Egnyte’s ‘Local Cloud’ Delivers Best of On-Site, Online Storage

Access to your business data anytime from anywhere is a great idea, but sometimes your “anywhere” is your familiar office and your “anytime” happens to be a time when your online connection is down. For small businesses interested in boarding the online-storage bandwagon without forgetting about local storage, Egnyte has rolled out a hybrid solution that might do the trick.

The heart of Egnyte’s system is what the company calls an On Demand File Server. Unlike a traditional hardware server that a business owner must buy and maintain, Egnyte uses a “cloud computing” model — where Internet-resident resources are used to replace traditional on-site hardware and software — to provide limitless online hosted storage.

That eliminates the space constraints and failure potential of network attached storage (NAS) solutions, not to mention the configuration headaches when trying to set up RAID backup or remote access.

Of course, if your Internet service provider has a hiccup or you’re working at a remote site with no Wi-Fi, the cloud paradigm can break down. Egnyte Local Cloud gets around the connectivity question by maintaining a local component in addition to the online service.

Businesses can deploy any type of local storage for files, such as an external hard drive, NAS appliance, or a PC’s hard disk. Files stored locally are synchronized with the cloud as soon as connectivity is restored.

“The system self-installs and self-manages. The only thing users have to do is click on the On Demand File Server icon on their desktop,” explained Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte. “The solution decides if it should connect to the local cloud or go online.”

For on-the-go workers who have intermittent online access, Egnyte’s solution lets you create multiple local clouds. “You can specify certain folders and ‘local cloud’ those folders to your laptop,” explained Jain. “That way, those files will be accessible when you need them.”

The software automatically handles versioning and doesn’t allow file overwrites, so a document won’t inadvertently be lost if one user is working in a local cloud and another is working online. And as a side benefit, Egnyte Local Cloud offers disaster recovery for your data, since all your files are stored securely online no matter what happens to your local hardware.

“There is no doubt that cloud-based services offer significant benefits to SMBs looking for ease and efficiency in storage and collaboration,” said Jeff Boles, senior analyst for the Taneja Group, a technology analysis and consulting firm based in Hopkinton, Mass. “However, the cloud is still in its early stages with some questions about reliability, latency and control — not to mention the fact that you always have to be tied to an Internet connection. By tying together local data and cloud data, Egnyte is dealing with the shortcomings of both models.”

The solution is aimed at businesses with fewer than 20 employees and no IT department, reported Jain. “The key point was to keep it simple,” he said. “So our users can sign up in two minutes, and see benefits in half an hour.”

The Egnyte On Demand File Server starts at $15 per user per month with 1TB of online storage — businesses with 16 or more users pay a single monthly fee for unlimited storage — and the company offers a free 15-day trial.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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