Which is better: On-premises file sharing or cloud-based file transfer?
It’s an age-old dilemma, one that pits the fiercest of advocates from either world. It’s almost as if you’re asking the better movie between 12 Angry Men and The Godfather. Granted, you’ll ruffle some feathers if you dare go with one and not the other (isn’t the latter superior, though? Wink).
Advocates of on-premises file sharing argue that it’s a more secure alternative to off-premises cloud-based sharing. They claim that cloud-native file sharing has recently emerged as an easy target for witty cyber-attackers, and for that reason alone, doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as on-prem file transfer.
Those in the cloud managed file transfer camp, however, contend that on-premises file transfer is the stuff of nightmares. It can be expensive to get the necessary equipment to create a fully-fledged in-house data center, they say. Plus there are way too many, often unnoticed downsides to this approach, they insist.
So who is right? The answer is both, though any IT expert worth her salt will tell you that a hybrid setup that incorporates the best of both worlds is the way to go. Before I explain why and how, it’s worth stripping these two concepts down to their barebones so we get to know what they’re really about.
On-Premises File Sharing: Quick Overview
True to its name, on-premises file sharing (aka “on-prem”) is a file transfer method that is heavily reliant on local servers.
It’s been around for pretty much as long as the internet, thanks in part to the inception of the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) in 1971.
For organizations that need to quickly move bulk files to external recipients or those that are still wedded to traditional IT approaches, on-premises file sharing remains a pot of gold—immensely valuable, and quite frankly, indispensable.
With on-premises file sharing:
- You own the license to the servers and pay the entire cost up-front—i.e., no ongoing subscription fees.
- The file-sharing software is installed and will run on your own server(s).
- Your organization will shoulder the burden for ongoing costs like replacement of servers, security management, and maintenance (backups and upgrades).
While they may require more upfront cost and configuration time than a cloud-native solution, on-premises file transfer servers often provide a greater degree of customization options that may better fit the requirements of IT teams working in specialized environments.
At this point, you are probably tempted to crown on-prem file sharing as the overall winner of this closely-fought debate—and we wouldn’t blame you. After all, the security, control, efficiency, and functionality it offers from an in-house hardware is simply mind-boggling. However, you’d be damned to sideline cloud sharing tech and its capabilities just yet.
Cloud-Based File Sharing: Quick Overview
When the first cloud-native file sharing solution hit the market in the early 2000s, no one predicted that the technology would become a mainstay a few years down the line. As we speak, it’s threatening to topple over on-prem file sharing and become the reigning file sharing option once and for all. Whether it’ll succeed or not remains to be seen.
At its core, cloud managed file transfer (or SaaS file sharing) is a modern approach to sharing files (and data). Here, the software is made available to organizations online via a server that’s owned by a vendor.
Put differently, cloud sharing involves hosting and sharing your files on a remote server that’s hosted on the cloud. The cloud provider is typically tasked with the heavy lifting while you focus on getting your files on the move.
With cloud-based file sharing:
- The infrastructure, backups, data integrity, software upgrades, and security are all managed by the cloud provider.
- Updates are automated, meaning the underlying software is always current and highly functional.
- Pricing is on a pay-as-you-go basis and depends on a host of factors—i.e., sharing bandwidth resources and infrastructural requirements.
Still hung up on choosing on-prem file sharing as the undisputed king of file transfer technologies?
I guess not.
In the subsequent section, I’m going to unravel the very differences that make these two concepts so distinctively unique (and lovable).
Comparisons Between On-Premises File Sharing & Cloud Sharing: Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Cloud-based file sharing has sound benefits—it’s incredibly cost-effective and enables teams to transfer files of any size over huge distances, and to a multitude of different recipients, too.
However, it can be difficult for some IT leaders to justify a complete migration to the cloud from their existing on-premises file sharing system.
Continue reviewing some of the pros and cons of on-premises vs. cloud file sharing solutions to see what option works best for you.
(Note: We’ve used seven different evaluation criteria to make the comparison more balanced.)
In terms of cost, cloud-based file transfer beats its on-prem counterpart hands down.
It’s like pitting the Great Khali against Rey Mesterio (apologies, Mysterio fans)—you’d pick out the winner even before the bell rings, right?
Working with on-premises solutions in the long-term can eat into your resources a great deal. That’s because they require a significant amount of money to set up, maintain, and run at full performance.
With the cloud, however, it’s the provider who takes on the bulk of maintenance, software updates, and general troubleshooting. And, like we mentioned earlier, file sharing services are offered on a ‘pay-as-you go’ payment model, allowing organizations to scale as needed without the additional onus of maintenance costs.
Consider the MOVEit Cloud MFT solution, for instance. The solution can be live and functioning in a matter of hours. Additional hardware investments are minimal to non-existent. The only thing you need to consider is whether transferring large files to remote servers will slow down your internet connection and plan accordingly.
“Cloud sharing is not secure.”
“The cloud never offers true security; in fact, it’s a notorious den for malicious actors and needs to be avoided at all costs.”
It’s a narrative that’s selling like hotcakes on the internet. But I believe it could very well be misplaced.
While it’s true that in-house servers are rarely compromised by external actors, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their cloud counterparts are any less secure.
Today, it’s hard to find cloud vendors that don’t meet the barest security and compliance requirements like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, and CCPA. Some, like MOVEit Cloud, dare to go the extra mile, offering next-level security capabilities that include:
- Centralized access controls.
- Tamper-evident logging.
- Proven encryption (FIPS 140-2 validated AES-256 cryptography).
So on this particular criteria, it’s difficult to prove on-prem’s superiority over the cloud.
3. Transfer Speeds
“I feel the need, the need for speed.”—Tom Cruise.
In the context of file sharing, this quote carries so much weight.
While on-premises file transfer is generally faster due to the data being stored on the same location as users, transfer speeds on the cloud tend to be more consistent across geographies.
That said, speed on an on-premises file sharing system may be limited by network bandwidth and server capabilities. That’s certainly not the case with the cloud as the network bandwidth here is, quite frankly, limitless.
Also worth noting is that price tiers may affect file transfer speeds in a cloud environment. It’s up to you to decide whether you’ll sacrifice speed for cost-savings, or vice versa.
4. Scaling and Monitoring
The beauty of on-premises file transfer solutions is that they can be augmented with cloud solutions to handle increased loads.
However, what happens when there’s no cloud ecosystem to cover these rather obvious scaling deficiencies?
You guessed right—a highly inflexible sharing environment that simply can’t keep up with the ever-changing operational and business requirements.
What’s more, on-prem servers don’t have great monitoring capabilities, making it relatively difficult to track file activity among a large number of users. That means too many users sending too much data on an infrastructure that’s suffocating at every turn.
Comparatively, the cloud’s bandwidth and storage capacity is easily scalable and can seamlessly be adjusted based on demand—with a few clicks, or even automatically. As for the monitoring functionality, it’s often baked into a cloud-native file transfer solution, with automatic backups to cater for the possibility of data loss.
“Do on-prem server operators really need training?” You ask.
Well, no more than carpenters need nails or bakers need ovens.
That’s because on-premises file sharing relies on clunky, outdated command line interfaces that are intimidating at best. Only through hours upon hours of rigorous training can non-technical folks understand the gist of this technology.
Cloud-based solutions and apps, on the other hand, are made with the modern, ever-busy, non-compromising user in mind. As such, they’re incredibly user-friendly and require little or no coding to get going. With cloud, moving hundreds of gigabytes is a simple matter of dragging and dropping the file into an intuitive user interface.
If there’s one area that a majority of cloud-based file transfer solution providers need to pull up their socks, it’s this one.
It’s hard to come across an on-prem file sharing solution that doesn’t provide application integration flexibility. Within the MOVEit Transfer ecosystem, for example, third-party programs (including web applications) can gain programmatic access to a wide range of administrative capabilities through either the MOVEit REST API or MOVEit Transfer API. This kind of advanced integration is a whimsy dream for most cloud sharing providers.
7. Remote Connectivity
Yet another aspect where cloud-based file sharing trounces on-prem…
Without the cloud, there would be no remote work. It’s that simple. Mind you, 55% of businesses globally offer some capacity for remote work.
Put differently, if there was no cloud technology, all remote workers would be jobless by now. They’d probably be hunching down at home gobbling up the very last of their food reserves.
Why? Because they wouldn’t be able to access the business-critical data that resides in-house amongst local servers. While VPNs can help in this regard, they’re typically slow, difficult to patch, relatively costly, and downright unreliable. Besides, VPNs are somewhat insecure, especially if there’s an infected endpoint that could put the entire corporate network in jeopardy.
So, Which File Sharing Approach Gets the Nod?
What does your organization demand in a file sharing solution? On-premises options boast higher transfer speeds, a wide range of integrations, and expansive feature offerings.
On the other hand, enterprises that demand speedier and cheaper deployment and would come out better in a highly scalable transfer environment should investigate what SaaS file sharing providers are offering. The same goes for organizations looking to make remote work a key part of their future operational outlook.
That said, neither approach “gets the nod”. What matters is weighing your needs against what’s available and choosing an effective, sustainable solution.
Ultimately, though, the right option for your organization will depend on these three factors:
- Your current operating setup.
- How much time your IT can dedicate to software upgrades and hardware maintenance.
- How flexible your solution needs to be.
If we were asked, we’d definitely go with a hybrid file sharing setup—one that weaves together the pros of both approaches and leaves IT leaders with a chunk of cost savings to spare.
MOVEit Transfer Offers the Best of Both Worlds. Try It Out.
They say the best things come in twos: A pair of wings, lovers, bat and ball, left and right—the possibilities are endless.
Similarly, the best file transfer solution is one that offers the best of both on-prem and cloud-based transfer capabilities.
MOVEit Transfer is one such software, and we gladly give it our seal of approval.
Providing the same award-winning capabilities of MOVEit Cloud in an on-premises solution, MOVEit Transfer ensures that you get a handle on all your business-critical files by consolidating them in one system.
Need a file-sharing solution that completely resides (and runs) on the cloud?
Hop on the MOVEit Cloud bandwagon.
While the word “cloud” may inspire mental images of dark stormy skies and cumulus puffs, adoption of enterprise Cloud MFT doesn’t need to be so black and white. Get a leg up on the competition with a trusted and proven SaaS solution that provides full security, compliance, and reliability, with the convenience of a cloud-based service. Its name is MOVEit Cloud and it deserves your nod.