Update on File Storage Services

January 17, 2019, by Joseph Vaughan

Welcome to the New Year!

This is the first of a series of updates about our goals for the 2018-19 year.

File Storage (Infrastructure & Security, goal #2)

One of our ongoing infrastructure goals is to migrate data storage from on premise systems to cloud systems. Why would we want to do that?

There are many reasons.

Our on premise systems are now quite old and would soon need to be replaced. They will reach what the vendors call “end of support” by January 2020. That doesn’t mean they will keel over and die, but it does mean that we may not be able to get software upgrades or support for the system. This increases risk with respect to both security and reliability.

Replacement of these systems will be costly (approximately $50,000 last time round). We would have a very hard time affording this. Moreover, our cloud storage options are either free (Google) or relatively cheap (Microsoft).

Alice and Charlie are less secure than our cloud environments, most notably they are not protected by Duo two factor authentication. Our data center in Parsons is far less physically secure than Google or Microsoft data centers and we could not even dream of the level of availability of their systems.

Convenience. To access Alice and Charlie, you need to use VPN or be on campus. File functionality is limited and permissions are hard to manage (most people have to contact the Help Desk for this).

The big goal, then, is migrate our file storage to the cloud. We fully expect bumps along the way and it may be the case that cloud systems would mean some small changes in daily habits or usage. For example, it can be quite a step at first to move from a model of saving multiple versions of documents and merging them to a shared editing model where everyone is always working concurrently on the latest version. That said, we have been making steady progress on this initiative for some time, since we stopped creating home directories for students on Charlie some time ago.

One thing that you can do right now: we’ve noticed that there are lots of files on both Charlie and Alice that have not been touched in more than seven years. We suspect that these files may not be needed any more (and we’re pretty sure that the College Document Retention Policy doesn’t call for saving that much stuff). So you could take a moment to look at your files and delete the ones that you don’t need.

We know that people use these file storage services in different ways, so our approach will be to first collect information about usage. We’ll soon be sending out a quick survey and will follow up with short interviews. Thanks in advance for your help and cooperation with these steps.