It is undeniable at this point that enterprise data environments will become more distributed as the cloud era unfolds, often resulting in vital information winding up on third-party infrastructure. This is the primary reason that demands for file sync and collaborative sharing tools and services are so high.
But while most of these solutions are geared toward individual users, they don’t make any distinction between personal and enterprise data, which means organizations can easily lose control of critical data as knowledge workers seek any way possible to boost their own productivity. This has not gone entirely unnoticed among sync and collaboration developers, which have recently introduced new lines of enterprise-class systems. But the question for enterprise executives remains: What is the best way to ensure broad sync and collaboration for users while retaining adequate security and control for the organization?
According to CloudTweaks tech blogger Salman UI Haq, a key consideration is the amount of data to be synced on a regular basis. Top service providers like Box and Dropbox offer high-speed sync capabilities for individuals handling a few megabites at a time, but as multiple users start to coordinate their activities in an enterprise setting, data volumes can start to overwhelm local network resources. Top providers like Egnyte are pushing the envelope when it comes to speeds – from about 72 hours to sync a 500GB file down to about 7 minutes – mostly by using the same deduplication and change management techniques found in traditional network optimization platforms, but it highlights the fact that enterprises need a proactive strategy when dealing with sync and collaboration or risk the health of the entire data infrastructure.
Another key decision is whether to maintain sync capabilities on-premise or in the cloud. Cloud-based options have gotten a head start by virtue of the fact that they can be easily bundled with service packages. However, maintaining your own sync platform always provides that added feeling of security. Companies like CodeLathe are already making headway in the enterprise with on-premise systems like the Tonido FileCloud, which provides both file sharing and mobile access in order to meet the two top requirements of today’s knowledge workers. With built-in security and administrative tools like CIFS management and REST APIs, the system provides a streamlined process to integrate mobile/collaborative environments into existing infrastructure.
Meanwhile, a company called OpenText has devised a new solution intended to foster sync and collaboration between internal and external resources without compromising the enterprise firewall. The system is a combination of the company’s OpenText Transmittal Management stack and the Manager File Transfer system and is optimized for large file transfer, which the company says can be moved some 30 times faster than traditional syncing options. It is a key pillar in the company’s overall Enterprise Information Management platform that will ultimately encompass everything from customer and process management to information exchange and discovery.
Cloud-based services are not about to give up on the enterprise so easily, however. For example, Box is working closely with companies such as CipherCloud to provide end-to-end security for sensitive data. CipherCloud provides AES-256 encryption to more than 180,000 Box customers, all of whom retain full control over access policies and other functions. It’s worth noting that even with server-side or file sync-and-share (FSS) platforms, non-enterprise entities, including the cloud provider, may still gain access to encryption keys and other security tools. CipherCloud claims to block unauthorized access from third parties while providing real-time content scanning on each upload to determine the proper level of security for enterprise needs or regulatory compliance.
Enterprise executives who have spent lifetimes surrounded by data that is safely ensconced within the data center will no doubt find the idea of cloud-based collaboration and sharing highly unnerving. But the pull of increased productivity, or even entirely new business opportunities, is likely to outdraw the needs of security before long – at least, security as it has long been practiced.
The trick these days is not to build a wall around your infrastructure to keep all intruders out, but to ensure that protection and availability are maintained no matter where the data ends up. It’s a bit like stepping off of dry land into a small boat to sail the wide open ocean. The first time is a little unnerving, but as you get used to the winds and currents – and yes, even the storms – you find that there is more to see and do—and monetize—in distant lands than at home.