A few years ago, the Indiana Office of Technology had a problem: Employees were using cloud-based consumer file-sharing tools, but the agency needed an enterprise solution that offered more security.
Deputy Assistant IT Director Jason Reid says Indiana found a solution in the enterprise-grade Syncplicity service. Chosen for its flexibility, the tool enables the agency to run it as a client or through a browser. Users also have the option of restricting access to documents containing sensitive and personally identifiable information to within the firewall.
Many organizations now turn to enterprise file management tools to better secure sensitive documents and reduce the administrative burden of relying on email to transmit large documents. Enterprise products such as Box, Citrix ShareFile and and Syncplicity provide them with an easier way to share graphics-intensive files and video. While Box runs only in the cloud, many of these products offer both public cloud and private cloud options.
Reid says Indiana currently stores its Syncplicity data on a private cloud inside its firewall, but has 3,000 terabytes of storage available if and when it decides to run more of its file management operations in the public cloud.
“The ability to store the data on EMC storage inside our firewalls was a big deal for us,” Reid explains. “We just push the applications out via Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager and give each employee the option of how they want to run the client app.”
The results are powerful. Workers can move and share video files in Syncplicity folders without choking email traffic. IT staff can store and later share computer images in Syncplicity. And, Syncplicity also offers version control and the ability to set editor or read-only versions of a file.
Indiana has deployed Syncplicity to about 1,000 users thus far, and intends to equip as much as 40 percent of the staff with the new file-sharing tools over the next few years. “The collaboration opportunities are fantastic,” Reid says. “The Department of Natural Resources has people in remote locations sharing files in ways they never could before. And the Department of Finance staff shares documents between the field staff and our central location.”
Terri McClure, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says IT departments were put in a bind when people started using consumer-oriented Software as a Service products such as Dropbox and the free version of Box.
“All of a sudden, organizations had corporate data on people’s personal smartphones and tablets, and it created security issues,” she says. “The industry responded by building products that had a central dashboard. They offered rudimentary control at first, and now the products have matured to offer more advanced security and rulemaking controls.”
Cutting Down on Email
Todd Noah, information services director for Dallas County, Iowa, says the county uses Citrix ShareFile to manage large files more efficiently and make documents available on mobile devices and from remote locations.
Dallas County uses ShareFile in most of its 20 departments countywide, says Noah. Much like Indiana, Dallas County stores its ShareFile data in-house on NetApp storage systems in its data center. While Citrix does offer the option to store data in the cloud, Noah says using the county’s on-premises storage allows the county to house sensitive files behind its own firewall.
“By using ShareFile, county department employees can easily share, review and edit documents from anywhere,” says Noah. “Instead of sending large files via email, employees simply use the Outlook plug-in within ShareFile to send a link to the file from the county’s centralized storage system.”
Prior to the ShareFile implementation, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department struggled to track deputies’ work schedules. Responsibility for keeping an up-to-date schedule fell on one employee in the sheriff’s office, who had to oversee 30 to 40 deputies, jailers, reserve officers and administrative staff. The employee previously emailed the most current schedule to department managers when filling time-off requests.
“Now, with ShareFile, managers can access and modify the department’s schedule in the familiar Microsoft Outlook interface from anywhere without having to coordinate with the one employee,” Noah explains. “The schedule truly became a living schedule, easily maintained and well secured.”
Enterprise File-Sharing Advantages
Terri McClure, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, identifies three main benefits of cloud-based enterprise file sharing systems:
- Improved employee productivity: These tools enable employees to share and access files more easily from wherever they are, increasing productivity. Overall, employees are happier when they can work the way they want.
- More efficient collaboration: Employees have access to version control, file logging, editing and messaging, which all help them complete projects quickly and thoroughly.
- Enhanced IT management: Security drives most organizations to use enterprise file-sharing tools. Administrators can set security rules, set storage levels and generate reports that offer a level of visibility into document usage that they’ve never had before.