The use of enterprise file sync and share applications has seen tremendous growth in the past year. A December 2013 ESG report noted that 42% of organizations have IT sanctioned and company-funded file sharing applications – a sizable increase from the 28% just one year earlier. Clearly, the promise of these platforms - secure and easy viewing, sharing and editing of enterprise content – has grabbed the attention of forward looking organizations looking to enhance workforce productivity.
With this industry in a stage of tremendous growth, we thought it would make sense to take a deeper dive into the issues customers have experienced as they explore and deploy file sync and share technologies.
In our experience at EMC Syncplicity, we’ve seen three distinct evolutionary stages in enterprise file sharing. The first is completely end user-centric, often at the disadvantage of the cautious IT department. This stage is marked by a demand for convenience above everything else. The second stage prizes security and compliance, almost always at the expense of user convenience. The third stage – by far the most critical for enterprises – is when these two stakeholders reconcile their differences for mutual benefit, and adopt a solution that satisfies their diverse needs.
Stage 1: Convenience at Any Cost
It’s no secret that technology users have embraced popular public cloud-based services in their work and personal lives. Obvious examples are social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, email services such as Gmail and Yahoo, and note-taking applications such as Evernote. These services are intuitive, easy to use, and are readily available at no cost to users on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices – a consequence of the “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon. Users now expect all the work applications they use to be just as intuitive, easy to access and engaging.
The drawbacks to the enterprise, in this stage, need little explanation. Most organizations do not want their employees storing critical data in the public cloud. These applications do not meet the stringent regulatory compliance standards for transmitting or sharing critical data. To put it bluntly, these services may be convenient, but they are rarely up to IT snuff.
Stage 2: Security Brings the Hammer Down
As the pain of stage one becomes clear to IT, we enter a second stage mired in the “us versus them” paradigm. IT departments, fearing the risk to their organization’s most important asset – data –and facing mandates to comply with corporate and government regulations, are reluctant to give employees access to certain applications that require storing and accessing information on public clouds. IT departments have experienced too many data leaks or exploits through breaches or cyber espionage and it’s no surprise that a whopping 95% of organizations who use public clouds are searching for alternative data storage methods.
It’s at this second stage that IT quashes the use of purely public file sync and share platforms, pushing users to adopt older, more traditional file sync and share or FTP solutions that are slow, clunky, difficult to use and add, at least from the user’s perspective, very little value to their work. In the second stage, users start to rebel, taking matters into their own hands by downloading these banned “shadow IT” file sharing solutions, essentially returning the company to the first stage.
Stage 3: Hybrid Cloud Reconciliation
It’s at this third and final stage that users and IT find the solution that meets their collective needs. Specifically, users get a simple and easy-to-use platform, while IT departments can enforce strict policies on who can access what document when and where, and can dictate that certain data be stored on-premises, thereby avoiding the security and/or compliance headaches that can occur with a purely public cloud deployment. We call this the hybrid cloud model: it gives customers a choice to store their data in the public cloud or on-premises. Instead of file sync & share provider dictating where the information is stored, IT departments drive the decision making process, but maintain the support of end users by providing an ideal app experience regardless of the targeted storage backend.
At EMC Syncplicity, we’re working hard to help our customers bypass the first two stages – which are fraught with infighting, security and compliance challenges, low usage rates, and a significant reduction in productivity. Our customers require a solution that breaks the mold of the “security versus user experience” false dichotomy. Businesses demand simple and secure file sharing solutions in order to realize the full value of the app-based sharing economy. Any platform that does not satisfy the key demands of both users and IT departments inevitably falls short of the core promise of enterprise file sync and share and will never be fully adopted – and our customers cannot afford to be in that situation.