19/06/2014

By Anders Lofgren Director of Mobility Solutions, Acronis,

Mobile devices and the internet had changed the office as we knew it, we are no-longer tied to desktop PCs and can work where, when and how we want.

Consumer file sharing services such as Dropbox and mobile devices have introduced employees to a powerful new digital world, packed with easy to use capabilities, that can be used from smartphones, tablets and netbooks. They can store documents in the cloud, making them accessible from any location. Gone are the days of emailing large files or using flash drives on the fly.

File sharing services together with mobile devices, have undoubtedly boosted productivity. Employees can share files with co-workers around the clock wherever there is an internet connection. These consumer services have the advantage of being quick and easy to use.

This all sounds great, but for the IT departments it is a nightmare as they work to lock down data. Enterprises have been slow to introduce services with a comparable value, so employees are using the same services at work as they do at home to share photos and documents with friends. IT departments are concerned that employees are using unapproved services such as Dropbox and Box for sensitive work-related data, even if there employer has a policy against such services.

Businesses rely on their IT departments to manage secure protection and controlled access to critical data. When employees use consumer file sharing services, they override the systems in place and hijack the responsibilities of the IT team. As consumer mobile devices flood into the workplace, the risk of data loss, duplication and exposure grows. The IT team suddenly finds itself losing control of corporate data and who has access to it.

IBM recently banned the use of Dropbox, Apple Siri and other services. This move reminds us that consumer cloud services do come with risks.

We are all aware that consumer file sharing services can be breached. It is therefore essential that IT teams have a best practice policy in place and know exactly who is accessing and sharing company files, so that data doesn’t slip into the wrong hands.

Many companies maintain VPN (virtual private networks) to enable employees to remotely and securely log into the company servers. But with a growing trend for BYOD (bring your own device) to work, and employees familiarity with services such as Dropbox, Bitcasa and YouSendit, they are choosing the easiest and quickest route they know to share information. Even with company policies in place banning the use of consumer file sharing services, employees still use them. It is no good taking an iron rod to the situation, instead IT managers must seek out alternative, secure solutions that give employees the same simple user experience that they get from consumer services. Give them tools they enjoy using and they will use them, simple as that.

We all know that consumer file sharing services are effective, that is why we use them. But they lack the security and reliability business requires. The answer is to find business solutions that are just as intuitive and easy to use, that way employees will pick up and run with the solution you provide and you won’t waste time and money training people in complex tools they won’t adopt.

Ensure that employees have fast and easy access to all areas on the servers they need for mobile working. Find out what devices they use and provide access from them.

Your number one priority should be in making security invisible to your employees. They love services like Dropbox because it is so simple to use. A simple ban on services like Dropbox by the IT department will send its workplace use underground, and could pose even greater risks. To get employees to behave in the way you want you need to give them the same functionality in secure file sharing tools, without the risk to your business assets.

Employees will always try to circumvent security guidelines, if it makes their job easier. You must make sure you understand what your employees are trying to do and give them a safe and simple way of doing it. Providing employees with a secure file sharing solution they like will like is undoubtedly the path of least resistance.