Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: SFU vault: A Cloud Storage and File Sharing Solution for Faculty, Staff, and Students
Year Submitted 2017
Awarded Third Prize (Open Category)
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Mark Roman Chief Information Officer
Name of Institution Simon Fraser University
Office Address Strand Hall 3166, 8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
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Telephone: 778-237-0135
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Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Martin Pochurko
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President Finance and Administration
Office Address Strand Hall, 8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
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Telephone: 778-782-4006
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Abstract

Simon Fraser University required a FIPPA compliant, enterprise file synchronization and sharing solution hosted in our SFU data centre, on our servers, using our storage. SFU vault was the solution. Initially launched in December 2015, SFU vault provides easy file sharing between teams or individual users to assist in the various projects undertaken by University members and fosters collaboration from external access points. Faculty, staff, and students who have an active SFU Computing ID are provided with SFU vault accounts.

Features include:

  • Easy to learn folder-based file syncing and sharing;
  • Access files from any desktop or mobile device;
  • Automatically backs up data;
  • Uses versioning control so users can easily access previous versions of files;
  • Space quota of 50 GB;
  • Support is provided by the University; and,
  • Meets the requirements of BC's FIPPA legislation.

SFU vault supports the University’s Cloud Computing strategy which includes adopting cloud computing services that provide maximum business value to the University while avoiding or minimizing potential risks.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.
Transferability

The core underlying technology used to build SFU vault is leverages the knowledge and experience of the universities that built it by delivering a robust solution that particularly suits higher education expectations. It leverages state-of-the-art web and database technology to deliver scalable cloud file software. Institutions benefit because this cloud storage service can be locally hosted, easily expanded, used by thousands of users simultaneously, and satisfies legal requirements. 

Quality Impact

The two key desired outcomes for this project were:

Outcome: Comply with existing British Columbia data privacy legislation, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), and decrease the footprint for a potential security breach or sensitive data leak.

Result: SFU vault complies with existing British Columbia privacy legislation, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). In providing a synchronization and storage service that meets those requirements, we have reduced the use of similar externally hosted services by our community, resulting in a decreased exposure to a potential security breach or leak of sensitive data.

Outcome: Provide faculty, staff, and students access to their files across all devices.

Result: Access to any file only requires Internet connectivity. Users can read, update, and share their files from anywhere by using this cloud storage system and access is supported using all of the following platforms:

  • Desktop: Windows, Linux, and MacOS
  • Mobile: iOS and Android
  • Web: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer
Productivity Impact

SFU vault was implemented to address the demand by faculty, staff, and students for a cloud storage solution. These groups were utilizing commercial cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox (based in the United States) to store and share files. In 2015, traffic resulting from synchronizing devices between SFU secured networks and Dropbox consumed 15% of the commodity network bandwidth. Between April 2016 to January 2017, we saw a 47.7% drop in traffic consumed by Dropbox on our networks.  

 “I love SFU vault. I was using a clunky system … I had to run manually every time I logged on to a new computer. Depending on my Internet connection, it would sometimes take up to 30 minutes to upload or download files. SFU vault is such an improvement!” ~Maite Taboada, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics

We reached the target of 6,000 users in the first 10 months of the system going live. In feedback an early adopter, Peter Anderson, Associate Professor, School of Communication and Director, Telematics Research Lab, commented, “Presently, my primary use of SFU vault is to enable me to securely store files that I can access remotely, especially while travelling out-of-country. Files can include research project materials, personal reports and especially back-up copies of all of my travel plans and documents.”

“I am emailing a follow-up to our conversation about SFU vault. I was so impressed with the release that I had to double-check the date on the email to make sure it wasn’t an SFU “April Fool’s” Joke.” Shawn M. Bullock, Ph.D., P.Phys., Assistant Professor, Science

Innovation

The innovation aspect of this project includes the following:

  • Collaboration with other institutions outside of Canada;
  • Use of open source software (ownCloud) as opposed to implementation of closed source commercial software or re-branding of a cloud based service;
  • Implementation of cutting edge technology to build a resilient and highly performant private cloud service that is accessible and familiar in the higher data centre environment; and,
  • Reached a level of service comparable to a commercial cloud provider leveraging facilities well-known to higher education data centres resulting in a file synchronization and share service well within the budgetary constraints.
Supporting Documents