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IT pros talk benefits of cloud file storage at CloudBound21

Three IT professionals from across the globe discuss the benefits of using cloud file storage over their previous on-prem setups during Nasuni's CloudBound21 conference.

Three IT professionals told their file storage migration stories during the first day of Nasuni CloudBound21, the file storage vendor's conference, citing benefits such as greater availability, ease of use and lower overall costs.

Although each customer made use of Nasuni's filers and cloud storage services, the problems they were looking to solve and the solutions they arrived at reflect similar challenges faced by many IT departments.

Data availability, resiliency and easing the burden on local IT teams topped the list of reasons many opted for cloud file storage, but some discovered a few fringe benefits as well.

Cloud file storage syncs architecture blueprints

SMEC Ltd., formerly Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp., is an international engineering consultancy with offices across Australia. The company primarily works on transportation infrastructure projects meant to last for a century, such as roads, bridges and tunnels.

The projects typically involve large blueprint and planning files, which need to be maintained for decades.

Simon Hoby, regional IT manage, SMEC AustraliaSimon Hoby

"All of that generates enormous amounts of data," said Simon Hoby, regional IT manager at SMEC Australia. "Lots of stuff we have to hang onto for a very long time."

Previously, SMEC branch offices would share locally stored files across wide area network connection boxes, which employees would log into. This setup required employees to remember where they saved data and avoid duplicating outdated files elsewhere.

"It just wasn't feasible," Hoby said. "People would copy data from one side of the country to another, and it just accumulated. We knew we needed to do something."

Hoby's department decided to use cloud storage to eliminate its database footprint at each branch site and enable employees to collaborate on files regardless of location.

[Your files] look the same no matter where you are in the country. … Nobody has complained about not being able to find something.
Simon HobyANZ IT manager, SMEC Australia

"We knew the cloud was the way to go, and we knew we needed to help our engineering crew find ways to work on these enormous joint ventures across the countryside," he said. "[Your files] look the same no matter where you are in the country. … Nobody has complained about not being able to find something."

The move not only helped the firm save on its on-premises backup system costs, which charged per terabyte stored as part of the license agreement, but also mitigated the damage from a series of power outages.

The staccato timing of the outages, which took place overnight, damaged one of the on-prem SAN devices. Despite the offline hardware, employees were able to continue working from the same files backed up to the cloud.

"That could have cost us huge amounts of money in terms of lost time and lost consulting time for our clients," Hoby said. "In this, there was no lost time or disaster recovery."

Supermarket puts file leftovers into cloud cold storage

Mark Rausch, director of technical services at Wegmans, saw his organization had a growing data problem. The supermarket chain, which operates about 106 stores across the U.S., continued accumulating unstructured files year-over-year with no efforts at reducing overall size, he said.

"As our company grows, our users store more data," Rausch said. "There's more spreadsheets, more documents, more presentations, more images to store."

The company, headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., needed to manage about 120 TB of data spread across millions of files, as each corporate department kept its own individual file shares about two years ago, Rausch said. To bring all that data together, Rausch and his team needed to consider what data was useful, junk or regulated and needed to be backed up.

"Our real issue here came down to cost," he said. "We had [storage] on a very expensive disk array, which was highly redundant and highly available. We were noticing the majority of our file share data was old and stale. … No one was looking at it for several years. We didn't have a data retention policy."

The team chose a cloud-based file system at the request of the CIO, who required that users experience no change in their day-to-day work as most were used to using Windows File Explorer.

"Using Nasuni did allow us to maintain Windows File Explorer, [and] it allowed us to move the data in a way that was very comfortable and very easy to understand," Rausch said. "Files, once they were converted, were in the same place they were before."

Rausch ultimately used the existing on-prem hardware with Nasuni to cache actively used files locally, while less frequently used items were moved into Microsoft Azure. Users, he noted, saw nothing different when accessing data and didn't experience slow access speeds.

"If there were any downsides, it would be the length of time it took to move these files through the Nasuni [software]," he said. "It's a transition we'd do again if we had to."

The data stored by the company has grown by another 30 TB. Rausch said using Azure through Nasuni means his organization needs to renegotiate its storage contract with only Nasuni, rather than worrying about new storage purchases.

Rausch said he'd eventually like to move data from Wegmans' more than 100 stores into the Nasuni system and Azure cloud. Wegmans, like many franchises and chain stores, also employs a construction and design division for stores with its own storage needs. Eventually, he'd like to see that division move into Nasuni and Azure for easier file access and collaboration.

Cloud file storage used to reduce costs, tech headaches

Man Group, a centuries-old asset management firm based in the U.K., moved its cold data to the cloud to cut overhead costs in its data centers worldwide.

Using the cloud also helped to remove slower connections to and from file sources, such as teams working in Hong Kong needing to phone the U.K. to access their data, according to Matt Wardle, Wintel manager at Man Group.

"We wanted a more modern solution," Wardle said. "We wanted something that was a cheap solution that would offload the cold data. We also didn't want to have to manually manage what was cold data and what was hot data."

While using Nasuni and cloud storage helped mitigate the problem, the Nasuni API also helped Wardle's team solve a common IT time sink.

The API enabled Man Group's IT team to develop a Slack bot for managing file permissions. Rather than submitting a ticket to IT to request access to a currently open file, the bot lets users themselves locate who within the organization has a file open and then message them politely to save and close so the new user access the file.

"Very quickly, we realized we were getting the same calls over and over from our tech support teams," Wardle said. "That's been a fantastic innovation for us."

Tim McCarthy is a TechTarget reporter covering cloud and data storage news.

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