Platforms such as Dropbox are rapidly gaining in popularity. Users love having a simple way to store and share files with a group of people across multiple locations, using any computer or mobile device.
However, this type of application has not had the security, control, flexibility or pricing structure in place to make them a safe and cost-effective option for businesses. How can IT provide access to file sharing that is secure, but still manage how these work files are actually shared? What is the right balance between letting users access the tools that they want and IT retaining control? And is it one that can be achieved?
Whatever your business, this will be a challenge for the future. One way for IT to solve this problem is to implement a private cloud solution, which can make doing business quicker, easier and more secure.
Dropbox for business?
The Dropbox file-sharing concept allows users to collaborate with customers, suppliers and colleagues, wherever they are. What is more, it is easy for someone to revise your file and send the latest version to everyone in the group.
But there are drawbacks for a business using Dropbox.
Lack of security and an uncertain audit trail should concern any business using a file storage and sharing application, while there are also issues to consider about where data is stored and bandwidth consumption. For those that want control over how and where their information is stored, Dropbox may not be really right for them. But there is an even more urgent question to be answered first: is Dropbox already in use within your organisation?
It is important to find out if employees at your organisation are using Dropbox or a similar application in their day-to-day work.
This will help you comply with audit policies and commercial agreements that require you to encrypt your data before you share it.
With Dropbox alone, IT cannot control and enforce requirements for encryption. With web-based file-sharing, sensitive data can be transferred to diverse uncontrolled devices in any location - leading to severe security risk. Another thing to remember is that in case of small enterprises, they may not have the bandwidth to cope with the frequent flow of data to and from Dropbox accounts and will see their other web-based services may suffer as a result.
One approach to discovering how widespread Dropbox use is within your business would be to conduct an informal survey - ask users if they have installed it. For a more in-depth look at what is actually happening, an IT survey tool will give visibility into your client infrastructure and help you decide whether or not to implement a storage and file-sharing platform as a business tool.
Solving the challenges of business file-sharing
If Dropbox is widely installed in your organisation, it is essential that you find an alternative solution to meet the needs for which it is being used, and at the same time address the key business issues of security and control.
Some businesses use shared network drives instead of web-based services such as Dropbox. These are fine for storage but poor for collaborative work as they don’t have mobile device access or the ability to share data externally. Other companies opt for document management systems but these are costly to run. They also lack the flexibility many businesses need to stay ahead in their industries.
Private cloud approaches build on the file sharing and storage principles established by services such as Dropbox, but add vital internal security and control functionality. Business data can be made available to anyone, at any location, on any mobile device with an internet connection. Improved productivity and free read-only access to your data for suppliers and customers helps you do business more quickly, easily and securely.
With a private cloud under your control and, crucially, local data encryption for compliance and security, you can make the rules. There are already a number of products either entering the market or due to launch that aim to meet this need. Examples of available products include RES Software’s HyperDrive and Sharefile from Citrix, while VMware has its Project Octopus in Beta stage too.
Whatever product you choose, it should include support for your current storage infrastructure and the ability to remotely wipe data on lost devices. This not only makes sure that it is simple to integrate with your current IT, but that it also allows you to ensure that data is protected in the event of a device going astray.
Versatility is another key benefit that companies can deliver to their users, as these tools all should have compatibility with Android, Windows, BlackBerry and Apple’s iOS devices out of the box. As users want to bring in their own smartphones, tablets and laptops, secure file sharing can make it easier to support BYOD.
For users, the main aim of using Dropbox is convenience. For the IT team, replicating this level of user friendliness while still keeping control over where data actually resides is therefore essential. By using private cloud-based approaches, rather than relying on public cloud services, IT can have its cake and let users eat it too.
– By Steve Denby
Denby is Sales Director at LETN.