Sharing information within an enterprise has always been critical to its success. Currently, the data sharing needs have now grown beyond what traditional systems can offer. Organizations are now looking for the simplest and yet the most effective way to share files. Adopting an Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS) solution grants organizations a distributed model […]
Sharing information within an enterprise has always been critical to its success. Currently, the data sharing needs have now grown beyond what traditional systems can offer. Organizations are now looking for the simplest and yet the most effective way to share files. Adopting an Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS) solution grants organizations a distributed model where various employees and groups can edit and share content as required, while the data being sent is monitored to ensure its security when in transit and when it’s being stored in the cloud. With the majority of products in the EFSS market approaching maturation, finding a solution that holistically fits all the requirements of your organization can be difficult.
What you need to know
Gartner, an American information technology research and advisory firm, describes EFSS as “a range of on-premises or cloud based capabilities that allow individuals to synchronize and share documents, photos, videos and files across multiple devices. Security and collaboration are important capabilities of EFSS to address enterprise priorities.” From this, we can conclude that the base requirements for any EFSS solution are file sharing and synchronization across platforms, collaboration, and data security. However, most vendors provide their own set of EFSS services and they may not offer a similar level of granular controls of what users can do with the data. Having a clear idea of the EFSS services you require before looking for a solution is important because you are likely to come across vendors offering a different blend of features.
I. File Sharing and Synchronization
The main convenience EFSS brings to the table is file sharing and sync; but the services provided by a vendor determines how convenient. The ideal file sharing capability should have at least three levels;
The other features for sharing files include: access rights restriction to selected users or user groups, file access tracking, shared files link generation, inviting peers, selecting a sharing destination, and the ability to share a single file, file collection, a folder or multiple folders instantaneously.
Transparent and automatic synchronization of files and folders across multiple devices and the cloud service is a must have. Other sync features such as version tracking, offline access, selective file and folder sync, and the ability to sync folders to and from the control source will prove useful.
Collaboration is an important part of the day-to-day operations of an organization. A 2014 research by AIM concluded that 89% of executives believed that a formal collaboration system is a crucial piece of infrastructure. Executing an enterprise collaboration solution is no longer a nicety, but a necessity. EFSS solutions have the ability to entirely shift the paradigm of data access and handling.
The ideal EFSS solution should support cooperative editing on a shared documents using comments and change tracking. Features that would likely foster collaboration include: version control, activity and task streams, change logs, and simultaneous document editing. Integration with other collaboration platforms such as share point would be an added bonus.
Security is one of the major driving factors behind the development and adoption of enterprise grade file sharing and sync solutions. With the proliferation of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device and the use of personal devices to synchronize and share files; it is quite clear that users have been able to adopt cloud services on their own. The adoption of unsanctioned cloud apps by employees creates a challenge for enterprise IT admins, who have been charged with the responsibility of ensuring corporate data is safe.
The ideal EFSS solution should be able to strike the perfect balance between the security policies established by IT and the employee’s desire for open connectivity and visibility. Enterprise data must remain secure, whether it’s behind a corporate firewall or on the cloud. A good EFSS solution should therefore be able to allow IT to establish and enforce security policies, role and user base access control, file encryption on transfer, and device audits. Other desirable security features include: lockout after a specified time of inactivity, digital rights management, remote wipe, access tracking and reporting, and data loss prevention.
IV. Mobility and Usability
Employees can get a lot of work done outside the walls and regular working hours of an organization. An important EFSS vendor requirement is the seamless editing and sharing of files on mobile devices. The EFSS solution should be able to provide a mobile experience that rivals being in the office. The base requirement for mobility is support for at least two of the major mobile OS platforms (Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone); with native applications for notebooks and desktops, as well as browser support.
Usability is also a crucial component of an EFSS solution. It should be more robust than consumer grade file sharing applications but still provide a simple yet interactive interface that users can easily adopt. The solution should provide a unified experience that integrates into the employee’s workflow. Both the end users and IT should have an easy time managing, sharing, accessing and storing files. A fast and responsive browsing experience and select features such as drag and drop are some of the features to look out for.
V. System Integration
An EFSS solution that is integrated with storage services or systems, business applications, or document repositories (like Microsoft SharePoint) is ideal. The availability of APIs and integration capabilities for application developers is an added bonus. EFSS platforms that have integration with content-aware DLP (Data Loss Prevention) vendors such as Symantec and McAfee can help businesses create data classification mechanisms.
VI. Administration and Management
A major differentiating factor between enterprise and consumer file sharing products is centralized IT control. Integration with LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and Active Directories for access control should be a base requirement. EFSS vendors must be able to offer centralized management tools that facilitate the effective management and administration of corporate file sharing and synchronization. An integrated MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution would be an added bonus. Proper management ensures an organization receives a good return on their cloud investment.
The Bottom Line
There are multiple vendors in the Enterprise file sharing and synchronization space and choosing the most ideal one for an organization boils down to both company requirements and preference. Most cloud based EFSS vendors typically include cloud storage as part of the package. On the other hand software based EFSS vendors may integrate with repositories on-premises or be implemented with a different repository on-site. Pricing is also a matter of preference, but the offering should provide the best price for value.
Other ways to judge enterprise file sharing and sync vendors are based on customer experience and technical support. The ideal EFSS vendor should be in a position to offer services and programs that allow clients to flourish with their product.
Author: Gabriel Lando
Image courtesy: ddpavumba, freedigitalphotos.net