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On-Premises SharePoint with Data Storage in Cloud

Author: Iqbal M. Khan

Cloud computing, as defined in Wikipedia, is internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid. Cloud computing describes a new supplement, consumption and delivery model for IT services based on the Internet, and it typically involves the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet.

Data storage is an important facility that cloud computing provides. Cloud storage can provide significant reduction in cost by drastically reducing the total costs of ownership of storage hardware and its associated management. It deflects the task of operational management of storage infrastructure to the cloud storage provider. Through this article, I intend to examine the possible scenarios in which the potentials of cloud based storage can be exploited with SharePoint, concerns and benefits when leveraging a cloud storage platform in tandem with SharePoint infrastructure and how StorageEdge lets these possibilities turn into reality.

SharePoint and the Cloud - Control and Flexibility

Cloud offers more possibilities to extend the SharePoint capabilities with remarkable cost reduction with respect to storage. However, when cloud is considered as a storage tier for SharePoint content, the immediate concerns are regarding control and security. Since cloud-based storage shall mean that you are offloading the storage of your content outside your SharePoint environment, lack of control regarding the management of storage is a natural consideration.

So on one hand, it might appear as handing your content over to someone else to manage, whereas on the flipside, it surely provides them with an opportunity to reduce their storage costs remarkably by using much cheaper storage options and better management. To strike a fine balance of the two different perspectives presented above, you can host your SharePoint servers on premise, which can provide you with necessary control of your SharePoint environment. At the same time, the storage of BLOB content can be offloaded to the cloud-based storage which can provide you scalability, availability and reliability with significant cost reduction. BLOB externalization of StorageEdge can be used to archive your BLOB data on the cloud-based storage tiers thus offering control, flexibility and financial sense.


Multi-tiered Storage Figure-1

Figure 1: Hybrid SharePoint Infrastructure


SharePoint and the Cloud - Important Considerations

While we talk of the combination of SharePoint and cloud storage to gain operational efficiency and cost reduction, it would be worthwhile to highlight some of the potential considerations which must be given due weight while making a decision for your enterprise SharePoint environment.

  1. Security of Content: With enterprise data to be stored in the cloud, it needs to be transmitted across the internet to a third party system for storage. As the data travels over the wire outside the controlled environment of the enterprise, it might be exposed to a number of potential threats. So if an organization decides to use cloud storage, they will need to mitigate such risks during both transmission and retention of data such as through encryption before transmission as well as on disk.
  2. Data Access Performance: Although internet has evolved into a reliable medium, there may still be situations when access latency of off premises data and outages can become a bottleneck.
  3. Backup and Restore of Data: Backing up data from the cloud will have certain inherent issues, such as the bandwidth required. The times for backup and restore are generally bound by SLA commitments which may get hampered due to any outages or bandwidth bottlenecks.
  4. Storage Service Uptime: Storage service uptime is another important consideration which should match and remain in-line with your own SharePoint SLA windows regarding uptime and availability.

Similarly, some of the immediate benefits associated with storing SharePoint content off-premises in a cloud are:

  1. Cost Reduction: Operational costs associated with acquisition, operating and maintenance of storage hardware are immediately eliminated as soon as you decide to move the data in the cloud.
  2. Flexibility: Storing data in the cloud allows an organization to consume it from anywhere.
  3. Scalability: Cloud can offer virtually limitless storage space at minimal cost. Compared to actually planning and then acquiring the storage hardware with your data growth needs, cloud storage offers a much more scalable storage growth without having you to worry about storage planning intricacies as it is done by the storage service provider.
  4. Seamless Integration: With solutions such as StorageEdge, the integration of cloud storage tiers into your SharePoint just becomes a matter of few clicks of configuration from within SharePoint. Its BLOB externalization feature can be made to use the provider for cloud based storage to automatically move your content to the desired cloud location.

Cloud Storage of SharePoint Content through StorageEdge

Through its comprehensive BLOB externalization features, StorageEdge allows the enterprises to move content from its SQL database server to virtually any storage option including the cloud storage platforms. StorageEdge helps overcome many of the negative risks associated with cloud storage, as discussed above, through its extensive feature set some of the most relevant ones have also been discussed below. StorageEdge allows you to create a healthy mix of data storage with some of the data hosted locally while some data offloaded to the cloud.

  1. Encryption of Content: The BLOBs are encrypted and written to any external media such as cloud storage subsequently. StorageEdge supports encryption on a storage profile thus providing first layer of security to the externalized BLOBs. It supports DES-64bit or AES-128bit encryption.

  2. Multi-tiered Storage Figure-2

    Figure 2: Encryption Settings in StorageEdge


  3. File Shredding: The tool responsible for externalized BLOBs management must make sure all permanently deleted content is irrecoverable using any third-party tools. StorageEdge has a fool-proof file shredding mechanism coming into play when the BLOB is permanently deleted from SharePoint.

  4. Multi-tiered Storage Figure-2

    Figure 3: Shredding in StorageEdge


  5. Compression: StorageEdge provides for compression of BLOBs using GZip.
  6. Encrypted File Names: The BLOB management tool must be such as to ensure that the file names are encrypted. This becomes especially important when you move the content to a storage media which is out of your enterprise such as in the cloud.

So, StorageEdge takes care of your hybrid SharePoint infrastructure management needs with provision of enough control and flexibility. It frees you of externalized BLOBs security worries. If proper care of the content externalized to cloud is not taken, the BLOBs security and control strategies could be compromised resulting in negative impact on the organization's overall IT governance.

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Author: Iqbal M. Khan works for Alachisoft, a leading software company providing .NET and Java distributed caching, O/R Mapping and SharePoint Storage Optimization solutions. You can reach him at iqbal@alachisoft.com.