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The business case for enterprise file sync-and-sharing tools

Enterprise file sync-and-sharing tools can serve an important service for mobile environments that need to share and collaborate on files and prevent security risks.

Enterprise file sync and sharing may appear to be a niche service that only addresses a small IT need, but that couldn't be further from the truth. With all the content development and collaboration happening across both traditional network environments and mobile computing, IT and security teams need a way to effectively facilitate and control their information assets while, at the same time, keeping the inner workings of the technology transparent to users. Mobile users, in particular, expect such collaboration to just "work" without having to install new software, access different systems or troubleshoot traditional network problems.

Enterprise file sync and sharing (EFSS) not only meets these core needs but also offers ways for IT and security staff to improve information access and sharing across the enterprise mobile computing environment.

Why do companies need enterprise file sync and sharing?

In a world where IT and security teams struggle to demonstrate the value of their work, there's a lot they can gain from using EFSS tools. With the demands from management and customers for better security and improved compliance combined with the need for employees to work better, faster and cheaper, EFSS offers benefits for everyone in these areas. For businesses both large and small across all industries, EFSS can meet security and compliance needs while also facilitating productivity and business workflows like file creation, editing and deletion, as well as secure PDF signing, synching and more.

The use cases for enterprise file sync-and-sharing technology are numerous. Take for instance, a cloud services provider with remote employees in virtual offices along with numerous vendors they interact with on a daily basis. Such businesses have a huge need for secure collaboration and content sharing among internal teams, as well as their external partners. This same need applies to auditing and reporting into government agencies and customers. The function of EFSS is not just about securely sharing office documents and media files, though. It also concerns the user experience and overall improvements in business workflows across multiple departments, teams and devices within the business. Organizations can reap the same benefits in manufacturing, government, financial services, healthcare and elsewhere.

An especially compelling benefit of EFSS is its ability to match the work experience between mobile and traditional desktops. Remote anytime, anywhere access across all platforms benefits both the end user, as well as the entire business since operational and productivity costs incur when people have to otherwise travel to the office to get their work done. When companies can synchronize files across all devices, it is convenient for workers but also meets that "need it now" instant gratification that admins expect in business today. Furthermore, they can containerize files to support workflows across specific business units or among outside vendors. Serving as an alternative to on-premises servers that are, in many ways, nearing the end of their shelf lives, EFSS can also serve as a backup to help protect data repositories from accidental edits, deletions or unexpected system failures, as well as reduce or eliminate on-premises hosting and storage-related costs.

Another notable focus of file sync-and-share software is governance and security, and half the battle with governance and security is the setting of expectations. Many IT professionals, as well as their business managers and executives, believe that as long as they provided documented policies, then users will understand and follow it. The assumption is that everything will be safe and secure. Most users are none the wiser because they're just trying to get their work done. This presumptive approach to security unfortunately leads to problems. Admins must do more than just implement documented policies and actually facilitate and enforce them through sound technologies such as EFSS; it is essential if they are serious about minimizing security risks.

If IT and security teams are to ensure that they can adequately secure sensitive business records, such as personally-identifiable information and intellectual property, they have to rely on technical controls built into EFSS technology. Since EFSS platforms were developed with security in mind, they address huge security features like authentication, file transfer, storage, monitoring and oversight. Admins are able to centralize file administration and management through EFSS technology rather than having to work with sensitive information all over unprotected files shares and questionable cloud services.

The risks without enterprise file sync and sharing

When sensitive electronic assets escape IT's protective umbrella, bad things can happen. Loss of customer records, intellectual property or information that's otherwise considered internal use only can create numerous -- and unpleasant -- consequences for the business and its staff. Risks to enterprise files and content in these instances include:

  • growing demand for BYOD and the risks of under-secured mobile devices;
  • reality of shadow IT and users making security-related decisions they shouldn't be making, such as selecting their own cloud-based file sharing tools;
  • lack of strong authentication and access control;
  • no encryption or poor encryption that can expose content both in transit and at rest;
  • files that users should no longer be able to access but can because of the lack of digital rights management;
  • lack of logging, alerting and reporting to determine which business files workers are creating, accessing and using;
  • data loss, especially when files are only located on one system;
  • malware infections, especially those related to the modern threat of ransomware; and
  • access and usage that could be in violation of regulatory requirements.

Enterprise file sync and sharing can help address these issues while reducing the organization's network attack surface.

Critical business content that is either unknown, unprotected or both creates challenges that a third party would likely view as lack of due diligence. If the information security program goals are to maximize visibility and control while minimizing the impact of risks to the organization, then security controls that EFSS can offer are the only reasonable way to address them. Otherwise, admins will not truly know what file sharing activity is happening in their network and how it's potentially at risk on mobile devices.

Overall, enterprise file sync and sharing can not only be a business enabler, it can help minimize information and security risks over the long term. With improved user productivity and business operating cost reductions, especially as it relates to the mobile user base, the focus of EFSS is just as much on the user experience and the business as it is on IT and security mandates. This makes for a more holistic business strategy that creates win-win scenarios for everyone involved.

Next Steps

Test your knowledge of EFSS tools here.

Learn how EFSS services protect against cloud storage risks.

Learn how EFSS platforms are growing in enterprise mobility.

This was last published in June 2017

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

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