File sharing and sync was popularized by services such as Dropbox, and most people have tried it over the past year or two. Now it is invading the enterprise.
Here are 10 things storage professionals need to know about it.
1. Avoid Consumer Versions
Consumer sharing products bypass the corporate firewall and, thus, can be a liability. There is no guarantee that the data will remain in safe hands. Make sure employees know that use of such services could constitute a security breach.
2. Enterprise Versions Are Available
The growing maturity of enterprise file sync and share is underscored by the fact that Gartner has invented a name for it—enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS). Vendors such as EMC, DropBox, Ctera, Box, SugarSync and others have all released EFSS offerings.
3. BYOD Is a Big Driver
There are a couple of drivers for sync and share growth. Gartner analyst Monica Basso said, "The proliferation of consumer mobility, media tablets and bring your own device (BYOD) programs in the enterprise is increasing adoption."
As IT departments finally accede to user demands that they support any and all devices, one solution to staying in control of corporate data is EFSS.
4. Security Is Another Driver
The other big driver of EFSS adoption is security concerns. Who knows who is snooping on that data as it is promiscuously shared outside the firewall?
"The unauthorized adoption of personal cloud services raises security concerns and represents a major driver for investments in EFSS," said Basso.
Jeetu Patel, General Manager for EMC Syncplicity, concurs. “To combat the risks introduced by BYOD, IT has no choice but to arm themselves with enterprise-grade security and control to mitigate potential data leakage,” he said.
5. It’s a Mobile Must-Have
Any organization with a mobile workforce, therefore, better start evaluating the various synch and share products soon. Otherwise, anarchy is likely to ensue.
"File synchronization and sharing is a critical capability for mobile workforces whose organizations have ongoing mobility initiatives with media tablets and BYOD programs,” said Basso. “We expect IT organizations will face increasing demand for these capabilities, with deeper focus on security and compliance by regulated or security-conscious enterprises."
6. It Enhances Collaboration
Raghu Kulkarni, CEO of iDrive notes that the rise of a more mobile workforce means that collaboration has to be done online more often than not. These users are looking for new ways to get exactly what they need at any time on any device—especially when dealing with important documents. Having data reside on a secure synchronized cloud is a workable approach.
“Cloud sync technology is critical for anyone needing to access documents or other files on several different devices anytime, anywhere,” said Kulkarni.
7. Not Just Mobile Files Are Shared
While much has been made about the proliferation of devices and the mobile workforce, EMC’s Patel pointed out that the majority of content still resides on local computers, not in file servers or collaboration work spaces. Instead of focusing on the outside, then, EMC’s Syncplicity Enterprise Edition keeps everything being shared within the corporate firewall. In other words, the data is never sent outside, although it can be accessed and read externally at any time by authorized users.
“Having the ability to configure the system to align with their security approach, establish policies and deploy at scale empowers IT to provide users flexibility without losing control,” said Patel.
8. Goodbye Thumb Drives and Zip Files
An awful lot of storage space is taken up by multiple copies of files and huge attachments. Similarly, thumb drives are often deployed as a sneakernet around the office. IT would do well to institute policies restricting these activities. Why take up TBs with huge attachments that can be put in the cloud for all to see?
“Older file-sharing systems like email attachments, zipped files and thumb drives don’t allow for easy version control, restrict limits on file size, and add additional and unnecessary steps in the process of file sharing,” said Anand Subramani, Dropbox. “Furthermore, there are really two customers to keep in mind—the IT admin and the end-user—and enterprise tools need to work well for both.”
9. It's Becoming More Enterprise-Ready
File sych and share services have been rapidly moving up the food chain. Enterprise features are being added, but that doesn’t mean they have reached the end of the line in that regard. There is still a ways to go to match the enterprise-class features of a content storage array, for example. But the gap is narrowing rapidly.
Later this year, for example, Syncplicity is being equipped with policy-driven hybrid cloud features which will allow users to utilize private and public clouds simultaneously, automatically optimize storage utilization and performance, and adhere to security and regulatory compliance requirements based on user and content types. You’ll see other vendors doing the same.
“As a result, businesses will be able to benefit from cloud infrastructures crafted to deliver the benefits they want and the specific levels of trust they require,” said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.
10. Deploy Sooner Rather than Later
File sync and share is no longer a "nice-to-have." Anyone who thinks otherwise would be wise to conduct a survey to find out just how many users are already harnessing the consumer versions and how that sits from a security perspective. That should arm anyone with enough ammunition to convince the C-level guys why it needs to be deployed.