In many ways, EFSS or Enterprise File Sync and Share and conventional cloud storage are remarkably similar. For personal use, something like Dropbox or Google Drive allows you to store documents and other data in the cloud and access them from anywhere. Using the mobile app or a browser, you can see those files on mobile, other desktops, internet-ready computing devices like Chromebooks and nearly anything else that can connect to the internet.
EFSS is similar in that users can store files in the cloud or a local directory and access them from other devices. The difference is that EFSS is meant for enterprise and business use, whereas conventional cloud storage is more of a general-purpose offering. Everyone from consumers to business owners can take advantage of services like Dropbox and the like. Only authorized users and personnel can access EFSS content delivery systems and storage.
Keep in mind that some of the core consumer services — like Dropbox, Box and Google Drive — do offer professional-grade or enterprise-level storage solutions, too.
EFSS systems are generally distributed locally using on-premise hardware, which means the company in question houses, maintains and operates the necessary data hardware and servers — usually in some sort of data center orientation. The reason why this makes a difference is because it allows sensitive, company-oriented files or directories to be stored inside the corporate firewall and security protections.
Employees or personnel using personal services like Dropbox to store documents and content in the cloud are effectively removing company assets from said borders. It’s beyond the protection of your own internal IT and security teams, which can have significant risks and pose severe legal issues.
You could argue that EFSS tends to be more secure for the most part, with security and collaboration the two main priorities, ultimately serving as a means to meet enterprise and corporate-level demands.
What Is a Cloud Provider? What Are the Top EFSS Cloud Storage Services Available?
We mentioned that EFSS systems are generally housed and maintained on a company’s premises. But this is not always the case nor even the ideal solution, depending on the organization’s needs and demands.
Another solution exists in the form of third-party cloud providers or cloud storage services. With this, the main organization hires a cloud provider to handle the housing, maintenance and security of the related hardware. You are essentially renting space from a cloud storage provider. You still have to manage your internal networks and machines, but the burden of managing a data center is removed.
Some of the top cloud storage providers are as follows:
- Egnyte: As an established veteran of the EFSS market, this provider has designed their service from the ground up for collaboration and group-based networking. What’s really holding it back is the limited brand recognition when compared with some of the other providers on this list. That said, Egnyte is remarkably capable of providing all the necessary tools, from an admin dashboard and proper monitoring to user identity management.
- Dropbox: Dropbox has consumer-level services, but they also offer some incredibly reliable and efficient enterprise cloud storage services. You’re welcome to try Dropbox Business free for 30-days, which offers just a glimpse at what you can do. You’ll get full Office 365 integration, admin console and auditing support, granular sharing permissions, user-managed groups and rights, and two-factor authentication support.
- Box: This is another service we mentioned on a purely consumer level, but Box has robust enterprise-level support as well. Box is more about delivering a “modern digital workspace” with highly collaborative tools and apps and intelligent business processes and controls. Not that the other cloud providers don’t offer this, but Box certainly has their cards in order.
- Citrix ShareFile: ShareFile offers a real-time collaborative workspace complete with social feeds and user feedback. All files and documents are synced to the related cloud servers with no added authentication or interactivity measures required. That means you don’t have to fumble with FTP or anything of the sort. The content is uploaded, accessed and edited in real-time.
- Microsoft OneDrive: Like many of the other services mentioned here, OneDrive for enterprise offers a variety of collaborative tools and controls for any business.
- IBM Connections: Billed as a “single content management system,” IBM’s Connections Enterprise service offers “out-of-the-box” management interfaces and collaborative workspaces. Everything from advanced content creation to document management or streamlined workflow use-cases is supported.
Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive — there are many other solutions available.
The Top Challenges Facing EFSS and Cloud Storage Users
Although EFSS for enterprise affords a vast supply of benefits, the technology is not without its faults or problems. As you might expect, these faults present a decent share of challenges for EFSS providers and their user base.
Technically, some of the issues you might encounter include incompatible systems or devices, network and connection troubles and the need for middleware solutions. Enterprises interested in bridging the gap between EFSS and the platforms they already use will have to invest in middleware. This could include services like SkySync that facilitate the synchronization or migration of files between dissimilar content platforms.
Employee concerns may also arise, as the systems are only powerful for those who know how to properly use them. Not to mention, a general negligence for personal and corporate security and improper file sharing habits can contribute to lax security.
Finally, there are regulatory challenges — namely due to GDPR at the moment — that pose significant risks, particularly when it comes to legal liabilities. Cloud computing is a sticky factor here because one of the main principles of GDPR is that you retain full control over any and all user data or collected information and that you know where it is, how it’s being used and what’s being done with it. That makes cloud storage and remote technologies something of a challenge in today’s landscape.
It also makes them riskier than they have been in the past. Choosing a poor-quality cloud provider could mean hefty fines and other legal ramifications.
Are There Alternatives to EFSS and Cloud Storage?
Yes, there are alternatives available. The most obvious is to host your own local storage solution. This can create many new complications for your business and team, particularly in maintaining and operating a local data center to power your shared services.
Using your own storage or computing solution does have its benefits. You have full access to the entire network and service, which means potentially tighter security. There are also no syncing or duplication procedures, so sensitive data tends to be more protected. Finally, there are no third parties involved in the data retrieval, editing and storage protocols. It’s simply uploaded to your in-house servers and either remains there or becomes available on client machines used to access the content.
That brings us to FileFlex and services like it. It’s a rather unique internal cloud storage service that helps you facilitate a local shared content solution.
What Is FileFlex and Is It a Suitable Alternative?
In short, FileFlex is a cloud storage and file management service like any other. Documents and files are stored securely in the cloud and can be accessed from just about anywhere by authorized personnel on recognized devices.
What makes it different is that the data remains housed at its original source and in its original directory. If you have local servers on-site that you use to store sensitive company data and provide access to authorized users, you can sync it all up via the cloud using FileFlex. Any and all files can be made available to share. They remain exactly where they were originally, which means no file duplication or remote syncing necessary.
Some of the features at the core of the FileFlex service are:
- Access and sharing of data from source directories and locations
- No file duplication, syncing or third parties involved in the file system
- All storage can be accessed from anywhere
- File access virtualization allows you to share directories and content as if they were an extension of the device you’re using (almost like plugging in a flash drive)
- Remote collaboration and access tools through a content collaboration platform (CCP)
- Media streaming
- Automatic photo and video backup support
- Remote network access through NAS or networked devices
- Intel® vPro® SGX Technology and FileFlex™ Enterprise for silicon-to-silicon, security-hardened, remote access, sharing and collaboration solution. View PDF
Interestingly, auditing and data monitoring becomes something of a non-issue with FileFlex. Not only does it provide all the security and admin-level tools necessary to achieve this, but it also makes the entire process much simpler. The files are not being exchanged between devices, duplicated or leaving the company network and moving outside the firewall. That doesn’t mean audits won’t happen — it just means the entire process is much less involved.
Should Company Data Be Stored Online?
The bottom line for cloud computing or anything synced with an open connection — public or private — is that there’s always a risk outside parties may gain unauthorized access. There are risks that internal players and personnel will compromise the network, bring in outside influence — intentionally or unintentionally — or even handle their devices poorly.
But in today’s hyper-fast, remote-oriented and collaboration-heavy landscape, cloud storage and shared directories are necessary. Your personnel are constantly on the move, from their on-site office to a home location or sometimes even working out of new places like a local coffee shop. In such cases, they need the kind of remote-access support only cloud storage services can provide.
Even when you require your employees to remain on the property, there are partners, vendors and clients who sometimes need off-site access to the same documents and content. This also calls for the use of cloud storage and network-shared directories.
So when you ask, “should company data be stored online?” the answer is more granular than a simple “yes” or “no.” There are security and privacy risks, but work environments, processes, internal and external relationships and even company culture all play a role in whether or not you need a cloud storage solution in place. It’s probably fair to say that, concerns aside, most companies stand to benefit from some form of online syncing or cloud storage as a means to share information.
When Do Current and Future Regulations Come Into Play?
HIPPA and various audit requirements in financial sectors have required forms of accountability, but GDPR is the most relevant regulation to make an appearance in the landscape today. At its most basic, it protects European citizens and affords them more control over the data companies and organizations collect about them. You might make the mistake of thinking this only applies to retail and consumer-level data systems, but European workers and personnel are also included. Any and all data belonging to businesses who conduct operations in Europe are affected.
Not complying with the General Data Protections Regulation can result in fines of up to four percent of a company’s revenue.
It’s also highly indicative of the shift in the modern world towards more defined data regulations, processes and improved security. There will likely be regulations and standards established in the United States similar to GDPR in the near future.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you do your research before choosing a cloud storage or shared content provider to ensure they also follow the necessary guidelines. If you choose a provider that is not prepared to handle GDPR restrictions or the like, you may also incur fines as a result of an audit.
How FileFlex Addresses the Future of Online Corporate Data Security
By its very nature, FileFlex is already compliant in many ways with current and future regulations. Because there are no third parties involved and no file duplication, and all the content remains locked securely behind a company firewall, the risk and “threat surface” remains relatively minimal. You also have full access to a simplified and monitored storage structure, data governance support and risk management and compliance (GRC) controls.
Throw AES 256-bit encryption into the mix and you’re looking at an incredibly secure, heavily controlled and monitored, low-risk setup. Of course, that’s assuming you already have internal protections and security covered for your local network and systems. Intel has gotten on the FileFlex bandwagon with their Intel® vPro® SGX Technology and FileFlex™ Enterprise to deliver a new silicon-to-silicon, security-hardened, remote access, sharing and collaboration solution AND no cloud required.
Most recently, Qnext was selected as a finalist from over 1200 companies for the 2018 Red Herring Top 100 award. This award acknowledges Qnext as one of the technology industry’s most exciting and innovative private companies.
Is Cloud Storage and EFSS for You?
Having made it through this guide, hopefully you now understand the many benefits, nuances and challenges of deploying a cloud storage or EFSS solution for your organization. Alternatives like FileFlex also have a significant role to play, especially for those who would adopt such unique hybrid tools.
The question you now face is whether or not Enterprise File Sync and Share or cloud systems are the right fit for you. When making your decision, be mindful of the pending and current regulations and both the security and privacy concerns that come with adopting cloud technologies.
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance technical writer. She regularly writes for sites like Thomas Insights and The Naked Scientists. Keep up with Megan by following her on Twitter.