Cloud Storage is not necessarily a complete Cloud Solution, but it is invariably an element in a Cloud Solution.
Many organisations migrate their local storage, either PC (client based my documents) or network (server based, mapped drive my documents) quite successfully to a cloud based resource. However, this may give rise to a number of issues.
The most important problem may be one of security. While security controlling the ability to store, retrieve and share files with Cloud Storage is handled by the service provider, and is usually better than that deployed on most Local Area Networks, an authenticated user can download content to any device capable of storing files locally. This, after all, is one of the main selling points of Cloud Storage, the ability to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) coupled to the means to work anywhere there is an Internet connection. The danger lies in the fact that any user may carelessly or inadvertently download a sensitive data file, or even with the use of a synchronisation tool (most Cloud Storage services have one) hundreds, or possibly thousands of sensitive data files, to an unsecure computer. Even in the event that such downloads take place to a company laptop, tablet or smart phone, these devices can be lost or stolen.
It must be said that this type security risk is not unique to Cloud Storage. There are many ways similar issues can arise when a Local Area Network is deployed, especially if the networks is not correctly configured. The answer then is to start with a policy of usage which defines, not only access to data, but also who has rights to download data, defining specific devices where download is acceptable and where it is not acceptable. The policy can then be the basis for a risk assessment when new situations arise. The risk assessment must detail the perceived level of risk, how it has been mitigated and whether the risk is acceptable and the action allowed, or unacceptable and the action not allowed.
While this caution may seem a little excessive consider where you stand with regard to the law. Most countries have privacy laws pertaining to data held by companies. Ignorance of these laws is no defence for an organisation which breaches them and an organisation which is seen to leave sensitive data scattered across a range of unprotected computers would be considered to be careless or reckless. In addition there will always be data pertaining to your business operation that you would not want widely known, It is therefore in the interests of every business to ensure that company data is locked down a far as is practically possible.
File Store Structure
A second problem arising from migration to Cloud Storage arises from consideration of the file store structure. Anyone using computers has accepted the use of the standard file and folder tree structure. This is beginning to evolve, with Windows 8, into a library and resource structure at PC level and a distributed storage model at server level.
The old file and folder structure has served well and in conjunction with Active Directory has delivered a substantial internal security model, where folders and sub-folders can be created to contain files accessible only to those listed in a specific Active Directory group. The downside is that this has led to very complex folder structures which go down many, many levels and lead to very long and complex file paths.
Where a file and folder structure is migrated entirely to the cloud the file paths need to be converted to Internet URLs as access to the files is via a browser. Long file paths lead to issues in the conversion and this is further complicated by the fact that, while the ‘friendly view’ of a URL may contain all manner of characters including spaces, these are converted into continuous strings for the ‘machine view’.
entered into the browser address bar would convert to
This conversion is prone to errors resulting in files proving difficult to locate in the cloud resource. File and folder naming is also usually left at user level in conventional file stores and this can lead to all manner of odd characters used in the names, some of which may convert faithfully to URL string and some of which may not. Add to this the fact that the sheer number of subfolder levels very often leads to long path names, which may exceed any character length restrictions the Cloud Solution may have for the URL.
In order to overcome this it is wise to ensure that the file path name will convert to URL locations before the migration starts. Where the file store is large and there are many files and folders to analyse it may be necessary to buy or write a script tool which will examine every file path and report on possible issues.
At this point it may well be worth examining the option of using the migration as an opportunity to update and simplify the file storage structure, aiming for a result where the file and folder structure is as flat as possible. This will certainly be the case if moving to MS Office 365. O365 offers functionality to deliver extensive work flow capability on active content at user administrator level, but this requires migration to Share Point on-line libraries and lists.