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How to make the right EFSS purchase for your mobile enterprise

File sync-and-sharing tools are growing more essential with the rise of mobile computing. Learn about the functions to consider and the players to involve when making a purchase.

Enterprise file synchronization and sharing can benefit any type of business, regardless of size or industry. With the rise of mobile computing in recent years, along with the push toward the cloud, the IT world is positioning enterprise file sync and sharing, or EFSS, as a core business application that enhances everything, from user productivity to information security.

Users, executives and IT teams can all utilize EFSS tools for their benefit. When it comes to procuring file sync-and-sharing technology, there are several factors that affect people and processes -- both inside and outside IT and security -- that buyers must analyze and discuss.

First and foremost, buyers must determine what it is they are trying to accomplish with EFSS tools. Are they simply looking to create a more transparent way for local and mobile users to share and synchronize files and collaborate on content? Or are they looking to standardize on a single platform to help minimize the risks associated with shadow IT? Perhaps they're looking to use someone else's infrastructure and service capabilities to manage files and content off site in the cloud. Determining the primary aim of a file sync-and-sharing platform is the first step toward assessing the options.

Once buyers determine what they need their EFSS system to achieve, they can look further into tool features. Security must be a top priority. An information risk assessment should determine if intellectual property and personally identifiable information are at greater risk in the environment than they would be in the cloud.

With some core security requirements that involve access control or data encryption, admins may need to encrypt data not only in transit, but in the cloud and on mobile devices. There might be certain minimum policies or standards -- internal to your organization or mandated by a third party -- such as Transport Layer Security 1.2 encryption for data in transit and 256-bit AES encryption for data at rest.  Some other security requirements, such as multifactor authentication or digital rights management, might also be part of the plan.

Buyers must also consider other aspects of security, such as data leakage and usage violations, logging, alerting and incident response, as well as data loss associated with user errors, corruption and malware. Security should be front and center, especially given the risks associated with mobile computing. This is why buyers need to perform their own internal analysis so they will know the features to look for and the questions to ask of current or prospective vendors. The bottom line is if EFSS is to be successful, it needs to start with security risk assessment.

EFSS tool features

Determining the primary aim of an EFSS platform is the first step toward assessing the options.

Beyond security, there are other key capabilities to look for in a file sync-and-sharing platform. These include:

  • File synchronization for making local content available out to the cloud and accessible across the internet, regardless of the user's platform, which can also serve to support data backup requirements that are part of existing and disaster recovery and business continuity plans.
  • Flexible storage options similar to other cloud services, including pure cloud, on premises and hybrid. Storage alone can make or break an EFSS implementation. For example, a pure cloud configuration is great for quick deployment with minimal expenses. However, it might not be ideal in terms of existing security standards, policies and risks. An on-premises EFSS tool allows organizations to maintain control of in-house storage while extending file synchronization and sharing capabilities out to the cloud. A hybrid EFSS deployment can be the best of both worlds and is especially handy for global organizations in meeting specific compliance regulations.
  • Scalability allows a business to grow into its EFSS deployment without worrying about performance, capacity, and IT and security-related management concerns. For example, certain file sync-and-sharing technology can extend existing business workflows and IT controls out to the cloud, internally or both, and effectively make file storage, management and collaboration seamless across the enterprise, regardless of business growth and needs.
  • Private space versus public space for storage of files that workers can or cannot share. This provides users with their own level of control over who sees what and can integrate nicely with existing access control and BYOD security standards and policies.
  • User experience as a means to facilitate buy-in and encourage secure collaboration. If the EFSS deployment is to be successful over the long haul, the user experience needs to be a positive one. Transparent security controls that are kept out of sight and out of mind are a good example. Most users likely don't want to be burdened with security decisions, nor should they be if they want to minimize risks. Just as important, the experience from traditional desktop to mobile should be a seamless one. In other words, users get the same look and feel -- and can do the same types of things -- regardless of what platform they are using for file sync and sharing.
  • Group collaboration and sharing mechanisms that support content sharing among employees, as well as people outside of the organization. The software should let users securely share and perform external collaboration with controls such as passwords, time-limited access and digital rights management that control what the user can do with the files.

The various file sync-and-share vendors address these core essentials in different ways, but certain features may be missing from certain vendors' tools. Again, buyers must ask themselves what they are trying to accomplish. While the perfect tool may not exist, rest assured there are plenty of vendors in this space who can help reduce the burdens of file synchronization and sharing security and administration, while they also helping to enhance business workflows and productivity for this critical aspect of IT.

Buyers should avoid making EFSS just an IT-focused purchase and involve other people across the business in on the planning and decision-making. Since existing business processes and workflows will likely change, it's very important to get all of the right people involved. This will not only keep IT from being the bad guy if the EFSS platform doesn't end up meeting business needs, but getting others involved will also help fine-tune the needs and end goals, so everyone can be on board to ensure a successful deployment and justify ongoing expenditures.

Next Steps

Learn the business need for EFSS technology

Test your knowledge on file sync-and-share platforms.

Read about Box Relay and its EFSS capabilities.

This was last published in June 2017

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Buyer's Guide

How to assess and select enterprise file sync-and-sharing software

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