How to choose the right file sharing service for your business

In only a handful of years, a wide range of file sharing services have popped up, from completely free services aimed at consumers (including the likes of Dropbox, Google and WeTransfer), to enterprise-focused services (such as Mimecast, EMC and Citrix). Considering the long list of available offerings on both sides, making the right choice for your business can be difficult, so it's a good idea to do your research first...

Security

For every organisation, security is a key consideration in the selection of any new IT service. When it comes to a file sharing service, it can be no less vital. Data privacy features can start with role-based access control and encryption for files in transit and at rest, but may differ between services.

More robust authentication mechanisms should also be provided by the service during sensitive transactions or when users are accessing sites from less secure locations. The provider being considered should also offer integration with policy-based data leakage prevention tools and be capable of limiting where and with whom files can be shared.

Integrated anti-malware controls are also invaluable, particularly in terms of protection against spam and phishing attacks. The latter are now routinely used in the majority of the advanced targeted attacks (or spear-phishing) and should be carefully guarded against.

Compliance

For compliance purposes, it's important that businesses know where their data and files are shared and stored. In order to meet compliance standards and to provide a measure of disaster recovery protection, files should be duplicated and stored in geographically dispersed data centres in geographically defined locations.

Availability

Any service being considered should provide a 100 per cent service availability SLA. This should include automatic failover during outages in order to provide a seamless, uninterrupted service and constant access to files.

Scalability

The service chosen should be as flexible and scalable as possible, providing support for an unlimited number of users at any given time. Services that use file volume upload limits should be avoided as they often encourage users to bypass the corporate service and use consumer-oriented offerings instead.

Administration

A particularly useful function of enterprise-grade file sharing and storage services is the ability to manage all processes via a single management console.

This saves IT time and money by providing centralised administration and can help to encourage enforcement of corporate policies. Native integration with Active Directory and other LDAP directories is also helpful in terms of assisting in the effective provisioning of users.

Devices and support

So many firms are employing BYOD policies, it's vital that any solution considered is able support a wide range of devices. It's likely that users will need to access the company systems via mobile browsers, the web, desktop and mobile applications, so all possibilities should be seamless and integrated, whilst also providing support for a wide range of document types.

Telephone and email support options are often overlooked at this stage but it's important these suit the company's needs and all the locations in which it operates. For example, such services should be available during local office hours in each region and SLAs should also be in place regarding timescales for resolving issues.

End user tools

It's vital that ease of use should be on a par with, or better than, consumer-oriented services. The service should be so tightly integrated with commonly used programs such as Outlook, that end-users may not even notice that it is in place.

A number of self-service tools such as self-service sign-up, file recovery and password resets would also be recommended. IT support should also not be needed when users want to perform basic search and retrieval activities.

Awareness and user training

Any service, no matter how well considered and implemented, will not be effective if end-users do not buy into it. Users should be informed of the security issues surrounding file sharing services such as DropBox and WeTransfer, otherwise there is a strong likelihood that they will continue to make use of them, regardless of the company's new investment. Similarly, policies should be put in place so that end-users are provided with sufficient training on the new service, showing them how to get the most out of the improved functionality.

Orlando Scott-Cowley, is an evangelist, strategist and technologist at Mimecast.