Priorities for modernizing file sharing
- By Saimon Michelson
- Oct 29, 2019
Like any modern business, the federal government wants to maximize user productivity and foster greater levels of collaboration. While many security-conscious enterprises have begun modernization initiatives that include global file sharing and cloud-based data storage, the government’s digital transformation initiatives have been hamstrung due to strict data privacy requirements.
Legacy file storage infrastructure replacement has become a long-term process at federal agencies. For example, several Defense Department locations across the U.S. are still using 20- and even 30-year-old network-attached storage (NAS) devices. These legacy systems require constant storage capacity upgrades, offer no data protection or archiving capabilities and, critically, do not provide accessibility to offsite or field data -- let alone the modern file sharing and collaboration services that drives productivity for users worldwide.
In addition to NAS, agencies have used other file-sharing technologies:
- Virtual desktop infrastructure gives remote users access their files and network from a centralized server. VDI is not consistently reliable or secure for distributed locations, which can be especially challenging in highly sensitive environments where constant access is critical.
- SharePoint's file sharing system provides easy to access storage and seamless integration with Microsoft Office, but many federal agencies ultimately found this solution too costly because of the nature of the licensing structure. Additionally, SharePoint is not as agile as more modern solutions that offer easy file access from anywhere for today’s mobile workforce.
- Web-based file transfer tools typically are not simple to use or secure enough for organizations requiring military-grade security. The UDP protocol, used to transfer large files, does not support guaranteed data transfer from point A to point B, making it unreliable for federal requirements.
These solutions cannot deliver what federal agencies need for secure and modern file sharing: easy-to-use, highly secure data transfer, collaboration and file storage across highly distributed locations. To meet these needs, agencies should deploy solutions that offer the following capabilities:
- Wide-area network-optimized data transfer for high-latency, low-bandwidth environments. As many remote locations suffer from unreliable networks or satellite communications, deduplication and compression of data as it moves from location to location is critical.
- FIPS 140-2 validation, which offers data encryption at the highest level, as well as multi-factor, client-side authentication via common access cards.
- Defense Information Systems Agency-hosted compatibility to ensure that users of DISA milCloud have secure, resilient and nimble access to their data from any device, in any location in the world, at any time.
- VDI support to deliver highly resilient file experiences for remote users. The solution should work with satellite communications and emerging technologies such as 5G.
The bottom line is that federal agencies need a file-sharing solution that features the most the market has to offer for secure and modern file and data transfer across distributed locations and a mobile work force. Agencies must scout out the best in on-premises file services platforms that deliver best of breed in resilience, flexibility and throughput, while meeting stringent military-grade data security requirements.
Saimon Michelson is chief architect for the Americas at CTERA.