As institutions and business organizations strive for the ideal of “digital transformation” – the optimizing of internal operations and increase in productivity through the adoption of technology and the elimination of analog processes – the need has grown for documents and files to be made available on demand, to whoever requires them.
Policies and technology platforms which provide a centralized system for communicating, collaborating on common projects, and managing product and information resources are critical to this effort – and Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS) systems are an example.
What Is EFSS?
Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (also referred to as enterprise file sync and share, or enterprise file sync-and-share) is a platform or service which enables users to save files in on-premises storage or the cloud, and gain access to them via desktop or mobile devices. The facilities of an EFSS platform also allow users to synchronize and share information in the form of documents, photos, videos, and other files.
File-sharing may be confined to within a single organization, or may be extended to include customer bases, supply chain partners, or other trusted third parties. And it may take place across multiple devices and operating systems.
Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing allows for the creation of a distributed ecosystem where different work-groups, business units, or employees are able to edit and distribute files and content as required. Users are able not only to view files to which they have authorized access, but to edit them in real time as well.
Types Of EFSS Deployment
Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing systems build on the model previously used by central content management stores, which were complex affairs requiring the service to log into a central hub in order to manage file changes and versions. EFSS employs a more distributed system, capable of extending to widely dispersed endpoints of a network, such as mobile phones, tablets, and consoles.
To effectively manage document-sharing among their users, commercial and other organizations need to strike a balance between issues of data ownership and governance, and the accessibility of needed information across a range of operating platforms and device types. As with enterprise data management in general, this has resulted in organizations adopting any of three major approaches.
For those enterprises wishing to retain strict control and visibility into their information and intellectual property resources, an EFSS platform built using on-premises data storage is the preferred option. On-premises software is typically used to access and administer the system.
Those organizations willing to entrust the stewardship of their enterprise data to a third-party cloud service provider may use a completely cloud-based approach to Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing, with access to the platform available through web-based administrative consoles and dedicated mobile apps.
Between the two extremes sits the hybrid approach, with on-premises data storage being used for most documents, sensitive corporate data, customer information, intellectual property, and the like. Cloud storage may be used for less sensitive materials, with cloud-based software tools used across the board for viewing, editing, and collaboration purposes.
Besides the characteristics differentiating one vendor or platform from another (such as user interfaces, options for setting the frequency of file synchronization, editing features, and tools for device-specific access), Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing services typically include features for document version tracking, live commenting, and work-flow process management.
One of the main factors driving the move toward EFSS solutions was the inherent risk of third-party consumer-level cloud sharing and collaboration platforms like Box, or Dropbox, where content is routinely distributed outside the corporate firewall. EFSS addressed this problem by enabling storage and distribution to be owned and managed by the enterprise.
Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing products typically include security features such as data encryption, authentication mechanisms, containerization, and tracking features. Some services allow IT administrators to create policies governing who in their organization should be allowed access to specific content.
It should be noted however, that not all EFSS services provide encryption for data after it’s been transferred locally to a user’s device, or shared with a third party.
What To Look For In An EFSS Solution
In general terms, the choice of an EFSS solution will be decided on the basis of its cost, security features, management controls, and productivity tools – together with an assessment of how well it integrates with an organization’s existing applications, tools and business processes.
Drilling down to specifics, the following considerations may also come into play:
· Mobility: The ability to cater for a range of mobile devices and operating platforms – and dedicated mobile apps enabling the seamless editing and sharing of documents and files.
· Data Security: Beyond the encryption, authentication, and access controls, the cloud service contract should be assessed to ensure that it spells out the enterprise’s ownership of all shared content, and guarantees Administrator rights to the same.
· Backups and Data Protection: The EFSS service should have measures in place to ensure that information contained in new or edited content is protected, and that configured levels of previous versions of documents are preserved.
The EFSS Market
Leading products in the EFSS market include familiar names such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox Business – all of which include enterprise management and security features to distinguish them from their more mainstream consumer versions.
Other leaders in this sector include Accellion, Box, BlackBerry Workspaces, Citrix ShareFile, Egnyte, and Axway’s Syncplicity.
As products move beyond basic file synchronization and remote access abilities, tools in the EFSS market continue to expand and evolve. This is illustrated by the move by Gartner, Inc., to change the name of its Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing Magic Quadrant to Content Collaboration Platforms, in 2017.
In the future, it’s anticipated that organizations will be able to use Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing solutions to govern sensitive data security, work-flow management, cloud-based content collaboration, data infrastructure modernization, and numerous other areas.
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