Risk
11/1/2013
12:53 PM
George Crump
George Crump
Commentary
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File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up

Users need file syncing for real business purposes, so it's up to you to figure out a way to protect the data.

8 Great Cloud Storage Services
8 Great Cloud Storage Services
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
I was in Frankfurt, Germany, last week speaking on cloud security. Based on the attendance at the sessions, the European IT community is just as concerned about security as American IT. My talk had two parts: one on securing the storage itself through encryption, especially flash storage, and another on securing the users. Interestingly, user security, in particular their use of consumer file syncing and sharing programs, drew the most interest.

The problem with file syncing and sharing is that users have a taste for it. It solves a real problem they are struggling with: how to make sure all their data is on all their devices and how to share large files with colleagues without having to email it to them. In other words, the "cat is out of the bag."

Although the meaning of that phrase got lost in the translation to my mostly German audience, they eventually understood the point. IT planners have three options now when it comes to providing a file syncing and sharing service. They can choose to ignore it and hope it goes away. I don't think it will; it is here to stay. They can try to block its use, which in my experience is very hard to do. Users are very good at figuring out ways around things like that and often their workarounds cause more headaches than not blocking it at all. Or third, they can embrace file syncing and sharing and try to offer a better service that is more secure.

[ Read about Microsoft's foray into storage: Is Microsoft Ready To Be A Storage Player? ]

Most IT professionals have decided the third option is the best one for their data centers and their organizations. As a result, the search for an enterprise class file syncing and sharing solution is in full swing at many data centers. There are three general types of solutions: a fully private one, which uses your own storage assets; a full-cloud solution, which uses only a cloud provider; or a hybrid approach.

In my next column I'll cover the pros and cons of each of the implementation methods, but from an enterprise perspective there are some specific capabilities that you want to make sure are in place no matter which solution you end up going with. The first of these is the ability to encrypt data as early and as completely as possible. At a minimum, the provider of this solution should be encrypting data while at rest and while in transmission. An increasing number of providers also have the ability to encrypt data that is at rest on the user's endpoint device as well.

The second capability is IT oversight and control. You need to be able to see what data is being shared, by whom and with whom. Many solutions have expanded to also provide end-point backup. If you've decided to count on this from your solution you also need to make sure that devices are being protected. Finally, you probably want some type of remote wipe capability so data that is cached on a user's devices can be erased when they leave the company.

In my next column I'll cover the pros and cons of the different implementation styles, but for now, IT planners need to take a hard look at the file, sync and share problem. Users are expecting it and if you don't deliver, they might go off and do it on their own, putting corporate data at risk from both accidental deletion as well as specific external hacks.

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MichaelK038
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MichaelK038,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2013 | 6:26:56 PM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
You're absolutely right about the cat being out of the bag on this one, or maybe the Genie out of the bottle. If there wasn't an unmet need, users wouldn't be running around every roadblock IT attempts to put in its way to access their file share of choice.

Of course it all comes down to which type of data you're trying to share, and with whom you need to share it. It does appear that enterprise class solutions with centralized control and management are emerging into the marketplace from companies like Egnyte and Box, but if you users are already familiar with other solutions will even the deployment of a "blessed" enterprise-grade solution prevent them from using their old favorites? It does indeed come down to education after all.
JeffHDS
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JeffHDS,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2013 | 7:02:04 PM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
No arguments here, I agree completely --> http://blogs.hds.com/hdsblog/2.... I eagerly await the follow up piece on the pros and cons of the different deployment models. I certainly have a soft-spot for the pure on-premises model for security and compliance purposes, but am curious as to what constitutes 'good enough' security and compliance that can be found with other deployment methods.

As to how to change user behavior: I came across an interesting piece on helping users understand why they should use IT approved solutions instead of the grab-bag of consumer product:
Technology alone can't guarantee the success of bring-your-own-device programs. Often ignored is the set of process levers that motivate users to comply with enterprise policies. Link: http://my.gartner.com/portal/s...
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2013 | 11:45:44 PM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
Nice Article George. This is a big problem and I'm looking forward to your next article. The smart thing to do is give your users a better more secure option. Many don't even realize the risk they are undertaking when using public file sharing and syncing. Giving them a secure option that is controlled by IT is a must in todays world.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2013 | 11:50:12 PM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
MichaelK038 ... Great point about users going back to what they are used to using.
That no doubt will be an issue. You need to put policies in place and let users
know they need to use the company provided solution or risk disciplinary
action. After all they are putting the entire network at risk. Now you can't do
that without proper education, as you point out.
NinaS1995
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NinaS1995,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/5/2013 | 7:17:43 PM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
George, this is a great article and we couldnGăÍt agree more with your recommendations. In fact, we hear from customers that blocking consumer
solutions like Dropbox isnGăÍt full-proof. The only real option is to provide a
secure service that can be easily deployed and widely adopted across the
organization, and can provide IT with the controls and management
required. In fact, some of the criteria that George suggests are standard features available in the Accellion solution G㢠encryption at rest and in transit, IT control, and remote wipe.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/6/2013 | 3:41:34 AM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
Consumer file synching is an early stage mobile worker vs. central IT issue. Soon every mobile user will be collecting and synching data on mobile databases, some of it consumer-oriented and some of it mission critical business data. Then the synching issue will move higher on IT radar.
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/14/2013 | 9:04:40 PM
re: File Sync And Sharing: Users Won't Give It Up
Enterprise approved tools and user education are the two things that will pull us all through this.
Sajesh
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Sajesh,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/25/2013 | 1:55:27 AM
7 Key Security Consideration For Business File Sharing
Business users basically look for a easy-to-use and simple file sharing service that will provide them with flexibility and agility. On the other hand, IT needs to have security in place with the right level of control and visibility over the platform. Taking security aspects into consideration, there are a broad range of must-have features which needs to be carefully evaluated such as centralized administration, data encryption, audit trails and more as listed here. http://bit.ly/1jHcE3l
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