Six enterprise cloud storage and file-sharing services to consider

Robert Sheldon

When choosing an enterprise cloud storage and file-sharing service, take into account security, manageability and users' ability to access and collaborate on files across multiple platforms.

When it comes to enterprise cloud storage and file-sharing services, companies have plenty of options to choose from, and that number is growing every day. It can be difficult enough to narrow down the contenders, let alone pick the one that ticks all the boxes on the checklist. To that end, here are six services aimed at enterprise customers:

Box

Box is one of the most well-known enterprise cloud storage and collaboration services out there. In addition to supporting encryption for both file transfers and stored files, Box also lets IT add and remove users, set passwords and their expiration dates, assign rights to specific folders and monitor file transfers. Box also supports extensive logging and can be scaled for any size business. Box protects folders with multiple layers of security and lets organizations monitor who has seen data in a folder, and when. Folders and their files can also be shared securely across devices. Box also provides integration with Active Directory.

IT can integrate Box with existing infrastructure -- including mobile device management systems -- and configure third-party apps, such as Microsoft Office and Google Apps, to work with Box.

In addition, Box's collaboration supports versioning, password-protected sharing and workflow management. Users can run Box on Windows and Mac desktops, plus iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices.

Citrix ShareFile

Citrix Systems' ShareFile lets IT centrally manage file storage, as well as user access through enterprise directories such as Microsoft Active Directory. For example, if an administrator disables a directory account, that user is automatically removed from the ShareFile service. Administrators can also remotely wipe sensitive data from a ShareFile computer or mobile device. In addition, ShareFile supports enterprise-grade security and management capabilities and integrates with Microsoft Outlook.

ShareFile can integrate with the local network as well. When an organization uses ShareFile in conjunction with Citrix StorageZones, an on-premises version of ShareFile, IT can choose to store data within its own data center, in the ShareFile public cloud storage or in a combination of both. This capability makes it easier to address such issues as compliance, security and performance. No matter where IT decides the files are stored, employees can still access, share and sync them on any supported platform, including iOS, Android and BlackBerry.

Dropbox for Business

Dropbox helped usher in the era of consumer cloud storage and file sharing, thanks to its ease of use, integration with desktop file browsers and mobile support. It's simple to set up, easy to use, syncs files seamlessly and shares files effortlessly. Dropbox also supports lots of devices, performs well and has a good uptime record. It even maintains a version history of each file. Now there's Dropbox for Business (formerly Dropbox for Teams), which supports enterprise collaboration and workflow management.

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Dropbox for Business gives some control over data back to organizations, providing administrators with deeper visibility into user activity. Administrators can set sharing controls at the account level, monitor which devices are connected to the service, view member logins and team invitations, enforce two-step verification, track IP address activity and generate audit reports. Dropbox for Business also supports Active Directory integration, single sign-on capabilities and the ability to block team members' devices and apps. Dropbox for Business also lets admins block activities from suspicious IP addresses. It doesn't provide the same level of granular control and security as some of the more enterprise-oriented services, but it's is a step in the right direction, especially when compared to how the basic Dropbox service has infiltrated the enterprise.

Egnyte

Egnyte provides IT with advanced, centralized administrative controls and security options. Users can access and share files from their computers, tablets, smartphones and the Web, which allows them to collaborate in real time across multiple teams and offices. IT can control user access to files through Egnyte's integration with Active Directory and other directory services, encrypt file transfers and generate audit reports about service usage.

Egnyte also lets IT control where files are stored: entirely on Egnyte servers, or a hybrid cloud option that utilizes multiple platforms, including Egnyte servers, on-premises storage and other cloud storage services, such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage or Microsoft's Windows Azure.

Google Drive

Google Drive is fully integrated with Google Docs and Gmail, and it provides the ideal collaboration environment for Google Apps customers. Users can share specific files and folders, grant read or write access to those files and sync files across multiple devices. Google Drive provides limited IT management capabilities, however. Administrators can add or remove storage for individuals or teams and encrypt data transfers, but they have few options for enforcing in-house security policies, especially at a granular level.

SugarSync

Few services provide the flexibility and granular control that is available from SugarSync. Users can choose where to sync files and which files to sync, without being tied to one master folder (as is the case with Dropbox and other services). They can even open files on remote computers, edit those files and save them back to the remote computer. SugarSync is available for PC, Mac, the Web and a wide range of mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, Symbian and even the Amazon Kindle Fire. In addition, SugarSync maintains file versions, supports file encryption in transit and in the cloud, provides automatic backups and lets users send any size file from any device.

SugarSync's dashboard provides administrators with a centralized interface to manage pooled storage and create user accounts. The dashboard lets admins view each employee's storage usage, configure email notifications, define storage limits, disable accounts and more. Plus, SugarSync provides an Outlook plug-in that lets users send SugarSync links as attachments or back up their attachments to SugarSync storage.

Weighing your enterprise cloud storage options

Organizations must take many factors into account when considering a cloud storage and file-sharing service. For most companies, security remains a primary concern. Another important consideration is whether the service can be integrated with current infrastructure and be managed effectively. Users must also have a tool that lets them store, sync, share and collaborate on their files easily.

No two services offer exactly the same features. Some are more secure than others. Some integrate with infrastructure more effectively than others. Some support file sharing and collaboration more extensively than others. And each company has its own policies about their ability to access files stored on their servers, so it's important to vet those policies before you choose a cloud provider. When deciding on an enterprise cloud storage service, the best thing companies can do is their homework: Know what users and IT need, and find out which service best meets those needs.

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