Definition

EFSS (Enterprise file sync-and-share)

Contributor(s): Carl Setterlund and Alyssa Provazza

Enterprise file sync-and-share is a service that allows users to save files in cloud or on-premises storage and then access them on desktop and mobile devices.

Enterprise file-sharing tools allow users to securely share documents, photos, videos and more across multiple devices and with multiple people. They use file synchronization, or copying, to allow files to be stored in an approved data repository, then accessed remotely by employees from PCs, tablets or smartphones that support the EFSS product.

What EFSS tools are used for

Businesses can use enterprise file sync-and-share to improve content management, collaboration and secure file sharing among employees. EFSS services include features such as live commenting, document version tracking and workflow process management to help users store, edit, review and share files.

Organizations often adopt EFSS as a means to deter employees from sharing corporate data via consumer-oriented public cloud storage and file-sharing services that are outside of IT's control. To that end, enterprise file-sharing products include security capabilities such as authentication, data encryption, containerization and tracking features to protect enterprise data. Still, not all EFSS offerings include encryption to protect data after it's transferred locally to a user's device or shared with a third party. Some EFSS services also let IT administrators set access policies that govern who in the organization is able to access certain content.

Enterprise file sync-and-share (EFSS)
Enterprise file sync-and-share (EFSS)

EFSS and mobility

Organizations can deploy EFSS as a private or hybrid cloud service, or as on-premises software. With a cloud deployment, employees save files in the EFSS provider's cloud, and users with network connectivity access them remotely on a PC or mobile device. In most hybrid and on-premises deployments, the files remain in the company's own data repository.

Enterprise file sharing became more critical as organizations embraced the need for employees to access their corporate files from multiple device types. The top EFSS providers have applications that allow users to access and edit files on PCs, smartphones and tablets, and use file synchronization on the back-end server to then update the file across all their devices.

Comparing the top EFSS vendors/products

EFSS products include Accellion, Axway's Syncplicity, Box, BlackBerry Workspaces (acquired from WatchDox), Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox Business, Egnyte, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and several others.

Organizations most often choose an EFSS product based on its cost, security capabilities, management controls and user productivity features, as well as its ability to easily integrate with other tools and applications that the business already uses.

Box integrates with thousands of other enterprise applications. ShareFile offers security features based on storage zones, or private data storage systems under IT's control that can live on premises at an organization or in supported cloud storage. Offerings such as Dropbox and Google Drive were initially more focused on the consumer market but over time added business versions that include enterprise security and management features.

The future of the market

The EFSS market has and will continue to evolve as more organizations focus on digital transformation, an approach to improving internal productivity through adopting new technology and eliminating paper processes. Enterprise file-sharing tools play an important role in this transformation by providing a unified system for employees to handle communications, collaboration and content management tasks. In step with the expanding capabilities of EFSS tools, Gartner in 2017 changed the name of its Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing Magic Quadrant to Content Collaboration Platforms. As these products move beyond file synchronization and remote access abilities, businesses will be able to use EFSS as a tool for sensitive data security, workflow management and more.

This was last updated in December 2017

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What does your organization use enterprise file sharing for?
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Has your enterprise considered using EFSS for storage or file sharing?
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By definition, if you're sharing data across multiple people and multiple devices, it's not secure. Sorry.
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With Dropbox's recent patent application earlier this year, it is likely they may be added to this list soon.

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Sam Smith
Technology Evangelist and Aspiring Chef
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