The case for business-grade FSS

By Datto EMEA MD, Andrew Stuart.

File sync and share (FSS) services are designed to foster collaboration and communication among employees and increase productivity. File sync and share tools also allow employees to access documents from anywhere on any device. This is increasingly important in today’s mobile world, as many people work from home or on the road regularly.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 37% of respondents said they have telecommuted. And, in a recent Tinypulse survey of remote workers, 91% of respondents said they are more productive outside of the office. File sync and share tools provide an organizational structure for workgroups, allowing multiple users to collaborate on a single document with ease. Files exist in a single location, making it impossible to accidentally work from an older version of a file—resulting in wasted time consolidating revisions into a single document.

Today’s workforce is so accustomed to mobile and cloud in their personal lives, these technologies are all but expected in the workplace. However, many companies use FSS services that have been designed for personal use, which can expose businesses to risk.
Consumer FSS risks
Using consumer file sync and share (FSS) services for business purposes is part of a trend that many have described as “shadow IT.” In other words, employees using technologies without explicit approval of the organization. This can be a problem because consumer products are not typically in line with the business requirements for control, documentation, security, reliability, etc. When employees use consumer-grade solutions to store and share critical business files, the risk of data loss is increased.

Think about it, let’s say 10 employees use their personal file sync and share accounts for business purposes. That means you have corporate data in 10 different password-protected locations. What happens if one (or more) of them leaves the company? You’ve got little islands of data out there that you can’t access. If your business is subject to specific compliance regulations this is an even bigger problem. Shadow IT can also be a security issue. The more places that sensitive or confidential business data exists, the more likely it will be accessed by unauthorized individuals.

Business-grade cloud FSS services are a secure alternative to using consumer file sync and share tools in the workplace. These services offer the collaboration capabilities of consumer-grade tools while providing the IT oversight that organizations require. These services ensure that business data is secure and accessible. There are a wide variety of business-grade FSS services on the market today. When selecting a service, there are a number of important considerations.
Selecting business-grade FSS
According to a recent Forrester report on business-class file sync and share tools, successful deployment depends on ease-of-use. So, if you deploy a FSS service that doesn’t offer the user-friendly experience of popular consumer FSS tools, employees will probably thumb their noses at it. Remember that employees already use consumer file sharing and collaboration tools daily. So, if your goal is to get them to adopt business-class FSS, you need to make it easy.

Does that mean that you should just sign up for the business-grade version of a consumer service just because a lot of people are familiar with it? Not necessarily. But, if you know that employees like a specific product, it may be a good place to start when evaluating possible alternatives.

FSS functionality can vary between products. Some products are designed with simplicity in mind, while others allow for more customization. Evaluating how FSS will be used in your organization can shape your decision-making process. For example, some FSS services offer specific collaboration functionality such as workflow support. Others offer support for large files while others do not—this could be a key consideration if users are working with large multimedia files. It’s also important to consider employee needs today and going forward. As users get comfortable with FSS, they may look for additional functionality.

As noted above, business-grade FSS tools offer more robust security features than consumer products. Security features vary between products, but encryption and access controls are typical. Consumer FSS solutions typically use encryption to protect end user data while it is “at rest” on cloud storage.The data is not usually encrypted “in flight” as it is in the process of being transferred to the cloud. Business-class FSS products can encrypt data being transferred using secure communication protocols. This provides the end-to-end security that many organizations require.

Some business-class FSS products offer integration with an Active Directory and LDAP to ease management and simplify access control. Other business-class FSS products can integrate with single sign-on (SSO) processes. Tracking and versioning is available from some services, as well. This allows users to see who accessed and edited a document and revert to a previous version if necessary. These features offer detailed visibility into individual user activity—what files they access or modify, who they are sharing files with, etc. These capabilities are designed to allow administrators to identify suspicious employee behavior. Finally, some services have security features aimed at specific threats. For example, some products offer the ability to remotely lock or wipe laptops and mobile devices to protect against data loss due to theft.

While business-class FSS is not the same thing as backup, these tools do allow users to revert to previous documents which were corrupted or deleted. It also empowers employees to perform file restores without the need for submitting a helpdesk ticket.

According to Gallup research, employees who spend some of their time working remotely work longer hours and are more engaged than employees who do not. It also showed that those workers feel “more connected” to their companies. While consumer-grade FSS tools give workers the access they need to work remotely, they can expose businesses to data loss and security vulnerabilities. Thankfully, business-grade FSS services have emerged as an alternative.
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