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Say 'I do' to enterprise-approved file sharing

I’m getting married next year, and there is so much information to keep track of during the planning process. To help, one of the first things I did was create a shared document in Google Drive – a place for my fiancé and I to collect our DIY ideas, guest list and links to vendors’ websites.

Dropbox, Google Drive and other cloud file-sharing and storage services have pushed to become more business-friendly, and they have long been staples of the consumer market. Today’s enterprise users want to be able to sync and share files at work, but consumer-first services don’t always provide everything IT needs. Services built for the enterprise tend to provide more granular security options, access control and containerization features that can better protect corporate files.

That’s why it’s important for organizations to supply their employees with alternatives to consumer-facing services.

“Users will go out and get their own thing if the enterprise doesn’t offer it,” said Richard Absalom, a senior analyst at U.K.-based research firm Ovum, in May’s issue of Modern Mobility.

To discourage these cases of shadow IT, some companies have policies against employees accessing certain applications, or they implement technical bans that prevent users from opening those programs.

One Boston-based law firm takes the former route, prohibiting cloud services in IT’s acceptable use policy – and putting its trust in the employees to actually follow the rules. The policy states that employees should only use commercial file-sharing services if their client demands it, according to a managing director of IT at the firm.

“We try to make it clear to the client that we have an alternative that we feel is better managed,” he said.

The firm provides Box as that enterprise-approved alternative, which lawyers can access from both their desktops and mobile devices.

One issue IT encountered, however, was employees accessing documents from Office for iPad. Until recently, Box did not fully integrate with Office mobile apps, meaning that users couldn’t create or edit documents in Office for iPad and then save them to the firm-approved Box. That meant many users were saving corporate documents to unapproved services like Dropbox, putting that data at risk, the managing director said.

“Our biggest concern is data leaks,” he said.

Like lawyers, workers in industries such as sales and supply chain services often need to share documents with clients or customers.

That’s the case among corporate office employees at Neovia Logistics Services LLC, a global logistics company in Irving, Texas. Neovia supports Citrix ShareFile, which users can access from anywhere without requiring a VPN connection, said Hector Cortez, an IT architect at Neovia.

“It helps productivity because we [provide] access to it via any location or device,” he said. “This team collaborates a lot with our clients, so security and ease of access is a must.”

With enterprise-approved offerings, organizations like these are keeping their employees from putting a ring on consumer file-sharing services. Does yours provide approved file-sharing software? And does IT ban other services through its policies or a technical measure? Share your experiences in the comments.