Cloud Storage Services: Consumer vs. Enterprise
October 6, 2011
Consumer cloud storage services that enable users to share files between their computers have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. The chief reason for this is that these services allow consumers to easily synchronize data from laptops and desktops to a storage service based on the Internet. Although these services are effective when it comes to keeping a few systems synced, and offer capable sharing features, they have some disadvantages that do not make them ideal for adoption by enterprises. The major disadvantages boil down to security, physical storage location, and access control issues. Also, these services are not tailored for collaboration, which is so important in the workplace.
Security concerns are often raised by enterprises that consider making the transition to cloud computing services, and especially to cloud storage. Not being made to meet strict security standards, consumer storage services are not secure enough for an enterprise. A key element of security is encryption. Data that is stored and transmitted to an Internet-based cloud storage device should be unreadable by users who don’t hold the required encryption keys. It’s also crucial that encryption must be done at all steps in the storage process: as the data lies on a user’s device, as it lies on the computer owned by the cloud storage company, as it’s sent from the user to the storage company. Oxygen Cloud is one of the enterprise cloud storage offerings that provide this kind of protection.
Assumptions that a complex security feature like the three-step encryption mentioned above complicates usage are incorrect. Note that this comprehensive security measure ensures that even if a user’s device is compromised, the hacker cannot access the data unless he knows the username and password necessary for logging into the user’s account. Moreover, encryption keys can be implemented that work only for a particular device. In other words, even if data is copied from an authorized device to an unauthorized one, it will remain unreadable because the other doesn’t hold the right encryption keys.
Another possible data security issue that enterprises have occurs when employees leave the company. Consumer cloud storage services enable users to retain their data, even when they leave their job. Since this can prove disastrous for an enterprise, it’s necessary that the company protects its own data. With enterprise-based cloud storage, a user’s access rights can be removed when they leave their job, so that they can no longer access the data afterwards. Certain enterprise cloud storage solutions go a step further: they allow IT managers to wipe remotely data from registered devices that are lost.
Enterprises have to control their important data. Policies are largely effective, but they are not always easily enforced. What’s more, problems often arise because the people in charge of distributing user access don’t always hand authorizations to the right people – this is especially the case in large companies, where the number of employees is high. All this can easily lead to too much data access for certain employees. From then on negligence and not malice can lead to outsiders getting access to the data. In addition, employees using consumer-based cloud storage don’t always maintain up-to-date backups. If the IT team can be in full control over the company’s data then these issue don’t appear, and data protection is improved.
The location where the data is stored can also raise concerns, because companies operating in certain countries cannot store certain types of data in other countries. Enterprise-based cloud storage is not tied to a specific location: companies can choose from a list of data center locations provided by the storage company where to keep their data.
Enterprises also need to exercise master control over user groups. Whenever the data for a specific group is compromised, the enterprise must cancel the keys of all users in that group and then assign new ones. All this is essentially a matter of having centralized control over data, and consumer-level cloud storage is not designed to provide such control.
Could storage solutions for consumers perform backup and at times offer synchronization between multiple devices. But collaboration features – which are so necessary in the enterprise workplace – lack. Consumer solutions are built on the principle that a user accesses data through a specific personal device; enterprise solutions are built to allow multiple users to access data from a range of devices.
For documents created in the workplace, backup upon completion is not enough. Backup must occur during the creation process as well, during editing, and during each significant version change. Features such as file recovery and file locking, which enterprise cloud storage services provide, are fundamental if the collaboration between employees is to work smoothly.These features make it easier for employees to work and share files with their colleagues, leading to an increasing efficiency in the end.
Consumer Cloud Storage Not Enough For Enterprises
Not even the best consumer cloud storage solution can fully address all the concerns discussed above; moreover, it cannot provide all the features an enterprise needs. This is simply because consumer solutions are not team oriented – they are designed specifically for individual users. To ensure that the security of their data is high, that access rights are granted to the right people, and that the collaboration between employees who work on the same project is effective, companies require a cloud storage solution