These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a company whose employees don’t use a file sharing service of some kind every day. That’s no surprise.
File sharing is all about productivity. It allows users access and gives them the ability to share their data from almost any device – desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Some services even allow elaborate multi-user collaboration, keeping everyone’s versions in sync.
Employees want something easy to install and simple to use. This is especially true of BYOD users who download mobile apps on-the-fly.
So how do you know which one is right for your company?
Should you share files in a cloud service?
There are dozens of cloud-based services today. Some of the most popular are DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Apple’s iCloud.
Most are flexible with a variety of share-and-sync options. The better ones support most mobile devices and seamless integration with Windows and Mac computers. The consumer versions are inexpensive or even free, but they are often hard for IT to implement securely. Yet employees use them anyway.
One of the biggest concerns about these services is data ownership, because the files have to be moved to the vendor’s storage arrays. As secure as vendors make it, it’s still putting your data into the hands of a third party.
Then there is privacy and confidentiality to consider. To share a file or folder, a user “invites” another person. Invitations are usually in the form of a URL sent via email. But emails can be forwarded, and URLs can be cached – meaning neither the invitation nor the file being shared is safe.
If the data isn’t sensitive in nature, this risk can be acceptable. But consider regulations like HIPAA, which protects the privacy of patients’ health information. Or Europe’s Data Protection Directive, which mandates confidentiality of almost any piece of European customer data. There are hundreds more across all industries.
With easy access from anywhere, can you be sure your employees stay compliant?
Or use your own private cloud?
A more controlled approach to sharing business data is to use a private cloud, especially if you already have a network storage infrastructure. Such solutions create your own private cloud, hosted on your own servers, behind your own firewall.
The best of these solutions tie directly into your existing infrastructure, applications and databases – without requiring you to copy or restructure your file storage. Your files stay on your servers, instead of being replicated to a third party’s storage array. This means you rely on security policies you’ve already implemented and tested.
In private cloud file sharing, your IT staff manages user access and permissions based on each user’s job functions. Users then install a common app on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices. The app lets them access and update the files, even share them – but only with other authorized users. Any changes are synchronized back to the private server for all users.
The likelihood of privacy violations is reduced, too, since the files remain between your servers and your authorized users.
If your data is sensitive enough that accidental exposure puts your company at risk, private cloud file sharing is an option worth considering.
Public or private – it depends on the risk.
File sharing is all about employee productivity – giving them access to the information they need, on any device, at any time.
There are many consumer file sharing services, several offering more expensive “business versions.” Their features vary slightly, but overall are pretty similar. The risks they present are similar, too – unrestricted sharing, data ownership and privacy concerns.
Private file sharing solutions – like Paranet – offer all the simplicity and usability of public cloud solutions. But the best of them also mitigate the security risks posed by the public options.
Is it worth chancing a cloud service, or should you invest in your own private cloud? In the end, you have to decide based on your data, your employees and your risk aversion.