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Is a massive misunderstanding of file collaboration suffocating your enterprise’s productivity? If your multi-site team accepts slow file opening and bottlenecked workflows as “normal,” you’re falling behind your competitors brave enough to recognize what they’re missing.

Global organizations need remote staff to collaborate on files like a single local office for the best day-to-day results. In other words, you require networked storage with local “C: drive” performance.

The problem? You can’t simply stretch a local file system across continents.

Digging deeper, what you call “file collaboration” and “file sharing” is likely a painfully slow mix of relic filing solutions and patchwork networking to bridge them.

Let’s see if any of these situations sound familiar to you:

  1. Your existing file servers live at a central headquarters or in “data islands” at individual branches.
  2. You attempt to bridge the gaps with scheduled replication, emailing files, or using third-party EFSS services like DropBox.
  3. Cross-site collaboration causes a whole chain of pain points for your team, but they’ve become so frequent that they’re “normal.”

Naturally, frustrated staff and drained time should never be normal. Yet the problem only amplifies with bigger organizations.

It’s becoming clear to many teams that settling for legacy file sharing does your organization a massive disservice. But, suppose you’re bold enough to assume your file sharing is fine — here are some signs your cross-site file collaboration might be falling short.

1. Losing lots of time waiting on files to open? It’s probably latency.

Slow performance is a given when you take a network built for local use and stretch it around the globe.

That delay — or latency — isn’t an issue of bandwidth, i.e. how much data you can transfer at a time. Rather, the issue here is how physically far your teams are from the files you need.

Eric Quinn, CIO of C&S Companies learned first-hand that “adding bandwidth, doubling bandwidth, or even quadrupling bandwidth did not make a difference.” 20-minute waiting times leave teams in a loop of remote applications time-outs. His team isn’t alone: Timmons Group engineers often waited five to six minutes opening files before adopting a better solution.

Instead of waiting for remote files to load in fresh upon every request, smarter solutions keep “hot” files cached locally for rapid access — potentially slashing file open times by 99.3%. Even with the hefty stores of data a massive organization juggles, companies like Pret-a-Manger are finding their active data is a slim 5% of their files.

Adopting software-defined storage (SDS) via hybrid cloud file systems keeps recently active files accessible at local speeds — even though they’re given a cloud-based authoritative home.

With SDS, TLC Engineering was able to move over 14 TB of data to the cloud and has still been able to save an average of four to five hours a week per designer. Caching “hot” project files across 22 SDS filers allows for local rapid recall with auto-managed updates.

2. Wasting time with duplicate files? You need better version control.

Islands of site-specific data demand tons of coordination to keep current with a single authoritative copy. Despite all the Slack messages and emails, your teams will inevitably splinter project files — often with no easy way to merge the changes.

Consider teams like AFRY, that only work by connecting over 16,000 employees across 100 international offices. Anything short of real-time updates leaves the gaps fully exposed to human error.

Ultimately, too many manual hours get dumped into:

  1. Working on dated file versions.
  2. Comparing and merging file differences.
  3. Correcting mistakes when clients receive wrong file versions.

Global file locking is an important step for throttling per-site file access to a single concurrent user. More flexible hybrid cloud SDS solutions can even get granular by only locking part of a file in use (via byte-range locking) — allowing for multi-user collaboration well-suited to industries like manufacturing and engineering.

3. Workloads bottlenecked at specific offices? You’re overdue for better site syncing.

Of course, we can’t address data islands without addressing the massive project files that can cause them. The sheer size of many industries’ projects can often leave international teams with few to no alternatives to quickly send work projects across sites.

For instance, Melbourne Football Club captures an excess of 200 HD video hours each week — with no compression permitted to avoid degrading footage quality. Meanwhile, engineering, science, and operation services firm Woodard & Curran have juggled 13 islands of terabyte-heavy storage, expanding and paying for capacity headroom before they even need it.

Simply put, legacy file sharing isn’t built for rapidly passing terabytes around the globe. From email to FTP drives and Windows Server tech, users often have to rule out sending files due to size limitations.

As a result, files are forced to live locally as distant teams remap data to appropriate remote drives when switching projects. Project teams cannot be easily assembled around who’s best for the project if it’s inconvenient for them to even access it. Even if attempting to travel for better collaboration, your staff might have to plan workflows and tech setups ahead of time.

By embracing a cross-site sync system via a hybrid cloud SDS, a Timmons Group engineer was able to shave his architecture project load times to under a minute — regardless of office location. Whether Richmond or Raleigh, the whole organization can freely offload and balance dense workloads between previously impractical locations. Centralizing to authoritative cloud storage goes a long way when branch filers can sync just the portions of a file that have changed.

4. Paying more and more to keep up with exponential data growth? You need baked-in space-saving tech.

Chasing the headroom to keep up with the endless creation of unstructured data is a losing battle. No clear version control and isolated data islands are a cocktail for being completely blind to distinguishing production files from archive-ready data. Meanwhile, duplicate trash data hides in the mix to eat gigabytes of valuable space.

Packers Plus found that by simply welcoming a hybrid cloud SDS file system into their organization, they were able to fully swap out their dated file solution for massive storage savings.

How? Centralizing file storage via cloud, plus automatic version control, deduplication, and compression squashed Packers Plus’ storage needs significantly. With little day-to-day manual upkeep, their team of 450 employees downsized their footprint by a whopping 50%.

British architecture and design company Austin-Smith:Lord made a similar swap to hybrid cloud and discovered a cost savings of up to 70% of their former solution.

If any of these issues drive your team into workflow purgatory, you deserve enhanced multi-site collaboration to bring you into the future.

Sticking with your legacy storage means missing out on critical boosts that your competition is already tapping into. If you’ve already started exploring alternative technologies in other areas of your organization, replacing your legacy file storage may be one of your most invaluable changes to date.