Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Backup And Share Business Files In The Cloud?

Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Backup And Share Business Files In The Cloud?

Hi Lifehacker, We’re thinking about updating our file server in the office so that it automatically backs up data to the cloud. We would ideally want to continuously sync the data as users modify the files quite often.

We also have users working outside the office who complain that access currently is slow. Is there any way we can automate the backup process and also give users access to those backups?

Cloudy Thinking

Cloud picture from Shutterstock

Dear CT,

There are any number of business-centric versions of popular cloud services that should do what you want, whether it’s OneDrive, Dropbox, Box or similar, all of which are built around the kinds of multi-user environments you envisage.

While the free versions of these apps do offer basic cloud storage, for business purposes where you may need facilities such as version tracking, file access logs and other management tools including the kinds of automated backups that you’re after. That should also ensure that your offsite users can access files without a particular speed penalty other than the speed of their own connections.


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  • Get someone in to review your current setup and assist in a strategy. And pay them well.

  • Agree with Phil, below.

    SharePoint combined with OneDrive for business (Basically the whole Office 365 suite) removes the need for any type of file server from your office.

    • ..Until the day something goes wrong and your only recourse is to call some numpty in an overseas call centre who clearly doesn’t have a full understanding of either their own service or your particular problem and who’s primary objective is to get you off the phone so they don’t have to deal with your issue.
      Outside that it’s fantastic.

  • If all you need is file sync, you can get away with almost anything. (DFS and branchcache for a windows environment, rsync or lsyncd for *nix, hundreds of third-party solutions)

    Your biggest issue is if offsite users modify files. No file locking means you’ll have conflicting copies when two people inevitably open a file at the same time. Some common workarounds:
    -Bandwidth. Improve the uplink from wherever you’re hosting the files and remote users will mind much less.
    -Cloud-based editing: make something like google drive the main file host and let them handle any file locking and versioning issues.
    -Use a sync solution that supports file locking. This can work but can still have conflicts if files are changed while a link is down.
    -Change the way users access files remotely. If everyone offsite is on a desktop/laptop throwing in a terminal server can make things much faster. If they are on mobile devices not so much.

    Most important: If you let users edit your backups they are no longer backups. You have two separate problems here, there’s a chance they’ll require separate solutions.

    • Vote here for a Terminal Server.
      I would be wanting to wash my hands with it if the users had access to the backups, thats never going to end well..

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