A recent Forrester survey indicated that 56% of enterprise respondents either have implemented an Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) solution or are in the process of installing one. At first glance, that looks good for EFSS vendors. However, on closer examination, that means a staggering 44% of enterprises have not! The survey also doesn’t indicate how many organizations of that 56% are actually using the products. The data center is full of well-intentioned projects that users never fully adopt. What needs to change in EFSS to improve adoption?
The Data Movement Problem
The first problem most IT professionals run into when trying to implement an EFSS solution is the need to copy manually, data to another device or a cloud service. Remember, this is data that already exists and the data center already owns the capacity to store that data. Moving it either to another device on-premises or in the cloud means the organization is paying double. Additionally, even though the EFSS use case is usually restricted to user productivity files, the overall capacity of these files can be quite large and migrating them may be time consuming.
The Security Concern
There is also a security concern. Most EFSS solutions leverage the cloud in some way; either for data transport or data storage. IT can configure the cloud for high-security thanks to encryption. However, for encryption to have any real meaning, the organization needs to maintain ownership of the encryption keys. The problem is that many of these services are adding value-add capabilities like OCR, context indexing, and compliance controls. To provide these capabilities, the service providers must have access to the organization’s data and that means access to the encryption keys.
There is another, but different, security concern. These office productivity files are stored in user directories and group directories. In many cases, these directories have specific security restrictions, leveraging Windows File Server security provisions. The target device, whether on-premises or in the cloud, more than likely cannot emulate exactly, the Windows settings. This means the IT administrator, after migration, must remember that all the file security has been lost and he must manually reset these policies with the understanding that some of the security settings may not even exist.
Unstructured Data is More than Office Files
Most organizations have a massive amount of unstructured data stored on NAS systems, and only a small percentage is office productivity files, again the target of EFSS solutions. The reality is that much of the unstructured data may benefit from some EFSS attributes, like global distribution. The problem is that most of these solutions can’t support key file distribution capabilities like global file locking or making the file available locally in multiple locations.
EFSS – A Bridge Too Short
The real problem with EFSS is it just doesn’t go far enough to have any real value to a larger organization. For EFSS to make sense to an enterprise, it would have to support all their data, not just office productivity files. It would also need to support specific Windows Active Directory settings so the office productivity files that are moved to the cloud can be moved without IT spending weeks re-creating security settings. Lastly, the system would need to support global file locking so that organizations can truly collaborate on files, not just share them.
What enterprises need is global data distribution between offices as well as endpoints. EFSS, however, just focuses on the endpoints. As a result, it doesn’t replace the organization’s NAS investment. A more global data distribution approach that leverages the cloud does just that. An organization could essentially move all of its unstructured data to the cloud, eliminating the need to purchase any additional on-premises capacity. With cloud-based snapshots and replication, it also then removes from the backup process, the stress of backing up unstructured data.