It’s All About the Churn : New Research Sheds Light on How to Effectively Manage your File, Sync and Share (FSS) Strategy



HEAD SHOTS FOR BUSINESSby Geraldine Osman

File sharing for collaboration and improved productivity has become an expected part of the user experience in today’s corporate environments. But many organizations are struggling to maintain control of sensitive corporate data in an age of “BYOD” and widespread proliferation of public cloud services. This is one driver behind recent findings in a survey conducted by Wilson Research Group, which revealed that the vast majority of IT personnel—a ratio of 7:1—prefer the idea of owning and controlling a file, sync and share appliance on site.

What’s more, while today’s business users are concerned about the compliance and security challenges presented by public cloud-based file sharing, users continue to demand easier access to business content, especially when using mobile devices and when working remotely. And while public cloud storage companies invented a better way to manage information that allows files to be automatically synced across devices, accessed from anywhere and shared with anyone, IT departments are now under pressure to find solutions that meet these new user expectations—while offering adequate levels of data security, privacy and control.

It’s this latter feature that many public cloud storage solutions are lacking, as is evident from the increasing prevalence of so-called “man-in-the-cloud” attacks. These involve hackers stealing cloud-based files without a password, while infecting systems with malware. Top industry analysts have long cautioned users of public cloud systems in areas related to privacy and security. For example, Gartner points out that the enhanced security features in Dropbox are not available natively, and that the solution lacks HIPAA and FISMA certifications.

These issues are no doubt part of the impetus behind other key findings from Wilson Research Group’s study of IT personnel who play a role in FSS purchase decisions in companies of more than 1,000 employees. These findings show that enterprise companies have widespread dissatisfaction with their current FSS solution, leading to a high level of “churn” throughout various industries, from finance, education, and government to manufacturing, computer software, and healthcare. The study revealed that:

  • 37% of companies say there is room for improvement with their existing solution
  • 33% plan to implement a new FSS solution in the next year
  • 21% plan to replace their existing FSS solution

If your company is among those looking for a change in how it approaches file, sync and share, then it’s important to carefully consider your objectives for your next FSS solution. In the Wilson study, over half (51.3%) of those surveyed want a new FSS system that could enhance teamwork and collaboration, while nearly half (46.2%) hope to provide remote employees with FSS services. Over 40% want to use FSS to backup company data on laptops, and nearly 34% seek a solution that will help them transfer files that are too large to send via email.

These considerations make the selection of an FSS solution a particularly important one for administrators—especially since not every FSS system offers enterprise-class capabilities. Here are some questions to ask about your new FSS solution before becoming part of the churn trend:

  • Is it built on a financially sustainable architecture? Public cloud storage services build or rent costly infrastructure while paying for huge amounts of bandwidth to transfer all user data. Yet there are private FSS appliances that exist today that combine the simplicity of public cloud file sharing solutions with the performance and security of an on-premise appliance. Such private solutions leverage the infrastructure that companies already have in place, avoiding unnecessary extra costs on this area as well as inefficient use of limited bandwidth. Your first goal in seeking an FSS solution should be to find a system that offers a viable business model with manageable costs right from the start.
  • Does it offer complete data privacy? Public cloud storage companies use encryption technology, but that doesn’t really give the user a guarantee of privacy since these providers have access to the private encryption keys—which means they have the capability of accessing your data whenever they want. Another goal in selecting an FSS solution should be to find a provider that generates and stores the private encryption keys directly on the appliances, thus meeting all the privacy requirements for sensitive data like medical, financial and legal information.
  • Does it deliver complete control over the location of data? Because public cloud solutions like Box store information on servers worldwide, they provide no way for organizations to control where their data is located. If you work in a regulated industry, it’s thus quite risky to use such solutions, particularly in countries with cloud legislation, where this lack of control can easily become a legal liability. Look for a solution that only stores files on authorized appliances, computers and mobile devices. You want your data to be transferred over an encrypted connection, never stored in the cloud. The solution should offer administrators complete visibility and control over who has access to their data and where it is stored.
  • Does it offer complete control over the redundancy of data? Another issue with public cloud services is that they offer no certainty in knowing how many copies of your data actually exist. Through such FSS systems, administrators have no way to ensure that their most important data is stored securely in multiple locations. Target a solution that offers complete control over redundancy of data through automated replication technology. This gives the administrator complete visibility into what data is replicated on each appliance.
  • Does it deliver reliable service and fast performance? Most public cloud solutions share another annoying trait: all file requests must route to and from the cloud, with no alternative to take advantage of the much faster capabilities of your local network. Dropbox came under fire at the end of August for “routine internal maintenance” troubles that caused customers worldwide to lose service for an indefinite amount of time. An advantage of certain private solutions is that FSS appliances come in different sizes for datacenters, remote offices and even home office environments, which lets administrators or users have access to copies of data exactly where they’re needed. Your FSS solution should distinguish between local and remote operations, making sure that users can take advantage of options for faster performance and more reliable service.

In short, private cloud appliances deliver the same file management benefits of the cloud—but without the financial risk, privacy concerns, data protection limitations, or performance challenges of public cloud solutions. So if you’re ready to join the churn trend and invest in a new FSS system, don’t make a costly decision that you’ll regret—take time to ask yourself the right questions before settling on the best solution for your organization.

Geraldine Osman is the vice president of international marketing at Connected Data.

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