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Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 02:16
Keeping it in the family

The ability to store, share and access data centrally is fast becoming essential for businesses of all sizes in an increasingly mobile and connected world. “However, in light of the recent high profile and well-publicised attacks on public cloud providers,” says Anamika Budree, Sales Manager, Branded Products at WD South Africa, “security concerns have once again come to the fore. The bigger companies handle this challenge by implementing their own private cloud in their own data centre.”

However, such a large capital investment is not economically viable for the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME). The personal cloud has thus become a popular solution for the SME market, offering the right combination of access, control, ownership and security. For the reseller too, the personal cloud offers a host of opportunities to add value for customers and expand into the services arena in order to remain relevant in an increasingly challenging marketplace.
Agility and flexibility are increasingly essential to businesses of all sizes, she says. However, SMEs embracing this trend are faced with the challenge of accessing, updating and saving files whilst on the road or off-site. The public cloud is one option to help them achieve this goal, whereby a service provider offers cloud storage in a virtualised environment accessed over a public network such as the Internet. Public cloud solutions are convenient and readily accessible. But they do present several challenges that make them far from ideal in the business context.

One of the major concerns is security, and this fear has been driven by an increasing number of attacks on public cloud providers. In addition, public cloud providers may store a company’s sensitive information in data centres in countries all over the world, and the user has no idea where that information is stored. This not only adds to the existing security concerns, but may also result in non-compliance with increasingly onerous legislation around the governance and storage of digital information.
“As a result, the personal cloud has become increasingly popular in both the home user and SME space,” says Budree. The fourth annual Cisco Global Cloud Index recently highlighted this fact, forecasting that by 2018, a total of 53% of residential Internet users will be using personal cloud storage services. The personal cloud offers the benefits of cloud storage, including centralised capacity, anywhere access and the ability to save and share content on the go, with the benefits of control, ownership and enhanced security.
“Personal cloud solutions for the SME consist of a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with software and applications that deliver the ability to access the content remotely using an Internet connection. This access can be enabled on a variety of devices, including PCs and notebooks as well as tablets and smartphones. The physical storage device remains the property of the business, secure on their premises and in their possession, and dedicated to storing only the digital content of that company. Only that company’s authorised users having access to the content.”

Personal cloud-enabled NAS enclosures enable SMEs to leverage the benefits of RAID functionality. RAID can be used to duplicate data for added redundancy and availability, or create faster access, depending on the level used. Furthermore, SMEs using the personal cloud are not subject to monthly or annual fees for capacity as is typically the case with the public cloud. As more content is generated and extra storage capacity is required, additional hard drives or larger capacity hard drives can be easily added. Should a drive fail, it can also be swapped out quickly and easily, and with RAID 1 in place will ensure zero disruption to business as usual. Personal cloud storage can also be used as a server backup appliance as well, to ensure data is always available and recoverable.
Personal cloud technology also offers an opportunity for resellers to grow their business in an increasingly challenging market. The cloud is often seen as a threat to the channel, but personal cloud solutions for SMEs offer the ability for resellers to not only offer a product, but managed services on top of this. The SME market is large and highly lucrative, and smaller businesses tend to rely on their resellers for advice and support. This presents an excellent opportunity for resellers to ensure their SME customers have data backups in place using the right technology, to prevent downtime and the consequences of data loss. Resellers can also offer managed services on personal cloud-enabled NAS enclosures, as SMEs may not have the skills or resources to manage their backups effectively.
When it comes to storage for the SME, the personal cloud offers the best of all worlds, with access, control and security that delivers the agility and flexibility they need to be more productive and more competitive. Resellers are well positioned to leverage this opportunity to grow their business and add value for their customers by offering a complete SME storage and backup solution.

Note: A Network Attached Storage (NAS) device is almost the same as an external hard drive. The one key difference is that it is not connected directly to your computer. Instead it is connected to your network. Depending on the way it is set up a NAS hard drive can be accessed by any other device on your network, even when your own computer is turned off. Furthermore, again with the set up completed the right way, you can access your NAS from anywhere in the world - provided it is turned on in your home or office! For example, say you are taking tourist photos with a smartphone when on holiday in Rome. A copy of those photos can be uploaded to your NAS using a data connection, say, a WiFi hotspot. You could also stream music from your device onto your smartphone. So, as you can imagine, it is not just a storage device for data and backups. And authorised users (your family and friends) can also use the private cloud this way, and share their files.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:28.4 1st April, 2015
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