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How to choose an EFSS vendor -- or a secure alternative

There's no shortage of enterprise file sync and share vendors. Do your homework so you can pick the right provider -- and consider alternatives, too.

This article is part three of a series. Read part two: Protect mobile data with EMM security.

Data protection strategies should address cloud storage, which users want and IT needs to make secure and scalable. Many vendors today offer their own enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) services, housing the data either in a public or a private cloud.

In many regulated industries, the idea of storing corporate data in a public cloud would be anathema, so for those environments, private cloud is the only workable option. As those products mature, they are providing the same degree of granular controls over what users are allowed to do with the data.

The companies offering enterprise-grade cloud storage products include Box, Citrix, Dropbox, Egnyte, SugarSync and Accellion.

It's important to have a clear idea about what you'll need in an EFSS service before you go shopping because each one offers a different mix of features. Will your cloud storage need to integrate with on-premises storage? What types of storage devices will it interface with? Will each user simply need his or her own storage, or is file sharing and collaboration a requirement? Will you need to synchronize files among a number of remote offices?

Security capabilities should be high on the list of questions to ask potential EFSS suppliers. Also, if the storage is cloud-based, users will depend on your network connectivity to get access. If a network is already overloaded, adding storage access may push it over the edge.

And how will business be harmed if there's a network outage and access to those files is lost for some period of time? In short, it's critical to think through all of the potential ramifications before making the commitment.

Some organizations are taking a more dramatic approach and going to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). What many mobility managers like about VDI is that no sensitive data is stored on the mobile device. The user accesses the application and its data over a secure connection. When the connection is broken, all sensitive data is erased from the device.

Of course, VDI makes the organization even more dependent on the network connection. If the connection is broken, all work could grind to a halt. In addition, applications that were written anticipating a keyboard and mouse may not perform adequately on a touchscreen device.

The combination of mobile devices and cloud storage is one of the most widely discussed developments in the IT field, and rightly so. The ability to store and share files in the cloud can provide a major boost in productivity, and having users collaborate on a single copy of a document solves annoying version-control problems. What's more, having access to that information anywhere, anytime and on any device allows people to work in whatever way is most productive for them.

However, an enterprise mobility management (EMM) system must have the security, scalability and feature sets that meet the organization's requirements. And the reliability and bandwidth of the network must be up to par. If not, the EMM setup can go from being a productivity booster to a productivity sinkhole. Good planning and management will go a long way to ensuring that you get a good return on investment in the cloud.

This was first published in July 2014

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