Within a few years, mobile access to cloud-based storage will be a "checkmark" feature that will be fairly ubiquitous among the major vendors, predicts 451 Research Group analyst Simon Anderson. We're not quite there yet, but more and more vendors are rolling out the feature.
The latest is Nasuni, which delivers a cloud-based network-attached storage option for enterprises. The release of the fourth version of the company's software this week extends the capability of Nasuni to access data from mobile devices.
Nasuni's offering leverages a hybrid cloud approach, which combines on-premise storage controllers that collect and encrypt data behind the enterprise's firewall, then send the encrypted data up into its public cloud, which is hosted in Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The behind-the-firewall encryption means only the customer has access to the keys to unencrypt the data, not Nasuni or its network of cloud providers.
The newest mobile access capability, which was made generally available this week, allows users to access and upload images, videos and files via iOS and Android devices. Users are authenticated through Active Directory, giving IT departments the ability to control data flow to the individual device level, and segment which data sets are available to which groups of employees. Data can be deleted from devices remotely as well.
Terri McClure, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, says Nasuni's offering hits at an emerging pain point in the enterprise. Users want access to their work files outside of their office, so many turn to consumer-oriented applications, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and SugarSync. The problem, she says, is when workers do that, IT loses control of which data is where, allowing for the possibility to sensitive data to be brought outside the firewall unprotected.
"Everyone is out there using two or three devices and we want to access our files from our iPhone, iPad and our PC," she says. "When users subscribe to these services personally, IT has no visibility into what corporate data is out there." A recent ESG survey found that 77% of IT leaders have policies against or strongly discouraging employee use of personal cloud storage options for corporate data, yet 70% know or strongly suspect they're being used anyway.
Nasuni is not the first to offer mobile access to files. Egnyte, Box, SugarSync and Dropbox each have the feature.
"Adding mobile access support also will bring Nasuni into conflict with the other file-sharing services out there, the number of which seems to increase on a weekly basis," says Anderson of the 451 Group. "Nasuni believes it has a better security and control model versus cloud players like Dropbox and Box -- which it says move the control point outside of the corporate firewall -- while noting that on-premises or private offerings from the likes of VMware Octopus, Oxygen and Citrix ShareFile still require internal IT to 'babysit' the storage infrastructure, so still incur OPEX overhead."
McClure says because Nasuni is meant to be a company's primary NAS, the mobile application is therefore just an extension of the storage, differentiating it from competitors.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.