Enabling secure file sharing in the enterprise

As enterprise mobility meets collaboration, the workplace as we know it is transforming. Gone are the days when employees stopped working after leaving the office or disseminated photocopied reports for discussion in a group meeting. Today, information workers are increasingly using mobile devices as portable desktops to support what is fast becoming a 24×7, “work wherever, whenever” preference. While this flexibility boosts productivity, it also leads to increased security risks.

According to a 2014 report from SkyHigh Networks, enterprises may have as many as “24 different file sharing services and 91 different collaboration services” in use to collaborate and share content. While these numbers are surprising to some, others recognize this as a sign of two important issues: one, the workplace is evolving; and two, employees are also consumers and will adopt the tools that best meet their needs, whether they’re authorized or not. Considering modern employees’ work habits, this means their needs include work-related communication and file sharing.

When consumer and employee roles collide
The consumerization of IT has been an important theme for the past several years as popular consumer tools have invaded the workplace. At the root of this phenomenon is the fact that employees are also consumers. As their personal and professional lives become less separate, their personal and professional needs have become entwined. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly common for an employee to update her Instagram one moment and annotate an important document the next.

It’s no surprise that this convergence is threatening the balance between safe content sharing and enterprise security. On the one hand, content workers don’t care that a file-sharing tool was designed for consumers as long as it gets their large files from point A to point B quickly. On the other hand, IT and security administrators are tasked with defending the organization against potential data breaches and therefore care quite a lot that employees are going rogue and potentially exposing the company to risk in the name of convenience.

The fact is, most consumer applications simply aren’t designed to meet the security needs of enterprise organizations. The problem is that many employees don’t realize the potential consequence of their sharing actions. For example, they may not be aware that every time an employee shares company files using an unauthorized service, he inadvertently opens a path for a security breach. Or, that every time a document travels outside the company firewall – via email or in transit to a file storage container service – its contents are at risk.

The rise of the mobile desktop
Gartner recently predicted that 3 billion new mobile devices will be shipped annually by 2017. The firm also anticipates that each mobile device will be connected to a minimum of five different cloud-based file storage and sharing apps within the next few years. In keeping with this trend, modern enterprise workers are increasingly using their devices in place of their desktop computers.

Just as the use of consumer-focused file sharing services leads to potential security risks, so do mobile devices. Content sharing aside, a mobile device is like a walking bull’s-eye. Easy to steal, easier to lose, and chock-full of confidential company information, personal mobile devices provide a direct link to company data. Amidst the current cyberthreat landscape, it’s no wonder the growing use of mobile devices in the workplace has put security and mobility somewhat at odds.

Practice safe sharing
It’s clear that businesses must walk a fine line in implementing policies and procedures that allow for productivity and collaboration while keeping files and data secure. With IT and security commanding a lot of attention these days, content managers would be wise to consider the following tips to ensure their content sharing needs are being met:

  • Collaborate on a solution – Work with IT to find a secure content sharing solution that meets everyone’s needs. Analysts agree that enterprise file-sync-and-share (EFSS) solutions are the best bet since they offer both enterprise file security and ease of use.
  • Educate employees on content-sharing policies – Sometimes those IT-centric messages go in one ear and out the other. Summarize IT policies regarding content sharing into friendlier, more consumable formats that content workers will understand.
  • Develop content-sharing best practices – Collaborate with your teams to develop content-sharing best practices that incorporate both mobile and security policies.
  • Make mobile part of your content-sharing strategy – Make sure the solution you choose supports file security across mobile platforms to prevent employees from using multiple apps to get the job done.
  • Take ownership – Productivity is important, but not if it comes at the expense of data security.

While enterprise security is primarily the responsibility of IT and security leaders, information workers also have an important role to play to ensure their content-sharing activities don’t put company data in jeopardy. Fortunately, the enterprise file sharing market offers numerous services sure to meet the needs of both content workers and security administrators. Whether your organization adopts an EFSS solution or relies on other collaboration or file-sharing services, by following smart and safe content-sharing practices, you’ll realize greater efficiencies and productivity, not to mention a better relationship with IT.

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