Oxford University’s technology transfer office, Isis Innovation, is using a file-sharing infrastructure from hybrid cloud company Egnyte to manage the commercialisation of intellectual property on behalf of Oxford University.

Isis currently manages 700 intellectual property license agreements and has helped form 79 spin-off companies - including Oxonica, (the company behind Optisol UV absorber), and NaturalMotion, (whose animation software is behind Grand Theft Auto IV and Troy).

The organisation previously had a VPN system which was designed for remote access within the UK. However, as Isis’s work started to take it to different continents, and enterprise consultants were visiting areas of the world with limited broadband access, it found that the system was preventing consultants from working effectively with their clients while onsite.

Isis therefore started looking for a more robust solution in the third quarter of 2011. Since the value of intellectual property is so closely related to its security, Isis was particularly keen to ensure that its file sharing wasn’t compromised. One breach could give access to years of research, which might result in millions of pounds in funding going to waste.

The organisation had trialled other popular cloud storage systems, but settled on Egnyte in conjunction with local storage in its Oxford and Hong Kong offices, because it provided the security and flexibility of easily accessing files remotely while still offering a fast internal server system.

Isis implemented the solution itself, with some support from Egnyte’s engineers. From initial testing to completing the data transfer and having consultants work with it full time, it took about 2 months, according to Nelson Sa, systems administrator at Isis Innovation.

“The installation guide was extremely straightforward to set up, considering the complexity of the system involved. Egnyte had clearly thought about the end-to-end process for system administrators too,” Sa told Techworld.

In implementing the system, Isis encountered one small hitch getting Egnyte’s VMWare template for the Enterprise Local Cloud to install. However, Sa managed to resolve the problem by locating a different copy of the template file on the VMWare Solution Exchange website.

“It was plain sailing once we had worked past that,” said Sa.

Now that the system is up and running in hybrid mode, consultants can quickly access files that are behind the firewall using Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices synced with Egnyte’s European public Cloud. Egnyte’s compliance with the EU Safe Harbor framework also means that staff can collaborate with colleagues across the world effectively.

Sa said that the biggest issue was reminding users that the sync process wasn’t actually instantaneous, especially if they are trying to transfer gigabytes of data over a home broadband connection.

“It became an exercise in understanding what data they definitely needed to store locally on their laptops (the less the better for security purposes) and what data they could handle downloading at a later date while abroad, if necessary,” he said.

Isis intends to continue using the hybrid mode in the long-term. Sa added that any issues the organisation has come across have been insignificant compared to the advantages this sort of system provides.

“Innovation is the lifeblood of any business and there are great ideas coming out of Isis, so keeping them secure is a priority,” said Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte.  

“We pride ourselves on giving customers a choice when it comes to where their data is stored, on local storage or in the cloud, and how it’s accessed. We are very excited to see our technology driving UK innovation globally from this most prestigious academic institution.”