Why business-grade FSS is the future

Employee productivity has never been more important for enterprise of all sizes, and flexible working is undoubtedly part of that trend. A recent Gallup poll found that 37 per cent of respondents said they have telecommuted, and in a separate survey by Tinypulse, a whopping 91 per cent of respondents said they are more productive outside of the office. A key technology in remote, flexible working is a good file sync and share (FSS) service, which will allow employees to access documents from anywhere on any device.

FSS tools not only provide a solid structure for workgroups and facilitate collaboration by multiple users on a single document with ease, but also retain files in a single location, making it impossible to accidentally work from an older version of a file. This alone can save hours of wasted time consolidating revisions into a single document! For example, Datto Drive provides unlimited users with 1TB free storage for the first year.

However, many enterprises are sleepwalking into a range of data challenges and heightened business risk by using non-enterprise class file sync and share services in a business environment. This trend in using consumer file sync and share (FSS) services for business purposes has been dubbed “shadow IT”, and while it’s an easy position to slip into, especially for SMEs, the risks are significant.

Shadow IT

For example, if 10 employees use their personal file sync and share accounts for business purposes, then corporate data is spread across 10 password-protected locations. When an employee leaves the company, that data goes with them and the business can’t access it, so the risk of data loss is increased. Of course, if your sector is subject to specific compliance regulations then Shadow IT is an even bigger problem. This situation creates a potentially disastrous security issue, as that data could be accessed by unauthorised individuals very easily.

By selecting a business-grade FSS tool, it’s much easier to ensure that business requirements for control, documentation, security and reliability are met and relevant permissions are enforced. Business-grade cloud FSS services offer the collaboration capabilities of consumer-grade tools while providing the IT oversight that organisations require. These services ensure that business data is secure and accessible. There are a wide range of FSS services on the market, the free Datto Drive being just one of many.

When choosing a business-grade FSS service, there are several key considerations to bear in mind. According to a recent Forrester report on business-class file sync and share tools, successful deployment depends on ease-of-use for your user base. Employees will already be familiar with consumer file sharing and collaboration tools, and although this doesn’t mean your only choice is the business-grade version of a consumer service, it does provide a pointer as to what your company’s users want from a service. If you know that employees like a specific product, it may be a good place to start when evaluating possible alternatives.

Customisation and security

Consider the level of customisation you need - while some enterprise FSS systems are off-the-shelf, others offer considerable flexibility in their configuration. Whether you need to provide workflow support, the size and nature of the files commonly being collaborated on, and the complexity of these collaborations will all begin to shape your decision-making process. Some business-class FSS products offer integration with an Active Directory and LDAP to ease management and simplify access control. Other business-class FSS products can integrate with single sign-on (SSO) processes. Bear in mind that additional functionality may be needed over time, as employees become more familiar with the system.

Select an appropriate security level - from a security perspective, business-grade FSS tools offer more robust security features than consumer products, for example encrypting data “in flight”, like Datto Drive. This provides the end-to-end security that many organisations require, while some products offer the ability to remotely lock or wipe laptops and mobile devices to protect against data loss due to theft. It’s also common for business-class FSS products to offer tracking and versioning controls, which can help administrators to identify suspicious employee behaviour by offering detailed visibility into individual user activity.

Future in mobile workforce

According to Gallup research, employees who spend some of their time working remotely work longer hours and are more engaged than employees who do not. As today's workforce is accustomed to mobile and cloud in their personal lives, these technologies are all but expected in the workplace. Choosing the business-grade FSS service that is right for your enterprise and employees offers the chance to increase employee satisfaction, productivity and simultaneously maintain the most rigorous of security and compliance standards if needed.

Andrew Stuart, MD, Datto EMEA

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