This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: How to assess and select enterprise file sync-and-sharing software

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EFSS technology and its growing role in enterprise mobility

While EFSS technology is well-established, enterprises are just beginning to see how it allows businesses to effectively secure and share their files across mobile devices.

With its roots in the cloud and growing deeper into business networks, enterprise file sync and sharing  helps businesses to provide more open access to enterprise content. EFSS leverages cloud technology to improve file-centric business workflows and workplace productivity. File repositories can be located in the cloud, on premises or a hybrid of both.

The EFSS market is a sizable market with many upsides, and the advantages of enterprise file sync and sharing are especially apparent in terms of mobile computing. With workers relying more and more on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, a well-utilized EFSS system can not only eliminate impediments to online collaboration, but it can also help ensure security and governance over an organization's critical electronic assets, including those across the mobile computing environment. EFSS goes beyond basic cloud storage technologies by offering enterprise-level features so that IT teams can have more granular visibility and control over shared content, making security a front and center priority.

Primary EFSS benefits

The benefits of enterprise file sync and sharing are numerous for businesses both large and small. First, EFSS software provides the ability to securely share files such as office documents, spreadsheets and media files like photos and videos. Users can share their files across multiple devices, people, teams and business functions. EFSS allows the work experience on a mobile device to be similar to that of a traditional desktop but with the freedom of doing the work whenever, wherever. Not only can admins create, edit and share files in the traditional sense, but they can utilize certain EFSS features for PDF file signing and file sharing integration with mobile messaging apps. This flexible always-on access from anywhere can enable a much more efficient workforce and eliminate the need for certain users to have to come into the office.

In an EFSS environment, admins can store files in a secured data repository and network users with supported mobile devices can then access them remotely. The configurations can be cloud-only, on premises or a hybrid of both. This function provides for greater scalability in larger organizations or even in smaller organizations that have many disparate offices across larger geographical locations. Integration with third-party cloud services, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Azure AD, can help extend existing business technologies in the businesses that adopt EFSS technology.

The greatest benefit of enterprise file sync and sharing is the flexibility and features it provides to IT and security teams so they can properly secure critical personally identifiable information and intellectual property. EFSS can help support current security policies and also work to build out a more solid information security program with authentication, access controls, data replication and more across various initiatives such as BYOD, information classification and the elimination of shadow IT.

Three architectural approaches to EFSS tools

The architectural approaches of enterprise file sync and sharing are similar to many other cloud-centric services available today:

  • Pure cloud allows organizations to leverage ' pre-established technologies quickly and without huge upfront capital expenditures. While some IT teams would argue that relying completely on a third party for everything creates security, compliance and resiliency challenges, the opposite can also be true, especially for organizations with immature security programs.
  • On premises allows organizations to use connectors and APIs to extend existing in-house storage and data to EFSS without having to move it all to the cloud. This can help with regulatory compliance or to appease IT and security teams that don't want to give up full control of their information assets.
  • Hybrid allows organizations to store and manage content both in the cloud and in-house and can help save on the cloud-related costs associated with storage and ongoing maintenance. A hybrid approach also helps to support security policies and regulatory requirements that may vary from region to region.

There is no one-size-fits-all architecture to enterprise file sync and sharing in the enterprise. Only buyers themselves will know their specific business needs, workflows and security requirements. If cloud adoption is well-ingrained into the organization, a pure cloud or hybrid technology should be relatively simple to implement.

How do EFSS tools work?

In essence, enterprise file sync-and-sharing tools connect users to files in the cloud, on premises or both -- depending on the specific architecture. The software uses web user interfaces and mobile apps for file management, collaboration and overall system administration. Some of the primary capabilities of EFSS tools are to:

  • synchronize files across all devices;
  • provide instant access to files regardless of location;
  • unify file administration and management;
  • permit strong authentication and access control;
  • facilitate data encryption -- both in transit and at rest;
  • containerize data tailored to specific business units or workflows;
  • track and expire content via digital rights management to protect sensitive files; and
  • log and report on system usage.

Certain EFSS systems do not copy or store the actual files -- they simply connect the user to the data source, which has obvious benefits in terms of privacy and security and can also lower or eliminate cloud-based storage and maintenance costs.

EFSS is a technology that has been around for years in the enterprise. According to MarketsandMarkets Research, the EFSS market size is expected to grow to USD $3.51 billion by the year 2020. EFSS technology has a lot to offer businesses and their users, especially in automating business workflows and making file and content collaboration more efficient. From the smallest of startups to the largest of corporations -- across all industries -- EFSS can help take the hassle and security challenges out of traditional file synchronization and sharing. There are obvious benefits to EFSS at the desktop level, but an entirely new set of possibilities open up to users and their devices when EFSS technology expands to the mobile world. Considering that mobile technology is here to stay, EFSS tools can help businesses grow their file sync-and-sharing capabilities alongside their mobile presence.

Next Steps

Test your knowledge on EFSS tools.

Learn how the enterprise file sync-and-sharing market is evolving.

Read about how the major EFSS vendors are evolving to meet user needs.

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