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Does enterprise file sync and share work on mobile devices?

Users who work with file sync-and-share apps on their mobile devices should be aware that auto-syncing works differently and that there are more security risks.

Many users work with enterprise file sync-and-share applications, such as Box, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, to sync their files across the different devices they work with.

Enterprise file sync and share is a valuable tool for a diverse user base that switches between devices often. With file sync-and-share apps, users can make changes to documents on an Apple iPhone, for example, and see that change in the document on a desktop PC. They can also share files with multiple users to make group collaboration easy.

Desktop versions of these tools have been in use for some time, but the mobile app versions are less proven and feature some key differences users should know about.

Auto-syncing is not a given

Sync operations can vary depending on the network users work on. If they are on Wi-Fi networks with fairly large amounts of bandwidth and no charges for data use, the apps work very much like the desktop versions, allowing users to set the apps to automatically keep all their files in sync.

If users are on a cellular network, however, they may opt to perform manual syncs to avoid getting hit with large data usage bills at the end of the month. The idea is to make the process more cost-effective for users; instead of automatically syncing every few minutes like the desktop versions do, which consumes a lot of data and battery power, users choose when to sync the files.

As a result, if users modify files on their mobile devices, they must initiate a manual sync to upload all the changes. If they don't, the file on their mobile device will not match the one in their repository, defeating the whole purpose of the enterprise file sync-and-share app.

Editing large documents is problematic

Users should not expect to edit a large spreadsheet or a many-page document.

The mobile versions of enterprise file sync-and-share apps are integrated into cloud-based tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs, but the user experience is quite different. Users should not expect to edit a large spreadsheet or a many-page document with the same ease on their mobile devices as they have on the large screen of a PC with a full keyboard.

Minor edits are easy enough, but most users will be quite frustrated with the small screen, pop-up keyboard and limited navigation capabilities of the average smartphone if they must do extensive editing.

Additional security risks

Mobile devices are easier to lose than PCs and, consequently, any files users download to a smartphone could potentially present security risks if IT does not apply the proper management profiles to the phone.

Users who don't have passwords and onboard file encryption could jeopardize the security of a file even if IT encrypts the file in a cloud-based storage system. The system can be set to limit the ability of users to download specific files to specific devices, but this can limit the capabilities and utility of the enterprise file sync-and-share tool for mobile workers.

This was last published in January 2019

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What do you think is the biggest difference between the mobile and desktop version of a file sync-and-share app?
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