File sync and share is increasingly becoming a business-critical productivity application for users across multiple industries. The user demand for access to business documents from any device, anywhere, at any time has rapidly accelerated the adoption of cloud-based file sync and share services. The problem today is that their only option is to adopt consumer-grade file sync and share solutions. This is creating a dilemma for IT organizations on multiple fronts.
Watch our On-Demand Webinar: "How To Create An Enterprise Class File Sync and Share Solution"
First from a security standpoint, IT typically has no visibility into the corporate (or non-corporate) information residing in these consumer-oriented cloud services, so sensitive data could be at risk. Secondly, since many users are relying on file sync and share applications to do their job, it’s becoming incumbent upon IT managers to determine if these services are capable of providing the enterprise-class quality of service (QoS) and levels of reliability and availability that businesses demand.
Lastly, many businesses now support an increasingly dispersed workforce. It is not uncommon to have employees working from home or in remote offices across multiple geographies and different time zones. To compound this problem, users typically need to subscribe to multiple cloud vendor technologies to communicate and collaborate. For example, they may have one service for file sync and share and another service for doing instant messaging (IM) and voice and video calls.
Toggling back-and-forth between these applications is not only cumbersome, it is inefficient and wastes time. When this is factored across hundreds or thousands of users, businesses can suffer from lower productivity. How do businesses secure data, help improve user productivity and streamline how end-users interact and collaborate with each other?
One potential solution is a cloud-based file sync and share service that integrates all of the common user communication tools within the same application interface.
PanTerra Networks is an example of a company providing these types of capabilities. Their SmartBox offering combines a highly secure file sync and share service and further differentiates itself with a seamlessly integrated Unified Communications (UC) suite, that gives businesses a single cloud-based application for enhancing end user collaboration activities.
Unfortunately data breaches are becoming increasingly commonplace, so for many organizations one of the first priorities when evaluating file sync and share services is determining if its security processes are stringent enough to safeguard sensitive business data. SmartBox helps to secure data in several ways.
Watch our On-Demand Webinar with PanTerra CEO Artie Chang to learn "How To Create An Enterprise Class File Sync and Share Solution"
MFA Secured Login
First, SmartBox utilizes multi-factor authentication (MFA) technology to ensure that only authorized end-users can gain access to corporate file sync and share accounts. For example, if a login request is issued from an unknown device, the service will first send out an email to the account owner with a special Key and will deny access until the Key is provided. This means that hackers or data thieves would have to know the end users email, as well as their SmartBox login credentials, to break-into the account.
A second way that SmartBox helps secure data is through its Multiple Active Device Manager (MADM) feature. With this tool, end users can actively monitor and control the SmartBox sessions on all their various edge devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.). If a device gets lost or stolen, users and/or administrators can remotely wipe all the data on the device, terminate any active SmartBox sessions and permanently block it from accessing the account. Another unique MADM feature is it allows users to independently sync all their remote devices. Large files can be selectively excluded from syncing to devices with limited storage capacity, like smartphones. Likewise, sensitive business documents can be configured to only sync to secure work devices.
IT Data Insight
A third way to lockdown and secure business data is to properly configure user file and folder permissions. For example, if documents with personally identifiable information (PII) were erroneously shared out to unauthorized users, this could compromise very sensitive data. Likewise, if an employee leaves the company and goes to work for a competitor, they could potentially take confidential documents along with them.
Consequently, IT administrators need the ability to revoke access to accounts as well as have the ability to periodically review and modify file access permissions to ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive business files. SmartBox puts file sync and share command and control back into the hands of the IT administrator. Account privileges and file permissions can be granted or revoked just like any other IT application service. Lastly, from a data encryption standpoint, all data in transit and at rest is secured by encryption (RC4-128 for in transit and AES-256 for at rest).
Beyond its unique data security attributes, SmartBox is designed to significantly enhance both the individual end-user file sync and share experience and the user-to-user collaboration process as a whole. By converging file sync and share and user communication tools into a single application, SmartBox provides an intuitive interface for sharing and accessing files, while making it easier for co-workers to communicate and collaborate together. Making a call to a customer or having a video conference with co-workers is a simple click away.
Whether it’s co-workers, partners or clients, SmartBox enables users to share out individual files or customized sub-folders to various parties based on their specific project role. Users can then track in real-time whether files they have shared out have been accessed or updated. The application also displays what the availability status is of the other end-users in the community. This is an important feature since often, end-users can spend valuable time trying to contact people via email, IM’s or over the phone, for a status update on a given task. In fact, this only gets exacerbated when multiple people are working across different geographies and/or different time zones.
SmartBox can help alleviate some of this excess “chatter” simply by giving users a real-time availability dashboard of their peers and allowing them to instantaneously initiate an IM, voice session, videoconference or full blown web meeting with a single mouse click. During this same communication session, for example, desktop sharing can be initiated so that two or more users can collaborate on a given file or set of project files. The UC element within SmartBox also treats voice messages, faxes and even call recordings just like any other file. End-users can forward messages and faxes between each other and/or store them in a project subfolder to dramatically improve communications and promote the mutual awareness of the changing dynamics of a project, sales campaign, etc.
SmartBox Enabled Productivity
These features would prove especially useful, for example, when a critical project is coming up against firm deadlines. SmartBox could serve as the central clearinghouse for all the project files whilst also enabling multiple project team members to collaborate through a single file sharing and communications interface to help expedite project completion. No more copying emails into multiple invite windows on multiple systems to communicate. The time savings realized alone, through more efficient communication and collaboration amongst team members, could more than justify the cost of the service; plus increased user productivity, could translate into lower costs and increased business revenue.
Sync and Share SLAs and Support
One of the most critical items lacking from most file sync and share services are service level agreements (SLAs) that have some teeth behind them. Cloud services are just as susceptible to service disruptions as applications within a customer’s data center. And with end-users increasingly utilizing file sync and share services to do their jobs, businesses need to make sure that these services will be highly available and will provide consistently good quality of service. SmartBox guarantees 99.999% availability and backs it up in writing. If SmartBox breaches their published SLAs, subscribers become eligible for free service credits.
In addition, support (or lack of it) plays a major role when the service becomes business critical. SmartBox provides 24/7 phone support and an innovative 30 second response guarantee on their IM support.
IT planners can no longer turn a blind eye to the use of file sync and share services by their end-users. The lack of visibility and control over the number of sensitive corporate documents that are sitting in relatively insecure cloud service repositories is reason enough to warrant making a change. But beyond the need to lock down and secure confidential information, there is an opportunity for businesses to provide end-users with a service that can actually make them more productive.
By offering a service that encapsulates file sync and share and a unified communications suite into a single application, IT can make their end-user’s jobs easier to perform. This is a critically important point as the only way to increase the adoption of a new service is to provide one that is significantly better than what is currently in use.
And since the SmartBox solution is a hosted, enterprise-class, cloud-based service backed up by written SLA’s, there is no additional on-premise hardware infrastructure to implement and manage – making life easier for IT. Add a 99.999% availability and 24/7 phone support and SmartBox truly differentiates itself among file sharing cloud providers.
PanTerra Networks is a client of Storage Switzerland