Migrating File Servers to Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or any other Cloud Storage Service

Some of my customers love their Dropbox/Box/Sharefile/Sharepoint/OneDrive as a file server replacement.

Others, not so much and have gone back to their trusty file servers after a failed leap.

Many would like to have it, if it weren’t for the other issues that it introduces in more complex environments.

It’s easy to believe the hype that offices with less than 10 employees can be moved to cloud storage easily. Sadly, I’ve got multiple offices of 3 users that can’t use cloud storage due to their applications and workflows.

So, before you head to the cloud, consider the following points carefully:

  • Make sure your apps are supported with your specific cloud storage app. Many applications cannot work reliably with how Dropbox, OneDrive and Box Sync interact with the local file system. SketchUp, Photoshop, Indesign and countless others can barf everywhere (i.e. conficted copies, failure to save, corrupted files, etc.) when trying to save to Cloud Storage.
  • Bandwidth will get gobbled up. Make sure you have a lot of it if you have lots of people in an office that are using the file sync. An office of 50 creative workers we support has 300MB/300MB fiber and users still complain about file open/save times.
  • Get used to delays between when users save and when other users can see the changes. It will never be instant like it is with an On-Premises file server.
  • Security granularity is greatly reduced. Need to allow certain users the ability to Add to a folder, but not delete or modify? Most don’t support this ‘edge case’ and countless others.
  • File Locking is rarely a feature. Last-to-save-wins. Even with good version control, this WILL cause your users problems if they are used to File Servers.
  • For “sync” style solutions, you must have local storage available on the local workstation to sync all the files they will access via the local sync (the quickest and most comfortable way for users to access files). If you have large libraries of files that users “must have access to at all times”, prepare to add storage to workstations and laptops to hold it.
  • Some solutions are starting to offer “streaming” solutions where files are streamed to your computer from the cloud on demand rather than keeping a local copy. Still in their infancy, some of these are really good (Box.com) and others are still buggy (Google Drive). Large files remain their Achilles heel if you have limited bandwidth.
  • If you’re using any server-side solution to index, scan or otherwise interact with your file server on the backend – these will not likely work with cloud storage applications.
  • Service levels vary incredibly. We have at least one customer who lost untold amounts of data as a result of the provider releasing defective code into production. Their response to the customer was to suggest they ‘keep an eye out for corrupted files and restore them from backup manually as they are found’.
  • You need DR. Never depend on your data to be fully protected by a single cloud vendor. The bigger they are, the less they care if you have an issue. They are on the hook for the amount of money equal to or less than what you spend on their service in a given period of time. The 3-2-1 rule is as relevant as ever – perhaps more so.


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