13/03/2015

By Dominic List, Chairman, Aurora365


Even though Dropbox only formally set-up its UK operation at the start of this year, the company estimates that one in four UK Internet users already has a Dropbox account. The use of Dropbox is also growing phenomenally within the business arena - Forrester Research recently highlighted that 70% of employees regularly now use file sharing solutions in the workplace, while Dropbox itself estimates that some 5 million UK companies will be using at least one cloud service by the start of 2016.

While I recognise Dropbox’s role as a powerful file sharing tool, the so-called “Dropbox effect” and its rapid rise in popularity is having a hidden effect on some organisations’ network performance and security – particularly given the growth in file sharing and BYOD within the B2B setting.

With the adoption of cloud-based apps and the latest mobile and social technology changing the way employees engage. I’m having more frequent conversations with a number of Heads of IT who are starting to scratch their heads about how to support users in their enthusiasm for cloud-enabled services such as Dropbox, while still ensuring fully optimised network performance and data security across the business.

For example, we worked with one organisation that suspected a regular Monday morning slow down in its network performance was due to lots of people on the network getting things sorted for the week ahead. However, by applying our network traffic analysis technology, we quickly found out – much to our client’s surprise – that the dip in network performance was entirely related to the actions of just two very active Dropbox users within the business, and presumably unaware that their usage was impacting performance for everyone else across the company.

The important takeaway here is not that the use of cloud services by individuals within a business is wrong (indeed there are clear user efficiency and business productivity gains to be had from working with tools such as Dropbox). Instead organisations need to recognise that their employees are going to be using more and more cloud services, and therefore businesses need to have the right analysis and processes in place to accommodate anticipated levels of demand.

The good news is that once unexpectedly high levels of cloud service usage are identified, it’s actually not difficult for organisations to manage – providing you have the right sort of network analysis tools in place.

Understanding the threat to your Network

To understand the security threat to a company’s network, organisations first need to understand the level of cloud sharing by employees. By identifying which applications, destinations, transmitters and receivers, conversations and protocols are generating unexpected levels of traffic, network teams can take steps to avoid potential performance bottlenecks.

In this article I’m assuming that employees are using cloud services to improve their own efficiency and productivity. However, for those companies where there may be issues with non-work related file sharing or other suspicious traffic, it’s re-assuring to know that the same network analysis tools can also protect organisations by providing the information they need to take action and ensure that their data and networks remain secure.