One of the jobs that we’ve performed 3x more this year than any previous year is setting up a Dropbox alternative for our clients, where their master data is held in-house at their office (or choice of data centre) rather than in the Dropbox cloud.
Why do clients want to host their own Dropbox alternative?
Many of our clients love the functionality that Dropbox brings, especially the synchronisation to their laptops or mobile devices when they are on the road. However, Dropbox has a few disadvantages that can be overcome with a self-hosted solution:
- When multiple people are working on the same documents in an office environment, you end up with conflicted documents & revisions
- When multiple people are working on documents in the office, the bandwidth usage can be significant as the data is pushed up to Dropbox and then back to the local machines
- Cost – Dropbox starts to get expensive if you have large storage needs
- Security – if you self-host your data, you know where it is and who has access. This can also be important for firms with specific data compliance issues.
How does a self-hosted solution help?
By self hosting your solution, your local network users can access the shared libraries like they would files on their PC or server, which means that if User A has an Excel document open in the office, User B in the office will get a ‘Read only’ prompt when they try to open it.
The service we’ve been recommending for our clients is from Synology, who make NAS boxes. They have a product called Synology CloudStation which allows remote users to synchronise with the NAS box over the internet. When working locally, it detects the local connection and runs the traffic over the local LAN for speed.
The fact that you can add 4TB of mirrored storage in a 2-bay NAS box, for around £400, makes this a low cost way to share data with multiple users. If you have much larger data storage requirements, a NAS can be purchased that will accommodate up to 100+TB of data (although you wouldn’t want to synchronise all that remotely!)
Data security is important, so you need to make sure your NAS is in a secure location, and that you’re backing it up. The fact that the client machines will have a synchronised copy of some/all of the data makes disaster recovery a little easier and a NAS failure less disruptive – which is a good thing.
Bandwidth may also be a concern. If you have very limited upload bandwidth then the initial synchronisation with your private cloud will be slow. We recommend clients have a good ADSL2+ connection, or fibre – if you have a leased line then that’s even better. If you’re hosting in a data centre then this is much less of a concern as they have very fast connectivity, if you’re prepared to pay the prices required.
I’m interested, what do I do next?
To make sure you get the best solution for your business, we recommend you drop us a line (either call us on 0118 9260084), e-mail us or fill in a comment below and we can advise on what’s best for you and your business requirements.