Everyone knows unstructured data is growing at an alarming rate, but there is a subcomponent of that data to which IT Planners need to pay careful attention;, files. While today the vast majority of unstructured data, regarding capacity, is created by machines and devices, the file data created by users can be the most problematic for organizations. The data that users create is vital to the organization and its customers. It is also the subject of much of the data privacy and government legislation enacted recently by countries and states.
More than File Sync and Share
It is essential to understand that a file management strategy is much more than a file sync and share solution. Organizations need the ability to synchronize files between devices and to collaborate with other employees and business partners easily. IT needs to provide file sync and share, but it needs to be enterprise-class so that IT has oversight and can protect the company’s file assets. A file management strategy though, is more than just an enterprise file sync and share solution.
How is File Management Different?
Most file management solutions include file sync and share as the first component of their solution. File management also includes capabilities like data protection, data distribution, and data governance.
Protection of files is critical for the organization and file sync and share is not data protection. For personal use, however, today’s file sync and share solutions are an adequate backup. The modern operating system installs in minutes, and most applications are easily re-downloaded from an “App Store.” Once complete, the operating system often has a synchronization capability built in, or the user downloads the synchronization utility. Most synchronization utilities even store multiple versions of a file as sort of a pseudo-point in time backup. An average user can have a new device up and running within 30 minutes of opening the box.
The organization though needs more. It needs a central repository for all data, so it is not dependent on hundreds (or thousands) of individual synchronization utilities. It needs to ensure the protection of users’ files both to serve the user better and to protect the organization if the user leaves or someone steals their device(s). An enterprise file sync and share solution also provides many of these capabilities, and while it doesn’t typically protect the core operating system files, those again are now relatively easily restored.
Data protection, however, is only the second component of a file management strategy. The third component is data governance. Organizations need to know what data is inside of the files that users store on their devices, which potentially are not stored anywhere else. Storage Switzerland recently learned of a user at a fortune 100 organization that had a spreadsheet stored exclusively on their laptop with thousands of customer’s social security numbers and credit card information. The company did not know that the spreadsheet existed! If that laptop were lost or stolen, the damage to the company could be very costly especially in the age of GDPR and California’s Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).
File Management solutions are investing in these governance capabilities to include automation and machine learning to make complying with various regulations simpler.
File sharing, a component of enterprise file sync and share, is not file distribution. The obvious use case for sharing is when an organization needs to collaborate with a business partner. For internal sharing, file distribution is more logical. The problem is most organizations have a distributed workforce with multiple offices and remote users. They also, of course, have multiple users within a single location. The file management solution should have the ability to place multiple edge devices at the organization’s various locations creating a distributed, global file system. An alternative is to centralize all file access into a cloud provider and treat all locations and devices as the edge.
Organizations can no longer afford to take a caviler attitude toward file data. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA should be encouragement enough, but organizations also need to realize that there is value in file data. The ability to protect, find and manage that data is a critical capability for IT to develop in 2019.