Customizing the File Sync and Share Experience

The use of file sync and share services has grown like wild fire amongst end users, but many folks in IT are adopting a laissez faire attitude about it. After all, IT managers have more pressing issues to deal with, right? While the use of consumer file sync and share services may not be setting off alarm bells with businesses yet, perhaps it should be.

Customizing File Sync and Share

As more confidential corporate data makes its way on to lightly secured cloud file sync and share systems, there is an increased potential for some of this information to leak out. Providers like ownCloud are offering solutions to reign in and tightly secure this data by leveraging in-house or cloud storage resources. In addition, ownCloud is delivering added “open-source” feature functionality to allow its service to be used across a broad range of business file sync and sharing use cases.

Fire-walling File Access

ownCloud recently released a new capability with the ownCloud Enterprise Edition 6 release of their file sync and share software to deploy a “file firewall”. Any user attempting to access or store files on the ownCloud service must first pass an extensive but non-intrusive set of additional security checks to ensure that they have the proper authorization to download or upload files to the system. This allows the administrator to set up rules for user access that are unique to their business need.

For example, upon providing login credentials, the file firewall can perform further authentication by checking to see if the login request is coming from a known IP or end-user device (like a laptop, tablet or smartphone). If neither of these are allowed by the admin configured rules, access will be denied. This is an especially useful feature if data must remain resident within a specific geography like Europe or the United States. By examining the IP header address, for example, the file firewall can determine if the requesting entity is located outside of a territorial boundary and prevent access.

Automating Data Governance

ownCloud is also highly extensible, and can be configured to take action on a file based on corporate data governance policies. For example, with only a little work, ownCloud can call an external application service to scan a file for personally identifiable information (social security numbers, credit card accounts, banking information) and if a user attempts to save it in the wrong folder location, it can proactively move it to the right backend storage service. This can help ensure that unauthorized users don’t arbitrarily gain access to this sensitive information, or violate corporate governance rules. Ultimately, it gives more control over corporate data to IT.

Extensible File Sync and Share

What’s interesting is that ownCloud’s architecture is designed to allow integration with external data stores and 3rd party applications so that IT planners can use their file sync and share repository in a multitude of ways. Using the example above, when a new file is uploaded or an existing file is updated, ownCloud can either use its own native virus checking software to scan the file, or leverage embedded hooks to quickly build an app to make an API “call” to the virus software application already in use by IT to scan the file for viruses. Likewise, user collaboration applications like Windows Home Directories or Jive can be added to ownCloud as secondary storage, so that external data can be moved into the ownCloud repository to bridge application data silos and enable further consolidation of storage infrastructure.

This is what ownCloud refers to as the beginning of intelligent file management. Since the ownCloud source code is based on open source software, it can integrate with off the shelf software or an in-house developed application making it highly modular and extensible. In fact, the ownCloud 6 Community Edition release is totally open source and has been released to the open source community so that additional features and capabilities can in effect, be made available to licensees for free – in a form of freemium model.

White Labeled File Sync and Share

ownCloud of course maintains proprietary software, such as the fire firewall described above, in their ownCloud Enterprise Edition 6, which also includes global support, as well as a commercial license. By purchasing a subscription, organizations can white label the solution to make it either their own internal file sync and share offering to their end users or as part of a cloud services offering. ownCloud claims their technology is already being used by some well-known cloud service providers (CSPs).

Another benefit to licensees is that by joining their open source development community and becoming a subscriber, customers can directly influence the ownCloud development roadmap. This can help ensure that future product releases contain value-added features that are directly relevant to their customers.

Storage Swiss Take

Businesses that are looking for ways to consolidate user file data into a single repository, regardless of the front-end application interface, may like what they see with the ownCloud offering. Due to their open-source architecture, ownCloud can be tightly integrated with a myriad of IT tools, user applications and a sundry of IT back ends, to customize the user experience and secure data. And since it can be deployed on in house storage or in the cloud, ownCloud enables organizations to choose the right storage medium for their business.

ownCloud is not a client of Storage Switzerland

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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