News / March, 2016

File it, share it, keep it secure

By Jason Sparapani, TechTarget

Read original article here: 
The Texas A&M University System is trying to wean its nearly 200,000 users -- approximately 134,000 students plus faculty, staff and partners -- off downloadable services like Dropbox and Box. Danny Miller, CISO for the 11 universities, seven state agencies and health science center that make up the system, said when he arrived from the private sector two years ago, he was warned about the "uncontrolled chaos" of a university environment.

"When you consider how many solutions are out there, where you can just get free accounts if you want to, it's really difficult," he said. "Everybody has to be able to collaborate freely, and so how do you approach that from a security standpoint, when you really want to get a handle on data security?"

The answer was a file synchronization and sharing platform called Syncplicity by Axway, which does what the free services do but more securely, Miller said. Its storage is hybrid -- that is, part cloud, part on-premises. Users are prompted to put information into different security classes, with the most sensitive data cordoned off on the university's physical servers, and storage administrators have fine-grained control over what information is put where.

Everyone at Texas A&M is encouraged to use the system, which for them is free and, Miller said, has a "very slick" and easy-to-use interface. About a year after the go-live, adoption is gradual but healthy, he said, with approximately 20% of the university system using the application.

Miller hasn't stopped students from using the free consumer file services, and it won't. But if the vendors, known for their aggressive marketing, get huge numbers of people to sign up for the services, he could make it harder by "de-prioritizing" certain kinds of Internet traffic.

"If I see Dropbox traffic sitting on my network and I heavily want to encourage Syncplicity by Axway traffic, I can actually throw that Dropbox traffic into a priority band where [users are] only going to get 56k bandwidth using Dropbox," Miller said, referring to the speed commonly associated with dial-up Internet access of the 1990s. "Now, I'm not saying we're going do that, but I know that capability is there."

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