Working in the cloud: How IT enables mobile productivity
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Many mobile employees store sensitive work documents in personal cloud services, creating data security issues for businesses.
The consumerization of IT has increased demand for file-sharing and storage cloud services with the onslaught of Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and others. Many employees work remotely, telecommute or travel frequently and need access to files from any device.
Many mobile workers want to be able to use their portable devices to view and edit documents, stream applications, share work securely with other users and synchronize files across multiple devices; they also don't just use cloud services as storage readers, according to Ryan Kalember, chief product officer at Palo Alto, Calif.-based WatchDox Inc.
But the success of cloud file-sharing and storage services comes with a price. IT loses control over what corporate data files are stored in an employee's personal file storage and sharing service, and employees frequently bypass their company's secure virtual private network.
This has become a security nightmare for IT professionals and organizations thinking about adopting cloud services. Results from a recent TechTarget Cloud Pulse survey show that 37% of respondents who chose to delay cloud adoption in their organization felt there was not enough security in their environment.
Cloud storage may be mature enough for some larger enterprises, but there is a higher degree of security concern or regulatory compliance challenges. Many organizations also have existing investments for on-premises storage and do not have the luxury of migrating their file servers and document management systems into a cloud-based service, one industry watcher said.
As a result of increased mobile worker demand for services combined with IT's requirements for improving security and controlling access to corporate data, providers have expanded product lines to deliver enterprise-grade cloud file-sharing and storage services.
Many of these file-sharing services offer basic features such as storage, syncing with mobile and desktop, and some security and enterprise management. For IT professionals, setting policies for which end users can access which type of file is a no-brainer for preventing corporate data loss.
Numerous vendors and plans have made it confusing for IT administrators to decide which product serves their enterprise the best, however.
Enterprise cloud file-sharing and storage services rundown
Dropbox, based in San Francisco, offers Dropbox for Business, which provides unlimited storage, 256-bit AES and SSL encryption, syncing and file sharing, two-step verification, and mobile passcodes. It also provides unlimited file recovery and version history and prevents file sharing outside of teams to keep data secure.
Additionally, the service allows IT to track logins, devices and locations, among other features. Annual pricing for the service is $795 for five users, with each additional user priced at $125.
WatchDox provides a cloud-based file-sharing and storage service that enables end users to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents. The company offers two versions: Enterprise Security (ES) and Enterprise. Geared toward large enterprises, the ES version offers users the ability to control files that are downloaded to the PC, and it has advanced file-based malware protection, which the Enterprise version doesn't have.
Both versions offer file synchronization and access to mobile, Web, desktop and mail applications. The service also provides file security and encryption features and gives IT more control of corporate data files. The Enterprise version requires a minimum of 50 users, which costs $15 per user, per month. The ES version requires IT to contact WatchDox for a custom price.
Drive2go has an enterprise version that allows organizations to have an unlimited amount of users and provides limitless online storage per month and a file limit upload size of 5 GB. The Irvine, Calif.-based vendor's service features a mobile app, encrypted cloud storage and file-sharing links, and more. Other features include the ability to restore deleted files, set group-based access, audit activity and more. Drive2go costs $15 per user, per month.
FilesAnywhere Inc., based in Bedford, Texas, has an enterprise option for a minimum of 100 users, with an unlimited amount of storage and no upload limit. There are basic services with features such as mobile access and apps, an online form generator, the ability to send and receive large files, and password-protected sharing. Some advanced features include group sharing and collaboration, custom branding, role-based access control, and a dedicated domain.
FilesAnywhere also has additional features such as Active Directory integration, custom development and a dedicated virtual server. The enterprise option has a 50-user minimum that costs $12 per user, per month. If businesses have 100 users or more, the service costs $8 per user, per month.
Citrix's ShareFile offers two options for businesses. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's Corporate plan starts at $99.95 per month and can be tried for free. The plan offers basic features such as unlimited client users, encrypted transfer and storage, and telephone and email support. It also provides up to 20 GB of storage and bandwidth for 20-plus employee accounts.
Some extra features include Outlook Plug-In, Desktop Sync and Enterprise Sync. The Enterprise version offers all the features of the Corporate plan, except users have more storage options. For example, IT administrators can choose where data is stored, such as on- or off-premises, or send files up to 100 GB. Pricing is available upon request.
Box Inc., based in Los Altos, Calif., offers two file-sharing plans for businesses. The Business plan requires a minimum of three users and offers up to 1 TB of storage. Box allows secure mobile sync and share features such as desktop synchronization, mobile access, OneCloud Apps and Office integration. Features for IT administrators include the ability to set access permissions such as file locking, access stats, auto expiration and granular permissions. The Business plan also offers limited security and management features and limited platform integration or application programming interfaces. Pricing is $15 per user, per month. Organizations can test the service with a free trial.
The Enterprise version offers access to all of Box's features, in addition to enabling businesses to customize how many users they want with unlimited online storage. IT administrators also get the full content security and management features, which includes customized administrative roles, security reporting and custom branding. Pricing is available on request.
Soonr Inc., based in Campbell, Calif., offers businesses an Enterprise plan, which costs $19.95 per user, per month. The company offers a 10% discount for an annual plan. There is no limit on file size and desktop syncing, and each user receives between 5 TB and 20 TB of online storage, as well as unlimited sharing with public links. Mobile productivity features include mobile apps, integrated mobile editing, integrated mobile annotation, quick-response linking and remote access.
Soonr's other business features include an activity team dashboard, and integrated, full-search text. IT can set passwords, session and mobile device policies, and integration with Active Directory and full permission for control.
Microsoft's SkyDrive Pro is a competing product with a plan designed to work with Office 365 and SharePoint users. IT retains administrative control while each user receives 25 GB of storage. The company at this time is also offering 200 GB for free for up to two years with the purchase of a new Surface tablet. SkyDrive Pro is provided through an organization's subscription to SharePoint Online in Office 365 or through an on-premises installation of SharePoint Server 2013.
AppSense Inc.'s DataNow product is for IT administrators concerned about using the cloud. DataNow uses a virtualized appliance that connects into an enterprise's existing file storage system. This method allows IT to use its current file storage investment while also providing users with the familiar Dropbox experience. Pricing for DataNow is $60 per user annually.