Time for IT to Take File Sync and Sharing Seriously

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    The enterprise has been so fixated on building next-generation virtual and cloud architectures that little thought is being given as to exactly how they will be used to further employees’ goals.

    With streamlined infrastructure and highly flexible resource configuration dangling dollar signs before the front office, it is worth noting that the cloud also ushers in a completely new form of IT that enables applications and workflows that simply don’t exist in the traditional data environment.

    A key example is file sharing and sync (FSS). Most knowledge workers are already familiar with these tools on their mobile phones and are routinely applying them to enterprise data, posing a substantial risk to critical and proprietary information. What’s needed, then, is an enterprise approach to FSS that mixes security and governance with user flexibility and self-service.

    To date, however, it seems that consumer solutions are ruling the enterprise. In a study of more than 5,000 data workers, data research house Ovum found that nearly a third are using three or more consumer tools to share work-related files, while another 44 percent use email, memory sticks and other older technologies. This indicates that many employees face a stark choice: Either stick with the tried and true and risk losing out to more connected, productive rivals, or adopt one or more of the consumer options that most likely do not have the enterprise’s best interests at heart.

    The marketing strategies that many of the consumer FFS developers are using to tap into the enterprise are quite insidious, says Attachmate’s Tom Scearce. First, they target tech-savvy mobile users with free sharing software and other goodies and then encourage them to start collaborating with co-workers. Once a critical mass of workers at a given enterprise is reached, they pitch a company-wide licensing plan that invariably features a generous amount of cloud storage that is proving to be increasingly unfit for enterprise data requirements. The lesson here is that enterprise-class file sync and share (EFSS) should cater equally well to both user and organizational needs.

    Some of the latest solutions, however, are starting to target EFSS on private cloud infrastructure, which contains sharing and sync activities within the enterprise data environment provided that it has been upgraded with cloud functionality. Code42, for example, combines its SharePlan EFSS solution with endpoint data protection and management to enable secure access to shared files via mobile devices for as little as $10 per user per month. The platform is built around a user-friendly interface that caters to less-tech-savvy workers, while open APIs allow IT and other groups to monitor file access, sharing and other functions.

    File Sharing

    The key to an effective EFSS program isn’t necessarily the platform you deploy, but the way in which it is integrated into legacy systems and data processes, says Zimbra CTO Rob Howard. A stand-alone EFSS system runs the risk of generating the kind of data siloes that the enterprise has been trying to eliminate for the past decade. By integrating it into email and other collaboration tools, and then adding fine-grain permission and access controls, EFSS provides a more stable, secure benefit to the enterprise and can be properly leveraged to enhance individual and group productivity.

    Whether it is cave paintings in Europe or advanced telecommunications around the world, the basic function of data is to convey thoughts and ideas across distances and through time. The ability for multiple people to remotely access and manipulate data as it is being created is a uniquely 21st Century concept, however, and its impact on how we live and work is still not entirely clear.

    But when it comes to EFSS, two things should be crystal clear: First, enterprise data is the property of the company or organization, not the user, and should not be processed, stored or otherwise manipulated using anything but approved systems; and second, the enterprise has a vested interest in providing workers with the most modern, productivity-enhancing tools available.

    In short, workers that can do more with less are the foundation of an enterprise that can do more with less.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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