company’s Chris Patterson, vice president of product management, explains in a conversation with IT Business Edge’s Arthur Cole.

Cole: Enterprises are starting to raise the alarm about user-provisioned cloud services exposing internal data to risk. How does NaviSite's Intelligent Storage portfolio address this?

Patterson: As consumer-level services gain prevalence and are embraced by users for personal use, such as storing family photos on Dropbox, answering emails and browsing from a smartphone, it is natural that the same level of convenience would be expected at work. NaviSite recognizes the challenges that IT departments face in maintaining control of sensitive data while also meeting these growing user demands. After all, if IT can’t provide a viable solution, users will always find another way.

NaviSite’s NaviCloud Dynamic Compute is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform that enables an administrator to grant different groups the ability to build VMs as easily, if not more so, than they could at AWS or one of the other transactional clouds. Billing and control are all centrally managed. For those who need to share files, the NaviCloud Intelligent Storage (NCIS) Share platform can be used with a solution like Gladinet to enable file sharing across multiple platforms like PC, Mac, Android and iPhone, with integration into Active Directory and other legacy controls. End users can gain access to the files needed and the administrators can control them as easily as they would control a file server.

The best way to secure data is to never let it leave a data center. NaviSite’s NaviCloud ONE Desktop-as-a-Service platform allows users to access a full desktop environment from any device, either user- or company-owned, without any sensitive information ever touching the device. File sharing and clipboard functionality can be disabled for highly sensitive use cases and the user never has physical access to the data.

These products, coupled with appropriate internal controls and user education, enable enterprises to embrace the new computing paradigms without exposing data to undue risk.

Cole: What about integration with internal data environments? What is the best way for the enterprise to expand its cloud footprint without creating new layers of management complexity?

Patterson: Most enterprises have spent years acquiring tools and implementing policies and processes designed to protect and control their data. Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to negate all of those efforts — a good enterprise platform becomes an extension of an existing compute environment, not a replacement. Be sure to utilize a cloud provider that can tie into existing Active Directory structures and can run legacy management and monitoring tools within the VMs being provided. Cloud means that an enterprise must trust a service provider to provide controls at a physical and infrastructure layer, but logical controls can remain the same.

When quoting out Desktop-as-a-Service environments, NaviSite engineers are frequently asked about anti-virus or content filtering options. The simplest answer is always to use the existing AV platform in place at the customer site and route all desktop web traffic through the existing content filtering platform. While a service provider can provide these services in a green field environment, and there are certainly powerful cloud-optimized tools, this can lead to management challenges around updates and versioning when mixed with existing controls. If cloud is treated as an extension of a legacy environment, the overall customer experience is much more streamlined.

Cole: How crucial is it, though, for the enterprise to push critical data onto the cloud? Won't costs be lowered significantly with simple cloud-based bulk storage options while keeping the important stuff closer to home?

Patterson: There is no simple answer for what data should go to the cloud. Cloud storage can be cheaper than local SAN platforms. And, with the appropriate controls and when properly configured by customer and service provider, it can be just as secure. The primary attribute where cloud storage provides a lesser experience is that of performance — latency to the cloud is much greater than Fibre Channel or iSCSI. Data requiring frequent or high-speed access should remain internal while lesser accessed data can go to the cloud. Study after study shows that the vast majority of customer data sits latent on expensive local disks. By moving this out to cloud, investments in physical gear can be maximized.

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