An increasing number of businesses are moving their data to the cloud to take advantage of the cost, scalability and efficiency benefits associated with not having to procure or maintain significant amounts of hardware. And indeed, cloud data storage can certainly help organizations achieve superior ROI; however, oftentimes when choosing a cloud-only file system such as Box or Dropbox, these organizations encounter significant problems \u2013 some of which can actually outweigh the benefits.\n\nThese problems include:\n\nDue to inherent limitations in cloud protocols, accessing files from the cloud is rife with latency. This is particularly prevalent when accessing large files or simultaneously accessing a large number of files.\nActive directory access permission control. The permission schemes for cloud-based file systems are often different than your on-premises environment, causing Active Directory permissions to become an issue for both user and administrator levels.\nUser interface. Losing the familiar file server interface, especially the mapped letter drive interface for a network share, forces users to learn and entirely new user interface. In addition to the increased stress, it can also reduce user efficiency in the short term.\nShadow IT. Since the files are no longer located within the company\u2019s infrastructure, IT Managers lose control and visibility of the data.\nFile sharing. A great deal of an organization\u2019s efficiency lies in its ability to share files amongst various teams, remote offices, and even partners. With cloud-only file systems, sharing becomes significantly more complex; teams or groups have to be created and data becomes more distributed since every user who accesses the data must download it to their client. All of this occurs outside the purview of IT controls.\nFile locking. Many files outside of the core Microsoft Office suite (such as CAD or design files) cannot function in cloud-only environments, rendering them completely useless to organizations that rely on them.\n\nWith these problems in mind, many organizations are at a loss for what to do. On the one hand, taking advantage of the many benefits provided by storing their data in the cloud can help them increase efficiency and gain competitive advantage. But the problems and limitations of those same systems can actually stifle the company\u2019s productivity. Luckily, there\u2019s another solution that delivers all of the benefits of cloud storage while resolving the problems that are typically associated with it. It\u2019s called a hybrid cloud file system and it uses a small hardware client on-premises that stores file metadata and automatically syncs with the cloud in the background.\n\nTo break things down a bit further, let\u2019s explore the various components that comprise hybrid cloud file systems:\n\nIt\u2019s a cloud-centric solution; this means that master copies of all data files are stored in cloud.\nWhile the actual master copies of the files are in the cloud, the on-premises hardware client enables the same performance and permission controls as a local file server or network attached storage (NAS) device. In addition, it includes a file server interface and Windows File Explorer or MacOS Finder interface for network shares to make the cloud completely transparent to users.\nFile system. To enable global access, it provides a single name space and a distributed file system to sync files across multiple sites. For scalability, it stores files in public cloud object storage such as Amazon S3, Wasabi and Backblaze B2.\n\nHybrid cloud delivers the best of both worlds\nHybrid cloud file systems solve all of the problems associated with cloud-only systems while enabling all of the benefits of the cloud. The biggest, most noticeable benefit is performance. Hybrid cloud systems are capable of performing at LAN speeds, just like traditional on-premises local file servers and NAS devices. Because hybrid cloud file systems cache file metadata locally, these systems are capable of file read\/write at gigabit speeds.\nActive directory permission control and shadow IT also cease to be issues, since the entire file system falls within the organization\u2019s existing IT environment. And the user interface mimics that of a traditional on-premises NAS device, with a mapped letter drive for users to seamlessly access all files.\nFile sharing and file locking are also elegantly handled in hybrid cloud file systems, enabling multiple users to access the same file from the cache without downloading the content from the cloud each time. This optimizes bandwidth, facilitates easy and rapid file sharing across teams and locations, and includes file locking for proper version control.\nAdditional benefits\nIn addition to solving the problems associated with cloud-only file systems, hybrid cloud storage delivers even more benefits, over and above what cloud-only or on-premises systems can provide. The reason is simple; by storing all data in the cloud, organizations can reap a number of significant advantages that are expensive and complex to achieve using traditional on-premises storage systems.\nFirst, all files are already stored offsite, solving a major data protection need \u2013 and a key component of an organization\u2019s 3-2-1 storage strategy. Also, because hybrid cloud file systems store multiple copies of the organization\u2019s data, it behaves as its own backup, thereby consolidating primary and secondary storage. Disaster recovery is also fast and easy, since there are no physical disks to rebuild in the event of a site-wide disaster. Instead, the organization need only deploy a new hardware client from the hybrid cloud storage vendor and the cloud files will automatically sync; the organization\u2019s data can be fully recovered in a matter of minutes.\nFinally, hybrid cloud file systems use their own secure tunnel for communications, so they don\u2019t require a VPN connection for remote file access. This not only removes a major headache and source of data bottlenecks for organizations, but it also enables new remote sites to be easily added by simply deploying the hardware client at the new location and syncing it with the main cloud file system.\nApplication sectors\nVerticals that greatly benefit from a hybrid cloud file system encompass\n\nFor multi-site sync \u2013 architecture engineering construction (AEC), manufacturing and design agencies\nFor large file transfer \u2013 media & entertainment and health and life science\n\nIn these sectors the files are large, making file sync and transfer challenging and they are typically very collaborative with designs from multiple sites working on the same project.\nConclusion\nBy combining components of physical on-premises environments with those of cloud-only systems, hybrid cloud file systems enable organizations to truly reap the best of both worlds. With hybrid cloud file systems, businesses of all sizes can achieve the flexibility, scalability, and cost savings of a cloud-based file system, without suffering the problems that are associated with cloud-only systems.\nFor examples of commercial implementations of hybrid cloud file systems, see Ctera, Morro Data, Nasuni and Panzura.