Egnyte's hybrid cloud storage: Twin file shares are better than one

Egnyte's new virtual appliance fuses local network storage with remote cloud storage for fast, easy, and ubiquitous file sharing

Cloud services provider Egnyte is looking to change how businesses use cloud storage by leveraging a concept called hybrid cloud storage. The company's recently released virtual storage appliance combines the speed of local storage with the resiliency and Internet accessibility of hosted storage, while treating both as a single cloud presence. Egnyte's new offering, called the Enterprise Local Cloud (ELC) solution, works as a virtual machine under VMware virtualization.

Hybrid cloud storage requires three primary elements: local storage, cloud storage, and a method to synchronize the two. Add to that a layer of security, remote access based upon a browser connection, and the ability to share files, and building hybrid cloud storage can become a complex task. Egnyte ELC handles those elements with a virtual machine that runs CentOS Linux and Egnyte's software and integrates seamlessly with Egnyte's hosted cloud storage service, the Egnyte Cloud File Server.

[ Virtualization is good for small businesses too. See InfoWorld's "Virtualization for the rest of us" and "Eight great virtual appliances for VMware, free for the downloading." ]

I tested the ELC virtual machine on a Toshiba notebook computer running VMware Workstation 7.1. For smaller businesses, Egnyte recommends deploying ELC on VMware Workstation because Workstation's low CPU and memory footprint make it well suited to sharing a machine with other applications. For businesses deploying one or multiple instances of ELC on dedicated hardware, Egnyte recommends using VMware ESX or ESXi. Egnyte provides the ELC virtual machine in either format.

Installation and setup of the ELC virtual machine was simple, requiring little more than downloading the necessary ELC VM files, configuring a virtual hard drive for storage, and setting up synchronization between the local ELC repository and Egnyte's hosted cloud storage. Once ELC was configured, all that was needed was to define some user accounts, directories, and access permissions. Setup wizards make those chores pretty simple.

The ELC configuration is automatically replicated to the corresponding share on the Egnyte cloud, and vice versa. If you have already set up user accounts in the hosted cloud service, a handy screen lets you map local ELC users to hosted cloud users. Once directories are defined, accounts set up, and permissions granted, users can access the hybrid storage cloud. Access to the Egnyte hosted cloud is via a Web browser, while either local ELC or hosted cloud directories can be mapped for direct access from users' desktops.

The straightforward and intuitive Web GUI to Egnyte's hosted storage cloud allows users to drag and drop files among private and shared folders, prevent other users from making changes to files they're currently working on, and share files with internal or external users simply by emailing a download URL.
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