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How To Manage The Collaborative Cloud

One of the growing use cases for cloud storage is to use it for collaboration and document sharing. The appeal of having data available on any device at any time is very appealing as is the ability to share data between users in a device independent fashion. While this sounds like a panacea to users, it can sound like a nightmare to a storage manager.

Once again, the storage manager's role has to change as cloud storage is embraced by their users. Unlike in the backup and primary storage use cases that we discussed previously, collaboration is especially challenging as storage managers have to walk the line between corporate responsibility and user flexibility. As we discuss in our recent article "Collaborating on the Consumer Cloud vs. the Enterprise Cloud" many users are not waiting for IT to deliver this service, they are getting it on their own. The problem is that many of these consumer-class systems provide limited security and almost no control over access.

The storage manager should look for solutions that have the flexibility to leverage their own existing storage assets or leverage public cloud assets. They have to make sure that they can control what data can be shared internally and externally. Most importantly, they have to be able to remove users and that users access to data if the users device is stolen or if the employee is terminated.

The other big concern is to make sure that the transfer of data between devices is secure. Some consumer-class systems provide surprisingly light security given that data is being transferred to the public cloud. Ideally, data should be encrypted while being transferred and while at rest--both at the cloud storage facility and on the user device.

A major challenge for the storage manager when dealing with the collaborative cloud is dealing with expectations of management. This is especially true if the users have begun to use a consumer offering. While the enterprise offerings are excellent, they may be slightly more challenging than their consumer equivalents. A great example is when security is increased via encryption, which may slow down transfer speeds slightly as well as potentially change the way the user interacts with their systems. Employees need to understand that these small extra steps are needed to insure protection of corporate assets.

Just like other aspects of cloud storage, the storage manager's most important skill when dealing with the collaborative cloud is data management. They will need to understand what data should be shared and with who and for how long. From there they will need software or services that will allow them to manage those requirements.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement.