OzHosting containerises cloud storage to boost security, scalability

Hosting provider OzHosting has sought to carve out a niche in the increasingly crowded cloud file-storage market by using virtualisation technology to give each customer their own hosted, encrypted virtual file locker.

Based on server-virtualisation technology from Parallels, OzHosting’s ownCloud service runs up a virtual machine for each user that signs up to the service. Each machine is running a virtual server running the open-source ownCloud application, which offers a range of functionality including secure file storage; Web file access; WebDAV hooks for file system-level access; selective folder-based file syncing; and companion mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile devices.

OzHosting used the Parallels Application Packaging Standard (APS) to build a standard file-locker image that can be run up on its government-accredited data centre from which it operates. The approach ensures a high degree of scalability and repeatability whilst ensuring customer data is kept separate with hard virtual barriers.

The approach provides a level of security – and, thanks to on-shore hosting with high-speed telecommunications access, low-latency response – that OzHosting CEO Anthony Banek believes will help ownCloud outpace incumbents like Dropbox and Box in the pursuit of lucrative government and other sensitive-vertical markets.

“File sharing apps like Dropbox are fantastic,” he told CSO Australia at the launch of the service, “but now more and more the push to considering where customer data is, and who has access to it, has become more of a primary consideration in the buying cycle.”

Security is only one aspect of the service that Banek hopes will help the company carve out greater share of the market, into which a growing number of players have recently thrown their hats. Recently, for example, Acronis launched its mobilEcho mobile file management solution, which containerises documents for editing within a secure mobile workspace that integrates with corporate Active Directory environments and mobile device management (MDM) services.

OwnCloud takes a broader approach, offering a secure file-serving option – and marketing it as a value-add to the company’s conventional hosting services – that Banek believes will make it a favoured option for the many small organisations that want an easier way to maintain secure and accessible storage.

OzHosting gives single employees 20GB of storage and five-user organisations 100GB of shared storage, with additional capacity available at around 21 cents per GB per month. Such pricing has proved popular with early users, Banek said, with some clients requesting as much as 4TB of data in their virtual images.

“The way Parallels works, we can scale containers up and down using a slider,” he explained. “The speed to be able to do this is quite important, and we’re finding a lot of people are becoming more interested in this approach: they’re moving to the cloud with their Exchange infrastructure, and now looking at their file sharing. They’re using this product as an opportunity to move their internal file server into the cloud.”

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