Enterprise file services can make your organisational data accessible and secure, and an important aspect of enterprise file services is ensuring the uptime of users and offices around the world, with proper methods in place to recover from any scenario: fire, hardware failure, or, increasingly, a ransomware attack.
It’s why more and more organisations are looking to cloud-based disaster recovery options that can help them recover instantly and easily from any productivity-killing office outage and ensure their users are uninterrupted. The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, uses cloud-based technologies to ensure the uptime of dozens of offices and the productivity of thousands of users around the world. Similarly, global entertainment leader Live Nation modernised its branch disaster recovery infrastructure with modern, cloud-based DR tools that maintain a secure business continuity agenda.
The move to the cloud for DR purposes has been driven by limitations of legacy approaches, which can be complex, slow, costly – or some variation of all three. An outage of a branch office file server, for example, can mean that business halts until perhaps a tape backup is successfully restored (fingers crossed) or a replacement server arrives.
But modern cloud failover approaches now almost all include a hybrid optionality in which organisational data and storage infrastructure can reside on-premises while also having data replicated to the cloud. Carlyle Group users, for example, can access their office files through a hybrid backup appliance that also serves as a file server; any changes to files stored on the appliance are securely synced to the replicated files stored in the cloud.
If that local appliance ever becomes unavailable due to a disaster scenario, Carlyle IT administrators can redirect network drives to the cloud’s version of files. With file reads and writes seamlessly redirected to the cloud, users might not even notice the change, and the office doesn’t come to a standstill while you reboot your gateway or otherwise fix the situation.
As a result of organisations adopting cloud for DR and other use cases, users have essentially ubiquitous access to a file server using both traditional methods (like CIFS/SMB) as well as modern methods (like EFSS). Until recently, managing file system structures and user file access permissions (via ACLs) both locally on file servers and in the cloud was challenging, but it’s an important consideration of disaster recovery. (ACLs (Access Control Lists) are used by operating systems to restrict access permissions (read, read/write, execute, etc.) of a folder or file to certain users or groups. NT-ACLs are ACLs used by the Windows family of operating systems, including server and consumer editions since 2000.)
Secure cloud failover technologies are NT-ACL-aware, and enforce NT-ACLs in both the cloud and the office. This means users have the exact same file access and file shares in the cloud as they did locally. Why does this matter? Let’s say an IT person makes a change to a user’s access permissions on an office’s local file server that restricts the user from seeing confidential material. Because the file permissions for the cloud are managed separately from the Active Directory/NT-ACL permissions, the local permissions change will not be reflected in the cloud, and the user potentially can have access to sensitive data if he or she is accessing files through the cloud in a DR scenario.
What the cloud is bringing to these organisations is essentially zero office downtime. Offices with traditional file server infrastructure can experience hours, days, or even weeks of downtime as they ship new hardware to an affected office, restore backups, etc. Offices with cloud failover can resolve these issues instantaneously: global IT admins can instantly redirect users to the cloud, ensuring uninterrupted office operations and user productivity.
Cloud failover also means significant cost savings and fewer headaches, as there’s no need to deploy and manage expensive storage appliances running in parallel on-site, or maintaining a tape backup library. The economics of the cloud and cloud-enabled infrastructure enables organisations to minimise TCO of not only DR components, but overall storage spend as well.
In addition to rapid recovery during gateway outages, modern office appliances are architected to ensure complete file availability even during internet connection outages. By maintaining a copy of the file system at the edge of the network – on the appliance – organisations can access and collaborate on files in the event of an internet outage. Once the internet connection is restored, any file changes made will be synced between the office and the cloud.
Cloud-based disaster recovery strategies are an effective means of improving office productivity and increasing the efficiency of your branch storage infrastructure. I’ll leave you with a few parting links and some bonus wisdom from Ben Franklin that applies to life and IT disaster recovery: Lost time is never found again.