May 24, 2013 By Sarah Rich
Though cloud-based file sharing and storage is becoming an overwhelming trend in local government, one municipality is saying “no” to the cloud and “yes” to on-premise file storage.
Last year, the city of Fresno, Calif., beta tested Filr, an on-premise file storage platform by Novell, across three city departments: fire, the retirement board and attorneys. The reason? The city had concerns about sharing certain types of files in a cloud environment, since some documents are often sensitive or must be kept private to certain groups or individuals, said Paul Pedron, the city’s senior network systems specialist.
“We want to keep the data close to our chest – basically being able to know where it is at all times -- so the cloud isn’t really an option for us,” Pedron said. “There are other liabilities that fall into the cloud: If it becomes dormant after six months, who really owns it? If you delete it, is it really deleted? Or is it out there somewhere floating around?”
According to Novell, Filr can integrate with file systems on Microsoft Windows servers and Novell Open Enterprise servers. The files can remain on existing enterprise servers so they don't need to be moved or duplicated.
Other cities like Fraser, Mich., have tested cloud-based file storage systems like Dropbox and Google Drive with the intent of selecting one for storing city documents, but Pedron says the on-premise alternative allows for the city to have more control over the files. And by having direct ownership, liability issues become less of a concern.
Pedron and employees in the three departments testing Filr are system administrators, which means they can set restrictions and distribution options on the files so access is only made available to those permitted to have it. With a user name and password, individuals may view files they’ve been given access to.
The three Fresno city departments currently using Filr can access the platform on mobile devices. According to Novell, Filr is compatible with iOS, Android and BlackBerry platforms, and will soon be compatible with Microsoft Windows phones. The city used a separate mobility management solution to deploy the application to these devices.
Pedron said having the Filr application available on mobile devices can be particularly useful when the Fresno Fire Department takes photos during inspections. Similar to cloud-based file storage systems like Dropbox or SkyDrive, Filr can automatically sync the photos to a device folder, which can then be shared on the back end. In the case where photos are taken for the Fire Department’s inspections, the photos – after they’ve been synced – can be harvested off the platform and stored in a separate system for the department’s internal use.
The city officially deployed Filr this spring and plans to roll out the system across 60 to 70 percent of the enterprise by the end of this year. The goal, Pedron said, is to use a phased approach to roll the system our across the entire enterprise.
Main image courtesy of Novell