1st June 2016
Organisations from every sector are now looking to enable greater collaboration and efficiency through cloud based file sync and sharing solutions, which also allow users to store files in the cloud and access them from any device – from desktops to smartphones. The broad range of free consumer choices are great for individual use, but were not designed for business use and when companies start using them, that’s when the problems start! Although many of the consumer based products are trying to enter the business market, its best to choose a solution that has been designed from the outset for business use.
Here are some of the key items to consider when evaluating a cloud file sharing service.
Businesses are always trying to avoid costs and in a market awash with free services, it is tempting to simply consider these and ignore the services that cost money, but that would be a big mistake in many cases.
All the major cloud based file sharing and storage solutions are normally charged on a per user per month basis, as this is now the industry standard. How much you pay also depends on how much storage space you need and in most cases – the cost also depends on how many users are involved. A company with ten users are going to be paying more per head than a business with hundreds of users as significant volume discounts are normal.
For example, you can expect to pay somewhere around €12 per user per month when small numbers are involved and this would typically fall to around €8 per user in cases where there are two hundred or more users.
In our experience, this is the single biggest consideration for people who are looking for a file sync and share solution. People using public cloud and free services from providers like DropBox and others, has led to a growing number of problems with security and IT management losing control of documents, failing audits and in some cases we have seen – unwittingly allowed viruses into the corporate network. For these reasons, many large organisations have now banned all public cloud providers who provide a free version or a home use version of their service; as it presents too much of a security risk when these individuals are accessing these services on the corporate network or using their own device inside their corporate network.
The benefit of choosing an enterprise file sharing solution is that the IT department (whoever administers the system) has total control of the documents being shared and can see what exactly has been shared and by whom. IT management can control who accesses the service and how long they are collaborating data with third parties. Time limits can also be put on collaboration folders. Enterprise services will have full audit traceability and reporting on what users are uploading and downloading, which is critical in businesses that are handling sensitive and valuable information.
Finally, for maximum peace of mind, we recommend that you choose a system with client-side encryption, data at rest encryption in the cloud and user-controlled encryption keys.
Today, you don’t have to sacrifice simplicity of use to get enterprise features. The features you should look for are always determined by your organisations requirements, but we suggest the solution you buy should be user friendly and deliver the same intuitive user experience as the consumer level solutions. We recommend you should only consider a file sharing solution that allows for your data being available anytime from anywhere and on a variety of devices such as PC’s, laptops, tablets & smartphones.
Other features we see a strong demand for now is file locking and version control to enable active collaboration of working documents as well as simply sharing files. The most advanced file sync and share solutions now also allow you the option to get the benefit of a full online backup facility as part of the service. This is growing in popularity and we recommend you look for this feature as you get the re-assurance of having all your shared files and folders securely backed up in the cloud. This will cost a little bit extra but the benefits are enormous in terms of reducing risk and gives you safety net in case users delete files maliciously or accidentally, or files become damaged and corrupted. With more companies now sharing important files over the cloud, the need to have everything backed up is now critical.
For some people this is a critical issue and for others, a non-issue. However, in our experience the majority of organisations we deal with in Ireland feel very strongly about data residency for their critical files and demand the data is resident in Ireland. We also believe that its simpler, more secure and better all round to maintain 100% data residency in Ireland. Your confidential data is safe from intrusion and governed by Irish law.
Lorcan Cunningham is the CTO of Savenet Solutions.