Telework and mobile devices have become an undeniable reality. Today, in more than one company , you work from home and on the road as well as at the office. This new way of working could not exist without synchronization. This technology ensures that the latest version of the files is present on all devices and in the enterprise repository, often using a public cloud. The synchronization and file-sharing systems allow collaboration between colleagues and with the outside world.
Employees have often understood this need well before the IT department . They did not wait for permission to use Dropbox or other office services.
Offered at very attractive rates or free of charge, these synchronization and sharing products are aimed first and foremost at the general public. But used on the initiative of employees, they endanger the protection, security and control of data of the company .
All companies are confronted with this “invisible computing” (the “Shadow IT”) to which they must find an appropriate solution. The answer here is called EFSS.
General Considerations for Business Solutions for File Sharing and Synchronization
Dropbox-like systems split into two different categories. The first concerns “all cloud” products: shared data is stored exclusively in the public cloud (see the “full cloud EFSS” box).
With the second category, a company can finally decide to store some or all of its data in its own data center, or in a private cloud , or in a mix with a public cloud.
We have already discussed the first category of 100% Cloud FSS suitable for businesses . We will therefore focus more specifically on this second group that we have already touched . To further explore this topic, we compiled a list of products based on Forrester, Gartner and Ovum reference studies.
First of all, let’s remember that EFSS (or Dropbox-like internal managed) products must first and foremost meet the needs of employees in terms of file sharing and collaboration. If the software does not suit them, employees will continue to use their Dropbox account at work.
From an employee’s point of view, the EFSS must provide access to files and folders, to be easily modified and shared between colleagues, or with people outside the company. They also want to be able to restore themselves an earlier version of their files. An EFSS can not forget this requirement of practical ergonomics .
On the SI side, and at the same time, these products need to improve security and control over the company’s data. In most EFSS products, IT will find appropriate access control features ( single sign-on, Active Directory integration , etc.) and policy-based user, device, and sharing tools.
Almost all of these products optimize the use of WAN bandwidth and provide some data protection features: encryption (whether thumb in-transit and / or idle) and remote locking or erasing of mobile devices and user accounts.
They mainly support all major mobile devices: iOS, Android, Windows and OSX.
And most EFSS products offer comparable features. So it’s interoperability that could make the difference: with existing applications, such as office productivity tools and document management, and with in-house applications.
EFSS in the form of extensions
EFSS “extensions” are products sold in the form of complementary software. Very often, they are integrated into a backup software. This is obviously a marketing strategy, but it is not without interest from a technological point of view: these publishers indeed have considerable cloud infrastructures already connected to the datacenters of their customers.
On the backup side, Acronis and Druva offer, for example, file sharing and synchronization as a complement to their mobile device backup products. At IBM, these features are bundled into Connections, an extension of its social software.
In its early days, CTERA was a hybrid backup product. He used an appliance on the company’s website to store data and manage their transfer to the cloud. In recent years, the publisher has added file sharing and synchronization to expand its cloud-related IT services offering.
The Acronis and CTERA products represent two distinct approaches to extensions: let’s take a closer look at them. Acronis is a classic backup software that has been enriched with file sharing and synchronization. CTERA is a pure Cloud offer.
Acronis offers a comprehensive suite of on-premise and cloud-based data protection, including backup and disaster recovery of servers and devices.
Acronis Access is the publisher’s EFSS application. Its version 7 comes in two variants: one for SMEs (up to 100 users) and the other, Access Advanced, for larger companies.
Unlike backup products, Access is entirely on the company’s website. The solution does not use the public cloud: it relies on a file server, NAS , SharePoint, or any other existing storage infrastructure.
The Acronis Access application runs on a Windows server. It provides complete IT security and control for companies that refuse to store data outside the protected area through their own firewall.
It integrates with many mobile device management products, allowing users to access Microsoft Office documents and change them securely from any device.
CTERA provides a secure platform for cloud data services that enables organizations to deploy EFSS along with a backup solution and other services.
CTERA EFSS stores data internally, on an existing NAS or object storage such as OpenStack Swift or EMC ECS, or in a hosted cloud infrastructure such as AWS or IBM SoftLayer.
The CTERA Portal software manages the infrastructure in its entirety. It can be deployed as a physical or virtual appliance in the enterprise datacenter.
For remote sites or branch offices, the CTERA Cloud Storage Gateway is a physical or virtual appliance on the corporate site. It connects to CTERA Portal and provides up to 32TB of centrally managed storage capacity to share files locally.
In addition, it acts as a platform for other IT services such as data protection and disaster recovery.
CTERA is widespread among outsourcing providers: this turnkey and remotely managed solution, which goes far beyond simple file sharing and synchronization functions, makes them more attractive to SMEs and larger companies. With CTERA, service providers can provide the service under their own brand. The solution is fully deployable in the cloud or as a gateway appliance.
The hard EFSS
Alternatively, use a specialty EFSS pure sugar product. These products offer a combination of on-premises and cloud infrastructure to store shared files. They mainly target large companies.
Their attractiveness depends mainly on the degree of security needed by the company, which must keep certain data within it for whatever reason: value of information, sectoral regulation, legal obligations on data governance.
These solutions include Accellion Kiteworks , Citrix ShareFile , Egnyte Enterprise File Sharing, EMC Syncplicity, HDS and Nasuni Global File Share.
The features offered by Egnyte and EMC are representative of enterprise file sharing and synchronization software. We will discuss them in detail.
Egnyte combines storage internally and in the private or public cloud: customers have the choice between three deployment variants.
The Cloud File Server file server is a cloud-only service. Its operation is comparable to that of consumer products of sharing and file synchronization.
Storage Sync is a hybrid cloud product . It stores files on-premise, in storage bays of various OEMs, and on direct attached disks (DAS) on Hyper-V or VMware hypervisors. Synchronized with the Cloud File Server, these files are shared with remote or mobile users.
The third option, Storage Connect, opens mobile access to local files without passing these files or related metadata through the cloud. The solution is deployed as a virtual appliance that connects to existing file storage platforms.
Within the sharing and synchronization architecture, Egnyte distinguishes between two plans: data and control. A global namespace is created that encompasses all storage locations and businesses can then use all three EFSS options in their entire environment.
Acquired by EMC in 2012 , the Syncplicity solution creates a hybrid cloud platform that uses on-premise storage and public cloud.
It integrates directly with EMC’s ViPR , VNX, and Isilon, and indirectly with products from other vendors via NFS .
Its membership in the EMC group probably makes Syncplicity less storage independent than other EFSS products. Syncplicity also integrates with EMC Documentum through APIs.
Syncplicity includes a cloud orchestration layer that controls the synchronization process. The StorageVault feature allows you to define where data is stored in physical storage systems within the enterprise or in the public cloud.
Syncplicity allows you to include any folder in the synchronization process. Unlike Dropbox and other software, users are not forced to put their data in a specific synchronization folder.
Syncplicity also efficiently handles the transfer of large files over intermittent or slow wireless links.
In the end, how to choose your EFSS?
The market for file sharing and synchronization systems has matured in the last two years. Large companies today recognize the importance of corporate Dropbox-like, thus helping to generalize its use in IT services.
In the corporate market, companies often have to keep some data on their premises. They are therefore looking for applications that meet this need for internal storage, sheltered behind the firewall. For these companies, scalability is a determining factor, perhaps the biggest factor.
With pure EFSS products, the IT service is more flexible and has more options for controlling the location of data, on-premise or in the cloud.
These products also support larger enterprise implementations than EFSS extensions. They are one of the choices for companies with thousands of users.
Small and medium-sized businesses will probably be satisfied with extensions.
These products are generally easier to install than dedicated applications, especially when sold by an outsourcing provider or a distribution partner.
At this scale, they are also cheaper. They also simplify the delivery of IT services and are perfect for multi-branch or remote site companies.
As mentioned before, in terms of security, control and usability, these products offer comparable basic functions. But some functions stand out and are likely to change with each new version. Security and control are key factors when using EFSS: these features are more than just accessories. We must therefore identify them before deciding in favor of a product.