Legacy NAS Storage Has Become a Liability, Switch to Global File System


Remote work enablement is a critical mission facing CIOs in today’s post-COVID world. Enterprises are deploying next-generation file storage technologies to enable employees to work productively and securely from remote and home offices. Here, Saimon Michelson, Field CTO for North America at CTERA, explains how Global File Systems can help CIOs resolve the daunting remote work challenges.

The gradual transition to remote work models began well before the COVID outbreak. As enterprises became more distributed, the need for automated IT processes across multiple sites increased. At the same time, enterprises began to realize that their standalone legacy NAS appliances were not equipped to address their complex file storage challenges – such as explosive data growth, rising storage costs, and enabling remote work models.

Legacy network-attached storage (NAS) solutions, such as NetApp filers and Windows file servers, were built to support corporate users at a single location (i.e., headquarters). But for an enterprise with 100 branches, installing a new NAS appliance at each site is both expensive and an IT management nightmare. Moreover, disconnected data “islands” at remote offices lead to Shadow IT and other risks.

Moving data storage to the public cloud ticks the boxes for cost and scalability, but using the cloud as the primary storage solution falls short when it comes to enterprises’ security and productivity needs.

Learn More: It’s Time to Switch to Cloud-Based File Storage

COVID Tips the Scales

The urgency of enabling fast and secure file access from any location and any device has never been more palpable than during the COVID-19 crisis. Over the past eight months, we have witnessed a fundamental and irreversible shift in the way enterprises work. To ensure business continuity, workforces are shifting from mega-HQ campuses to smaller local offices, complemented by a heavy dose of work-from-home (WFH).

To address their productivity requirements, enterprises seek ways to extend corporate file systems to remote users with LAN-speed performance while respecting the corporate security policies.

What’s needed is a hybrid solution that marries low-cost cloud object storage with fast local access at remote sites and home offices. Enterprises want the best of both worlds – elastic scalability and infinite storage capacity without sacrificing performance and user experience at the edge.

The good news is that such a hybrid solution exists – and it’s called a Global File System.

What’s a Global File System?

Global File Systems utilize elastic cloud storage, either public or private, as a central, golden copy of data that is then cached to local devices for quick, efficient file access. By leveraging cloud economics, Global File Systems are proven to reduce storage costs by up to 80 percent over legacy NAS solutions.

Comprising edge devices and cloud storage, Global File Systems unify corporate data within a single global namespace. All features and access are controlled and managed in a centralized manner. File caching is performed by edge filers deployed at each branch office. All files are synchronized between the edge filers and the Global File System.

In addition, Global File Systems can connect home workers from any desktop, laptop, VDI client or mobile device, allowing remote users to securely access, share and collaborate on files as if they were sitting at corporate headquarters. This is crucial for organizations employing remote and work-from-home employees who require quick, efficient access to data from multiple devices.

Modern global file systems also offer high levels of data security through private deployments and end-to-end encryption. Advanced services including zero-trust architectures are adding new levels of confidence for organizations seeking to modernize legacy infrastructure.

Learn More: It’s Time to Rethink Enterprise Content Management to Meet the Needs of the ‘New Normal’

Global File Systems in Action 

Beyond the theory, here’s a quick peek at how some enterprises have employed a Global File System in practice to meet their file services and remote work challenges.

  • Global Pottery Manufacturer

With file storage requirements increasing by 10-15% every six months, this UK-based manufacturer sought a way to lower storage costs, as well as enabling remote access and multi-site file collaboration for its users. The organization decided to replace its legacy SAN array-based storage services with a hybrid cloud architecture based on a Global File System.

In addition to providing infinite storage capacity and simplified data management, the Global File System saves the manufacturer tens of thousands of pounds on disk storage. The  Head of IT discovered another huge bonus following the COVID outbreak. “COVID-19 has made remote workforce enablement a critical priority. With a Global File System, we’re able to enable seamless file access and collaboration for WFH users, making them as productive as if they were in the office.”

  • Integrated Branding Agency

This North American branding agency migrated its on-premises storage platform to a Global File System in January 2020. The system caches frequently accessed files for “local” performance, while offloading cold data to the cloud. From a hardware perspective, this firm was able to turn 48U of data center equipment into 4U by incorporating the cloud for file storage.

When COVID struck, the Global File System enabled the agency to boost remote worker productivity and gain added agility from its storage platform. “It was advantageous to suddenly have a web interface on top of every file in the organization,” according to the vice president of technology. “Users also enjoy better performance because they don’t have to send files over the VPN.” 

Looking Ahead

Global File Systems technology presents an opportunity for IT organizations to address the changing requirements for data storage and data access. New paradigms of unlimited scale with local data access give IT the best of both worlds approach between cloud hyperscale and on-premises NAS. Global File Systems provide new opportunities to facilitate efficient global collaboration within organizations and represent the future of file storage in the enterprise.

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