In a previous article, I wrote about a planned Google Drive data migration that fell through due to problems transferring existing folder permissions over to Google. In a nutshell, the complex and years-old series of file share permissions couldn’t be replicated to new Google Drive folders, which would have meant redoing them all by hand — a concept that threatened to involve dozens of hours of manual labor. The project was put on hold at that time since the complexities needed further work.
As is usually the case when system limitations create roadblocks, third-party solutions offered to light the way. One such example is Linkgard’s Nava Certus software, which delivers cloud migration capabilities intended to fill in these kinds of gaps. Nava Certus is capable of transferring files from source to destination , and it offers an array of administrative features to ease the process. Nava Certus isn’t geared exclusively towards companies planning a move to Google Drive — it also works with Amazon S3, Dropbox, and other file servers.
What does Nava Certus do?
Linkgard describes Nava Certus as “cloud storage migration software that allows migration to Google Drive (and other targets) from a variety of sources.” These sources currently entail file servers, Dropbox, and other Google Drive environments (such as in the case of migrating one set of files to another during a company merger).
Basically, the software takes data from point A and brings it to point B as-is. Most permissions, modification times, and hierarchies are kept intact (Note: permissions don’t get carried over when Dropbox is involved, which makes sense, since it's largely an individual program and not used for sharing files among multiple users).
According to Linkgard:
“There is one caveat that we’d like to mention. There are cases where Windows permissions will not fully map to Google Drive permissions, such as in the case of Deny and ‘Disable Inheritance.’ This is purely due to the simpler permission model of Google Drive vs. Windows/NTFS. Deny permissions don’t exist in Google Drive; you can either give permission or chose not to give permission, but you cannot Deny a permission somewhere further down a file tree. It is possible in Windows to disable inheritance at a certain point in the tree. In Google Drive, inheritance trickles down all the way, so users should keep this in mind. However, when our software encounters permissions that we can’t map fully, we output this in the logs. In this case, the administrator will be alerted to the problem and can decide to take manual action if necessary.”
There are two kinds of permissions in Windows:
- Regular permissions, such as Read/Write/Full Control/etc.
- NTFS Special permissions, such as “Traverse Folder/Execute File” or “List Folder/Read Data”
Nava Certus can handle both types of permissions. These are translated from the Windows NTFS file system to Google Drive (Figure A).
NTFS Special Permissions in Google Drive.
How it works
Nava Certus migrates files via a mapping methodology (Figure B), which links source and destination to ensure that the appropriate information is transferred from one set of accounts to another.
File migration diagram.
It’s possible to conduct a centralized (one-to-one) migration or a distributed (one-to-many) migration (Figure C).
Google Drive migration types.
A centralized migration retains ownership and control of file permissions. All files are transferred from the source account to a single Google Drive account (Figure D). That “central user” can then reassign files and permissions if needed.
A distributed migration identifies the owner of each file and migrates it to that specific user on the destination side. So, let’s say you have 500 users with a lot of mixed ownership across numerous files on your server. Nava Certus can utilize a distributed migration (Figure E) to transfer each file to its rightful owner.
It’s even possible to perform a migration from one source to multiple destinations (Figure F).
You can perform simultaneous migration tasks.
Seeing the before and after results
You can migrate an entire volume of files or work with individual folders. Let’s say, for example, you want to migrate a Windows folder called “D:\NC_files_to_migrate\files\Folder1\sub\sub11” to Google Drive. The Job Configuration option lets you browse for the folder (Figure G).
You can browse for a specific folder.
Note the permissions for the sub11 account that have been assigned to this folder (Figure H).
See how “sub11” has Modify rights on the folder? Now, compare these to the rights assigned to the same folder in Google Drive (Figure I), once it's been migrated.
Rights listed in Google Drive.
As you can see, sub11’s rights have been preserved, making it easy to transfer all existing security restrictions.
A file system migration can take some time, especially over slow Internet connections. Nava Certus checks to see which files have changed on the source during the migration period, and it's able to upload the changed files to ensure data consistency. Nava Certus can even convert document formats to/from Google Drive or perform a periodic one-way synchronization between file systems. No middleman servers are used, and the file copying process is conducted using secure encryption.
The interface is simple and intuitive. For instance, Figure J shows the Job Management panel and the various jobs it's monitoring.
Job Management panel.
Nava Certus also offers the ability to automate jobs via scripting (utilizing Tcl) and run reports showing the status and details of migration jobs, including job summary, errors, and migration integrity.
Figure K shows an example of a job summary report.
Job summary report.
Determining cost can be a real challenge. Some vendors are coy about the concept, requesting a sales call to provide the details. However, Nava Certus has straightforward pricing — the standard edition costs $7.99 (USD) per GB. In fact, you can migrate up to 1 GB via a free trial to test out the product.
Linkgard informed me:
“There's no hard limit to how much storage customers can buy. However, on our pricing page, we ask that our customers call us for specifics, since we may be able to set them up with better pricing and put them in touch with a reseller close to them. Our resellers also frequently perform the migration for their clients, if requested, so that the customer is completely ‘hands off’.”
For example, you might expect to pay $3995 (USD) or less for a migration of 500 GB worth of data. Since your system administrators might spend weeks resetting permissions in Google Drive to match those on the original Windows file server, this can be considered a pure labor-saving expense alone.
Have you used Nava Certus in your organization? If not, what tools do you use to migrate data and permissions? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.