File Sync Share getting enterprise-grade teeth

Emails are still by far the most popular way of sharing files with others. But in recent years as files have grown in sizes way beyond the limit of most email systems, file sync and share (FSS) have grown in popularity driven by the need to almost instantaneously share files to anyone regardless of platform (BYOD). Now it is invading the enterprise, and coincidentally, Gartner labeled it enterprise file sync and share (EFSS).

There is a strong reluctance among enterprises in terms of cloud-based FSS services – the most serious issue being minimal or no compliance and governance capabilities. Also, IT has little or no control oer the lifecycle of data shared through these networks. Security, reliability and availability are also serious concerns that IT, as custodian of a company’s compliance commitments, is uncomfortable with. In heavily regulated industries, FSS services cannot answer the question of where the data is stored and all the security questions that follow it. These uncertainties could constitute a security breach.

Despite the security holes present in current FSS offerings, the service is prevalent in the enterprise. A 2013 survey by Osterman identified, for example, that Dropbox has already achieved strong penetration in key industries including government: 72.1%, technology companies: 72.1%, manufacturing: 56.8%, financial services: 56.6%, and overall at 68.1%.

Figure 1 Deployment Models for Dropbox by Organization Size

Things might be changing as FSS vendors, such as as EMC, DropBox, Ctera, Box, SugarSync among others, roll out what they label as enterprise-grade service. Forester Research evaluated the capabilities of 16 FSS, enterprise and otherwise, listing out the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of these players to vie for the market opportunity.

Why the interest? Osterman Research estimates the market opportunity associated with these services at US$106B by 2017.

Figure 2 Total Available Market for FSS, 2012-2017

These enterprise FSS or FSS services are beginning to look more like private or hybrid storage that offer the benefits of online storage but with enterprise-grade security measures in place. And this may just be what organizations are looking for.

CTERA Networks recently sponsored a survey of 200 IT professionals in early 2014 by Research Now noted that 63 percent of respondents are preferring private cloud storage solutions run either on hosted (“virtual private”) infrastructure or in their own datacenter over public FSS. Larger enterprises of 10,000 employees or more stating a preference for a completely private cloud. Titled 2014 Enterprise Cloud Storage Report, the report examines the state of the cloud storage usage in the enterprise, and the measures being taken by IT departments to improve the security of cloud storage offerings in their organizations.

According to ResearchNow organizations are racing to establish contemporary cloud storage solutions that they can control. The enterprise is moving quickly to deliver the collaborative and mobility benefits of cloud storage while also meeting their own internal control and privacy policies:

  • 25 percent of organizations have already implemented private cloud file sync & share tools, while 20 percent of organizations have implemented cloud storage gateways.
  • 45 percent of organizations are considering private cloud file sync & share tools, while 38 percent of organizations are considering implementing cloud storage gateways.
  • SaaS-based cloud storage offerings are creating organizational havoc. Thirty-one percent of respondents indicated that they have experienced corporate data leakage in 2013 as a result of employees sharing files via often-unsanctioned FSS services.

Additionally, 71 percent are concerned or extremely concerned about data breaches.

To prevent data leakage, 55 percent of organizations with 30,000 employees or more expressly forbid the usage of SaaS-based file-sharing solutions.

Looking to determine if your organization should take the next step after FSS to protect your organization from the potential risks associated with public solutions? Gartner recommends the following:

  • Consider the inclusion of cloud storage technologies, and how they may affect the EFSS solution over the long term.
  • Architect an FSS solution with the flexibility to run on top of on-premises hardware, a virtual private cloud or a public cloud.
  • Consider storage vendor partnerships in regard to EFSS, mobility products and cloud technologies when considering storage vendors as strategic partners.
  • Integrate the EFSS solution with backup and archiving policies and infrastructures.
  • Spend time on due diligence and proofs of concepts (POCs), as this is an important step when committing to a long-lived EFSS solution.
  • Request road map details to determine if future EFSS versions are disruptive upgrades or non-disruptive upgrades.
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