What is a file gateway and how does it work?

File Gateway

A file gateway in business enables employees to access and work on files stored in various locations, whether in the cloud or on-premise, improving performance and collaboration through protocols like HTTPS and caching.

File Gateway in a Nutshell

A file gateway in business is a device that enables employees on connected devices (such as Windows PCs, macOS, or mobile devices) to access files and folders located in different physical locations or networks, facilitating workflows and daily collaboration for business-related tasks as if the files and folders were local. It effectively brings files and folders closer to the employees' fingertips, enhancing accessibility and productivity.

Accessing Remote Files

Accessing remote files presents several challenges.

The first challenge is the physical separation between the file repository and the employee's device.

The second challenge is the difference in access protocols, with SMB and NFS being the most common protocols built into Windows and Linux devices.

The third challenge is the latency and speed of accessing remote files, as physical separation means files must traverse internet routing before reaching the user.

To address these challenges, file gateways offer protocol translation to bridge access protocols and implement file caching to reduce latency, making remote file access more seamless and efficient.

Functions of File Gateways: Translation and Caching

File gateways address the challenges of accessing remote files through protocol translation and caching functions. Protocol translation bridges the gap between different access protocols, enabling seamless interaction between devices and file repositories.

For instance, an Amazon S3 file gateway translates cloud-based object storage protocols (Amazon S3 API) into on-premise file access protocols like SMB and NFS, facilitating local consumption of cloud-stored files.

Conversely, a "reverse file gateway" translates on-premise file protocols into HTTPS-based Restful protocols, making files accessible to remote workers. This approach overcomes traditional VPN issues such as latency, slowness, provisioning, and remote support challenges.

Both types of gateways leverage caching to enhance performance, reducing latency and speeding up file access. These two directions of file gateways—cloud to on-premise and on-premise to remote—ensure efficient and flexible file access for diverse business needs.

File Gateway for Cloud

A file gateway for cloud storage serves as an interface between on-premise devices and cloud-based storage repositories like Amazon S3 or Azure Blob Storage. The most representative of this group is the Amazon S3 file gateway. Functionally, these gateways operate similarly to traditional Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, often referred to as "cloud NAS," with the key difference being that the storage is in the cloud. Typically deployed as virtual appliances in local environments like VMWare, these gateways fetch and cache files and folders from cloud storage locally. When accessed, they provide SMB and NFS interfaces, just like traditional NAS devices, enabling seamless local access to cloud-stored files and folders.

HTTPS-based File Gateway

While the most common file gateway allows on-premise employees to access cloud storage, a "reverse file gateway" provides access for remote workers to on-premise file servers. This is known as an HTTPS-based Storage Gateway. Traditionally, accessing on-premise files required a VPN, which is often slow, subject to Internet latency, and difficult to provision and maintain. An HTTPS-based Storage Gateway streams files to remote workers using HTTPS, offering numerous advantages. It provides faster access, enables asynchronous file access with remote caching, and supports offline access. This is especially beneficial for industries dealing with large files, such as CAD drawings in AEC and Photoshop files in media, ensuring efficient and swift delivery of large files to remote locations.

Security for File Gateways

In a business setting, file gateways must ensure the same level of security as traditional file servers, particularly when integrated with Active Directory. File gateways protect files and folders using Active Directory and NTFS permissions. For "Cloud NAS" storage gateways, where files are stored in cloud storage, emulating Active Directory and NTFS permission controls is necessary because cloud storage lacks native Active Directory user concepts. Conversely, HTTPS-based file gateways offer enhanced security by impersonating Active Directory users during file access requests. This involves using SMB protocol for file access and LDAP/LDAPS for authentication and authorization. By forwarding access requests to internal file servers and Active Directory servers, HTTPS-based gateways provide native access control for files and folders. This approach ensures that security measures are maintained while facilitating remote work, offering a seamless and secure experience for users accessing files from different locations.

advantages of a file gateway

Benefits of File Gateways

File gateways offer numerous advantages in a business environment, enhancing productivity, collaboration, and cost efficiency. They provide seamless access to files, improve performance, and offer flexible, scalable solutions that meet diverse business needs.


Enables seamless access to files from any location, enhancing remote and on-premise productivity.

Cost Efficiency

Reduces physical storage infrastructure and maintenance costs for businesses.


Facilitates real-time document collaboration across different locations for efficient teamwork.


Uses caching and protocol translation to improve file access speed and performance.

File Gateway as a Replacement for Old Protocols

File gateways offer advanced solutions compared to traditional methods like FTP, WebDAV, and ad-hoc cloud storage for facilitating remote work. These older methods often involve file copying and duplication, leading to inefficiencies and potential security issues. FTP servers require non-standard firewall ports, raising security concerns. WebDAV servers face performance and compatibility issues, while ad-hoc cloud storage solutions result in fragmented file repositories and inconsistent access control. File gateways address these drawbacks by providing a unified, secure, and efficient way to access and manage files remotely.


FTP presents significant challenges in today's digital landscape. It lacks built-in encryption, exposing sensitive data to potential breaches and unauthorized access. The manual effort required for FTP setup and maintenance exacerbates operational inefficiencies, reducing productivity. Additionally, FTP fails to ensure data integrity and privacy, raising compliance issues for businesses in regulated sectors. Moreover, traditional FTP solutions struggle with seamless integration, particularly with modern cloud storage options like Azure Blob.

WebDav Protocol

WebDAV protocol has an advantage over FTP or SCP as it uses the same port as HTTP (80), which is a standard port already opened in the client and enables the use of the world wide web (www). It is easier to traverse a firewall. However, WebDAV protocol wasn't as modern as a REST-based protocol as we saw from current cloud storage services. The WebDAV dialect is relatively verbose and complex, which introduces incompatibilities between WebDAV clients and WebDAV servers. It is another outdated protocol.

File Sharing

File sharing tools such as Dropbox, Citrix Files, and SharePoint duplicate files into shared folders, leading to data sprawl and increased costs. Businesses struggle to manage this sprawl and face high cloud service fees. These tools prioritize sharing over accessing, causing issues for applications like CAD drawings that need cross-file references and file locking. This results in significant data ownership problems and version control issues, with multiple versions of files scattered across different repositories.

Use Cases for File Gateways

File gateways provide versatile solutions for various business scenarios, enhancing file access and management across different environments. Here are two primary use cases for file gateways and one use case where file gateways might not be suitable:

Use Case #1: Cloud Storage with Local On-Premise Workforce

In this scenario, the business stores its files in the cloud (e.g., Amazon S3 or Azure Blob Storage) while the workforce is primarily located on-premise. File gateways facilitate seamless access to cloud-stored files as if they were stored locally. This setup is particularly beneficial for addressing on-premise storage capacity limitations, as cloud storage can be easily expanded without the need for additional hardware investments. Additionally, for businesses with multiple branch offices, shifting storage to the cloud while providing local caching and syncing file gateway appliances at each branch can significantly enhance collaboration. This approach brings files closer to branch offices, facilitating efficient multi-branch collaboration and ensuring that employees have fast and reliable access to the files they need.

Use Case #2: On-Premise Storage with Remote Workforce

Here, the business maintains its primary file storage on-premise, but the workforce is distributed remotely. File gateways enable remote employees to access on-premise files securely and efficiently. This method overcomes the challenges associated with traditional VPNs, such as latency, slowness, and complex provisioning. By using HTTPS-based file gateways, remote workers can access files as if they were local, benefiting from protocol translation and caching to minimize latency and improve performance. This is especially beneficial for industries dealing with large files, like architecture and engineering, where access speed and file integrity are crucial.

File gateways are not the optimal solution for every scenario. For example, in the following use case, a file gateway may not be the best choice:

Use Case #3: Cloud Storage with Remote Workforce (Not Suitable for File Gateways)

In this scenario, both the storage and the workforce are distributed across various locations. However, remote workforces typically do not have a virtualized environment to set up a virtual appliance for a file gateway. Direct connections to cloud storage are usually the easiest and most efficient solution for remote workers. This approach avoids the complexities of setting up and managing file gateways remotely. Instead, remote employees can access cloud-stored files directly, benefiting from the inherent scalability, accessibility, and reliability of cloud services. This method ensures simplicity and efficiency, making it the preferred choice for remote teams.

File gateway summary:

  1. BRIDGE - Connects file repositories and workforce across different locations.
  2. TRANSLATION - Bridges different file access protocols seamlessly.
  3. CACHING - Enhances performance with local file caching.
  4. INTEGRATION - Integrates with existing security measures like Active Directory.
  5. CLOUD-TO-LOCAL - File gateway for cloud storage such as Amazon S3 file gateway.
  6. LOCAL-TO-REMOTE -  HTTPS-based file gateway to stream local on-premise files to remote workers.
  7. REPLACEMENT -  Replaces FTP servers, WebDAV servers, file sharing tools, and even RDP for file access.

Take the file server back to the future

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