Cloud File Sharing

Cloud File Share: 7 Solutions for Business and Enterprise Use

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[Cloud Volumes ONTAP, File Services, Elementary, Cloud File Sharing, A, 25 minute read]

What is Cloud File Sharing?

Cloud file sharing (also known as Internet file sharing) is a system that allocates cloud storage space on a server to users, and allows them to perform read and write operations over the Internet.

Cloud file sharing enables end users to access their files from anywhere using networked devices. Users can usually grant access rights to other users. Cloud-based file sharing services are easy to use, and users rely on the service provider to achieve high availability (HA) and perform timely backup and recovery.

If business data is stored by third-party providers without sufficient security controls, file sharing in the cloud may lead to security and compliance risks for organizations.

In this article, you will learn:

File Sharing Services for Business

There is a wide range of cloud file sharing services used by businesses of all sizes. The below review looks at seven popular services.

Note that some of the services, which have enterprise-grade capabilities, can be categorized as an enterprise file sync and sharing (EFSS) solution. Learn more about EFSS in the following section.

Related content: File Share Service Challenges in the Cloud

Box

Box is considered to be the oldest cloud-based EFSS solution. It is a cloud-based storage service with enterprise capabilities such as:

  • Cloud storage with built-in security, compliance and governance
  • Box KeySafe, an encryption key management system for cloud content
  • Box Zones, a content geolocation technology that can support data sovereignty requirements

It has a few limitations, including no hybrid or on-premises solution, a complex pricing model, and a file size limitation of up to 15GB.

Citrix ShareFile

ShareFile by Citrix is a hybrid EFSS solution, which provides both local and cloud-based functions, as well as native connectors for other file sharing platforms, local storage platforms as well as other cloud-based services. It allows organizations to flexibly move content between the on-premises data center and different public clouds. It was selected as a leader in Forrester Wave reports for both Cloud EFSS and Hybrid EFSS.

Citrix ShareFile is sold as a standalone product and is also provided together with Citrix product suites including Citrix Workspace Suite and Citrix Workspace Cloud. The product also integrates well with other Citrix offerings:

  • Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp, providing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and application virtualization
  • EMobile, providing Mobile Application Management (MAM)
  • NetScaler, providing mobile for and web application delivery
  • Citrix Podio, providing project management and collaboration tools

Amazon Elastic File System (EFS)

Amazon’s EFS solution provides a simple, scalable and fully-managed file system based on the network file system (NFS) protocol (primarily supported by Linux systems). You can use EFS with AWS cloud services and resources in the local data center. It is designed to scale seamlessly to petabytes, with no need to configure and manage capacity—shared folders are automatically scaled when files are added or deleted.

Amazon EFS enables large-scale concurrent access from many Amazon EC2 instances, enabling applications to provide high overall throughput, high IOPS, and low latency.

Read our detailed guides about:

Azure Files

Azure Files provides fully managed file sharing in the cloud, which can be accessed using the Windows server message block (SMB) or NFS protocols. It supports file sharing from Windows, Linux and macOS clients. Like EFS, it can be accessed both from the Azure cloud or by on-premises resources. You can also use Azure File Sync to cache Azure SMB file shares on a local Windows server, to provide fast local access to data.

Read our detailed guides about:

Dropbox

Dropbox has 500 million users and is the world's largest independent file sharing and synchronization provider. Over the years Dropbox has added enterprise-grade security and compliance features, and is comparable to the other business file services in this lineup. Dropbox is completely cloud-based, but it stores most files in its own cloud, rather than in Azure, Google Cloud, or AWS.

The biggest value of Dropbox is that it is familiar to most users and many of them already use it. Other features include:

  • Smart sync, which allows users to enjoy the same experience whether their content is stored locally or in the cloud.
  • Dropbox Paper, which is a virtual workspace for real-time collaboration, lets you assign tasks and create to-do lists.

Google Drive

Google Drive is another pure-cloud EFSS solution that integrates seamlessly with Google’s product portfolio, in particular G Suite (Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs), and provides the robust security and compliance features of the Google Cloud.

Google Drive provides many features useful for large organizations, including reviewing and reporting changes in document status, granular permissions for file sharing, information rights management, and advanced search features.

Microsoft OneDrive

Organizations using Office 365 can easily adopt Microsoft OneDrive for Business. It is provided both as a standalone cloud service and as a SharePoint server extension.

OneDrive for Business is based on Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure. It supports data residency, many privacy and compliance standards, encryption keys managed by the client, and identity-based security that integrates with Microsoft Active Directory.

What is Enterprise File Sync and Sharing (EFSS)?

EFSS solutions allow organizational users to store files in the cloud or local storage and access them from desktop and mobile devices. They are similar to consumer file sharing services but have additional capabilities that make them suitable for medium-to-large businesses.

Enterprise file sharing platforms provide enhanced security for file sharing. They store files in a secured central repository, allowing it to be accessed by user devices like laptops or mobile phones that are supported by the EFSS solution.

Organizations can use file sharing and synchronization features to improve content management, collaboration, and secure file sharing between employees. EFSS solutions include features like real-time annotation, document version control, workflow management, and other functions that allow users to edit and share files in an organizational context.

Deploying Cloud File Sharing in the Enterprise: Key Considerations

Here are some of the important things to consider when deploying a file sharing service in an enterprise environment.

Cloud File Share Availability

Enterprise file storage should be accessible to many users and always available. For file services provided by public cloud providers, file sharing availability is a setting that needs to be configured by the organization. Some services require complex configuration to support failover, especially when using NAS storage.

Identify the recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) required by your organization. Many enterprise file sharing workloads are mission critical, requiring high availability with RPO=0 and RTO<60 seconds to avoid data loss. Determine what is the cost and complexity of achieving these requirements in the file sharing service of your choice.

Related content: Cloud Availability Nightmares and How to Avoid Them in Cloud File Sharing

Performance

Shared file services can handle critical workloads that require consistent high performance and low latency. It is important to be able to scale on demand and move data between storage tiers (for example, retrieve data from archival) without interruption or performance issues. As usage increases, file services should be able to scale to higher performance levels at a reasonable cost.

Backup and Archive

To avoid data loss, you need a good way to back up cloud data. For data that must be archived for a long time or for compliance reasons, an archiving solution is needed. Creating and restoring backups should not affect performance. In addition, cloud storage backups must be readily available, consistent, and easy to restore. They should also support granular recovery—you should be able to recover individual files without having to restore the entire dataset.

Related content: Cloud File Sharing: Backup and Archiving

Security

Security is a key driver of enterprise file sharing solutions. With the rise of bring your own device (BYOD), users are free to use unsecured file sharing services on their own devices. Enterprise file sharing must find a balance between IT security requirements and employees demand for ease of use and open connectivity. 

Whether a solution is deployed behind a corporate firewall or in the cloud, business data needs to be kept safe. An enterprise file sharing solution should enable IT staff to enforce security requirements using policies, user and role access control.

Solutions must support file encryption in transit, as well as file and device auditing. Other important security capabilities include digital rights management (DRM), remote erasure, access monitoring and reporting, and data loss prevention (DLP).

Related content: Enterprise Data Security for Cloud File Sharing with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Compliance

If your business needs to comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR, FINRA or HIPAA, evaluate the compliance features of your file sharing solution, and check what is needed in terms of configuration or customization to meet your compliance requirements.

The most important compliance features to look for are auditing, encryption, reporting in the specific format required by your compliance standards, SSL data transfer, device auditing and management.

Enterprise Cloud File Sharing with NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports up to a capacity of 368TB, and supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps, or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

Learn more about how Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides file services, serving NAS, including NFS, SMB / CIFS and multiprotocol access in this customer case studies blog, or download the NetApp Guide to File Services in the Cloud.

Learn More About Cloud File Sharing

There is a lot more to learn about cloud file sharing. To continue your research, look at the rest of our blogs on this topic:

Amazon S3 as a File System? How to Mount S3 as Drive for Cloud File Sharing

As the original AWS storage offering, object storage with Amazon S3 has been a mainstay for companies to keep their data in a highly durable and relatively inexpensive storage format. However, more experimental use of the platform is possible, such as configuring Amazon S3 to work as a file system. This can be done by mounting Amazon S3 to either Amazon EC2 in the cloud, an on-prem instance, or other compute resources with the help of third party-tools such as S3FS.

How can you do it? How does it compare to using Amazon EFS? If you set up an Amazon S3 file system, what kind of drawbacks can you expect? Find out all of this and more about mounting Amazon S3 buckets for use as file storage.

Read more: Amazon S3 as a File System? How to Mount S3 as Drive for Cloud File Sharing

Azure File Storage: Cloud File Sharing Over SMB

In this deep dive into Azure Files, we look at the fully managed cloud file sharing solution on Azure for SMB protocol use in detail, profiling the platform’s features for encryption, storage replication, scalability, and file synchronization, as well as some of the major use cases for the file sharing technology.

This post not only provides a review of Azure Files, but also places it in the larger context of Azure’s storage ecosystem. Providing a wide view of Azure storage, you’ll also find out about using object storage for unstructured data, blocks, and the storage classification systems that Azure uses.

Read more: Azure File Storage: Cloud File Sharing Over SMB

File Share Service Challenges in the Cloud

There is a host of challenges that come with maintaining an enterprise-grade file share service in the cloud. Do you have a way to ensure you meet service performance SLAs? How do you protect the file data? Can you make sure your shares can meet the strict RTO and RPO points that critical business operations require? Have you considered using a managed service in the cloud instead of running your own file share solution built on cloud resources?

In this post we’ll see how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be an integral part to making sure your company has a file service that can handle all of these challenges.

Read more: File Share Service Challenges in the Cloud

Azure NAS: Why and How to Use NAS Storage in Azure

Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems are a cornerstone of the on-prem data storage infrastructure, but how is the cloud beginning to change all of that?

This post takes a look at cloud-based NAS options. NAS in the cloud operates the same way that on-prem NAS systems do, but with the infinite scale and flexibility that the cloud offers, not to mention without having the box to maintain. Since the constructs are identical to those in use in traditional NAS devices, cloud-based NAS storage is an attractive option for those looking to take a first step into the cloud.

In this post we look at the NAS offerings that the Azure cloud offers, including NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP for Azure, a NAS option in the cloud that can deal out SMB/ CIFS as well as NFS protocol for the most demanding enterprise file service demands.

Read more: Azure NAS: Why and How to Use NAS Storage in Azure

Azure SMB: Accessing File Shares in the Cloud

The Server Message Block (SMB) protocol has been a solid part of the file sharing ecosystem since it was invented by IBM. This client-server protocol was designed to allow networked printers, file shares, and processes to communicate. As a dialect of SMB, the Common Internet File System (or CIFS) protocol allows Windows and Microsoft devices to access networks over SMB to identify other servers, manage files, and carry out any number of file-related tasks.

In this post we take a deep dive into how the SMB protocol works in the cloud, including showing how access permissions work and how Azure uses Active Directory domains and authentication for SMB workloads. In the Azure cloud, SMB and CIFS are served by the native file service, Azure Files. This fully managed file service is one of the most popular ways for enterprises to share data using their Windows-based workloads.

Read more: Azure SMB: Accessing File Shares in the Cloud

Cloud File Sharing Services: Amazon FSx

The latest entrant into the public cloud’s file services market is Google Cloud Filestore. This fully managed file storage offering gives users two high performance service level options for serving the NFSv3 protocol in the cloud. But how does this new offering stack up to some of the more mature options in the cloud?

In this post we take a quick look at this brand-new file service from Google Cloud. What kind of storage capacity does Google Cloud Filestore have and does it come stacked with all of the required features that cloud file shares need, such as data protection with point-in-time snapshots and multi-zone availability? And can Google Cloud users get any additional benefits from running a file share with NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, which is now available on Google Cloud?

Read more: Cloud File Sharing Services: Amazon FSx

Cloud File Sharing Services: Azure Files and Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Our series that reviews the major cloud providers solutions for cloud file sharing continues with this article on Azure Files, the fully managed file service for SMB connections from Azure.

This overview will give you the latest info on the capabilities of Azure Files to scale, meet performance demands, sync, and protect cloud file sharing data. For comparison, we’ll look at the added value that comes with Cloud Volumes ONTAP—specifically in how it provides access for NFS as well as SMB connections.

Read more: Cloud File Sharing Services: Azure Files and Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud File Sharing Services: Open-Source Solutions

Users of file shares have more options than just the major cloud providers’ fully managed offerings to choose from. Open-source file sharing solutions offer a third-party solution to enabling enterprise-level file sharing in the cloud. But is this approach going to be worth the intensive amounts of effort, attention, and costs to configure?

In this post we look at two open-source solutions for file sharing in the cloud: GlusterFS and Avere vFXT. What do these solutions require from users and how do they compare to using NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP?

Read more: Cloud File Sharing Services: Open-Source Solutions

Cloud File Sharing with Talon Fast™ and Cloud Volumes ONTAP

When data is distributed throughout locations, companies have to deal with operations that have become siloed and localized. With all of the benefits to using edge locations for hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures, managing unstructured data in these ecosystems while maintaining high levels of security and compliance without affecting performance demands a lot. How is your company planning on doing that?

Find out how Talon FAST and Cloud Volumes ONTAP work together to consolidate disparate file servers so customers can work with a single data set. You’ll be able to stretch the data fabric to bring active data to any location that can be accessed transparently and with the highest level of performance.

Read more: Cloud File Sharing with Talon Fast™ and Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud File Sharing: Backup and Archiving

File share data can be lost due to any number of factors: deletion through human error, ransomware attacks, and corruption are just a few of the things that can pose serious threats to a company and its business objectives. A cloud-based file share service needs efficient and cost-effective backup and archiving capabilities to make sure that never happens.

While this is an important part of cloud-based file storage use, not all the public cloud services deliver the same level of data protection. What steps can file share users take to keep data stored in the primary share backed up in order to limit any kind of corruption or other data loss should something go wrong? Where would these backups be stored, and how exactly are the two versions going to be kept up to date and in sync with each other? What kind of data is required to be kept in archive storage for indefinite periods of time and why? And how exactly is any of this going to happen while keeping costs under control?

Read more: Cloud File Sharing: Backup and Archiving

Cloud File Sharing: Cloud Scalability and Agility

They are probably the biggest advantages to moving a file share to the cloud: infinite scale and increased levels of agility. What do enterprises gain with a greater ability to meet the changing demands of their file shares, as quickly as possible?

This entry on our series on cloud file sharing challenges takes an in-depth look at scalability and agility in the major cloud provider file services and compares them with running a file share with Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

You’ll see how well these file services can be scaled up to meet rapid demand peaks and scale down when usage drops. In many cases there are storage limits to consider for the file services from AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, and that may impact users exactly when they need the file share performance to be at its best.

Read more: Cloud File Sharing: Cloud Scalability and Agility

Cloud File Sharing: How to Enable SMB/CIFS and NFS File Services with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

The biggest advantage to cloud file sharing is the shared access it provides users and applications that your enterprise depends on. In many cases that means extending access to workloads that are based in both Windows and Linux operating systems. Unfortunately, the cloud service provider file sharing services do not have a way for you to do that. NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP does.

In this how-to post, you’ll read about the differences between the NFS, SMB, and CIFS protocols and get step-by-step instructions to configure Cloud Volumes ONTAP for use with each of them. 

Read more: Cloud File Sharing: How to Enable SMB/CIFS and NFS File Services with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud Volumes ONTAP Customer Case Studies: File Sharing in the Cloud

Cloud file sharing provides enterprises with an impressive ability to make data accessible for use throughout their organizations, but its challenges can prove to be complex even for the most equipped large business. That is why so many of these companies have turned to Cloud Volumes ONTAP as a solution for cloud file share services.

In this post you will read several case studies of how Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps enterprises store and protect file data more affordably, without losing any performance benefits in verticals as diverse as media, networking, and education. 

Read more: Cloud Volumes ONTAP Customer Case Studies: File Sharing in the Cloud

Enterprise Data Security for Cloud File Sharing with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud file sharing provides an excellent way to make data accessible to large numbers of users, but overlooking the security of your shares is asking for trouble. Configuring the proper access controls and permissions is key for enterprise data security. Without taking the proper precautions, your file share is likely to be exposed to threats such as ransomware and accidental deletion.

With file shares hosting data that could be a potential risk not only to the enterprise but to customers, finding a cloud file sharing solution with adequate controls to meet enterprise data security requirements is a must. Find out how Cloud Volumes ONTAP file shares can be secured in this post.

Read more: Enterprise Data Security for Cloud File Sharing with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Enterprise File Sharing: How to Set Up Multi-Platform Access with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Enterprise file sharing makes it possible for organizations to share important data to multiple users on a variety of devices, but not all those devices will be able to access the same protocols. Most large organizations use a mix of computing technology with different operating systems. What can an organization that uses both Windows and Linux machines do if a file share needs to provide access to both?

Cloud file sharing with Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides an easy solution since any volume created by the platform can be granted multi-protocol access via either SMB/ CIFS or NFS at any given time. This post shows you how to configure multiprotocol access for Cloud Volumes ONTAP using Cloud Manager.

Read more: Enterprise File Sharing: How to Set Up Multi-Platform Access with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Secure File Sharing in the Cloud

When it comes to secure file sharing, taking the proper precautions is key. A file share that grants all users full access permissions, lacks defined user roles, automated content restrictions, and leaves shares accessible over the internet is a file share that is at risk.

Are your file sharing policies providing the proper security levels? Is anyone overseeing how data is shared? It’s time to find out how to tighten up your cloud file sharing security precautions using tools that include digital rights management services, cloud access security brokers, cloud storage management solutions such as Cloud Volumes ONTAP, and more.

Read more: Secure File Sharing in the Cloud

Cloud Availability Nightmares and How to Avoid Them in Cloud File Sharing

The cloud has introduced a new level of complexity to the file sharing use case. Maintaining a single source of truth is a new concept for users who have maintained in-house file systems for years, but it’s one that is essential to cloud file sharing services and guaranteeing their high availability.

This post takes a look at some of the options for creating file syncing technology to guarantee high availability and prevent data loss in custom-built file sharing systems, including Gluster FS and Microsoft Distributed File System Replication. What can go wrong using these solutions?

Read more: Cloud Availability Nightmares and How to Avoid Them in Cloud File Sharing

SMB Mount in Ubuntu Linux with Azure File Storage

Organizations are always on the lookout for innovative solutions for workloads with file share dependencies in Azure. Azure Files is a managed file share service in Azure that can be used to provision SMB file share in Azure. The file shared can be mapped to Windows, Linux or MacOS machines that support SMB 3.0 protocol. This blog will cover the prerequisites and steps for mapping Azure files as SMB mount in Ubuntu Linux

Read more: SMB Mount in Ubuntu Linux with Azure File Storage

NFS Storage Automation with AWS Lambda and Cloud Volumes ONTAP

This article describes the advantages of using Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS Lambda file storage by comparing CVO to the alternative native and most commonly solutions used for this in AWS. The article will show that CVO features, such as Amazon S3 tiering, can be used to great effect in this scenario, giving users the best of both capacity and performance. The article will also contain a code example of accessing NFS file storage from an AWS Lambda function. 

Read more: NFS Storage Automation with AWS Lambda and Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud Block Storage: Choosing the Best Option for You

Learn how cloud block storage works, including benefits and challenges to expect in the cloud. Discover cloud-based block storage options offered by AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Understanding what differentiates each service can help you assess compatibility with your unique needs and requirements.

Read more: Cloud Block Storage: Choosing the Best Option for You

In-Flight Encryption in the Cloud for NFS and SMB Workloads

The blog post will start by explaining the importance of data privacy and security in the cloud, and why in-flight encryption is an important feature for your cloud storage solution. After the reader grasps why in-flight encryption matters, the goal will be to lay the ground for how Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides in-flight encryption for both SMB/CIFS and NFS. The post will then take a high-level look at the considerations and requirements for both NFS and SMB to implement in-flight encryption in Cloud Volumes ONTAP. Next, the post will visit ENRD/DOJ’s success story and how they chose Cloud Volumes ONTAP based on the simplicity and security features offered.

Read more: In-Flight Encryption in the Cloud for NFS and SMB Workloads

File Sharing in the Cloud on GCP with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

There is an enormous amount of enterprise data stored in files—as much as 80% of all the data enterprises use—and Google Cloud is becoming a popular repository for this data. However, hosting mission-critical file storage in the cloud comes with its own list of challenges including file share performance, availability, accessibility, data protection, cost controls, managing disparate deployments, and multicloud or hybrid architectures.

This article shows how Google Cloud users can turn to file sharing in the cloud with Cloud Volumes ONTAP to help overcome these enterprise-grade challenges on Google Cloud Platform.

Read more: File Sharing in the Cloud on GCP with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

See Our Additional Guides on Key Cloud Storage Topics

We have authored in-depth guides on several other cloud storage topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of cloud file sharing.

AWS Database Services Guide

Learn what AWS database support is available, what database services are available, and how you can migrate your databases to AWS.

See top articles in our AWS database services guide:

AWS Migration Guide

Learn about the four phases of AWS migration, how to choose between migration strategies, five common migration challenges, and how to migrate with Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

See top articles in our AWS migration guide: 

AWS Snapshots Guide

Discover types of storage snapshots, learn what AWS snapshots are, and understand how to use AWS snapshots.

See top articles in our AWS snapshots guide:

Azure Cost Management Guide

Understand what the Azure Cost Management service is, learn how to use the service, and discover some additional Azure cost management tools you can use.

See top articles in our Azure cost management guide:

Azure Database Services Guide

Learn what Azure database workloads are supported, how databases work in Azure, and what services are available.

See top articles in our Azure database guide: 

Azure High Availability Guide

Learn what high availability is and how to optimize Azure high availability.

See top articles in our Azure high availability guide:

Google Cloud Database Services Guide

Learn what are your options for deploying databases in the cloud, what Google Cloud database services are available, and how to choose the right service for you.

See top articles in our Google Cloud database guide:

Google Cloud Storage Guide

This guide explains what Google Cloud Storage options exist and their common uses.

See top articles in our Google Cloud storage guide:

Multicloud Storage

This guide explains what multicloud storage is, how it works, what it’s used for, the core requirements for this storage, and how Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports it.

See top articles in our multicloud storage guide:

Learn more in our guide about cloud storage.

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