It’s been a lot like the poem The Highwayman recently with the IT industry a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas and as a result many in enterprise have been looking to how to provide cloud locker services to their employees and also maintain a secure perimeter. New, shiny applications have always found their way into businesses via employee interest (we’ve seen it with instant messengers and with Facebook) and now many IT departments must deal with cloud locker services like Dropbox being used inside their firewalls.
This effect is being called the “Dropbox problem” but industry insiders such as Bill Carovano, Sr. Director of Data Sharing, at Citrix.
“The ‘Dropbox problem’ is heightening the pressure on IT teams to deal with the situation, but simply blocking Dropbox doesn’t work,” says Carovano about how IT departments must deal with the influx of these apps. “They need a secure solution to replace it (or employees revolt.) They need an alternative and that means other products in the venue can rise up and take that place.”
Employees like what they like, and an easy-to-use cloud-sharing application is exactly what the industry ordered for productivity. Why worry about offloading files to a USB thumb drive or some other mass media storage to carry home or try to remember to e-mail it to myself when I can just put it in a shared space and have it on my mobile instantly or at home by the time I get there.
The problem arises when employees are working with sensitive data and it needs to be protected from prying eyes.
Dropbox has seen its fair share of customer concern and right now it’s seen as primarily a consumer-level product so IT departments are leery of it, but employees love it. In March of 2011, Dropbox almost got audited by the FTC for potentially having access to would-be encrypted files in its own cloud and then late last month an employee at the cloud locker got hacked and customer e-mails were flooded with spam. These sorts of things do not instill confidence in an enterprise IT department when their users are hooking up the application.
How does Citrix and ShareFile provide an answer to this problem and deliver security
The solution must be something that can be integrated directly into the security considerations that at the same time houses the data in the private cloud (potentially on site) but at the same time permit an application-level layer that gives employees all the bring-your-own-device freedom to take data from work to home.
ShareFile looks to distinguish themselves from services like Dropbox by providing both enterprise-level customer service as well as enterprise-level IT support. Using the software-as-a-service model, ShareFile becomes an application managed by Citrix, who updates and upgrades automatically (customer doesn’t need to do that) and can be integrated with an enterprise directory (typically Microsoft Active Directory). This effect provides single sign on capability, a centralized security policy offering users a service that hooks into everything else they receive from IT.
All IT needs to do is disable the active directory to remove someone from the cloud storage service. Add in the capability of remotely destroying sensitive data within the application and it makes for a perfect remote storage for proprietary information.
Citrix also wants to distinguish themselves from consumer-level apps such as Dropbox by being “the Nordstroms of cloud locker services,” and that means concierge level customer service. If something goes wrong at the IT or employee level, they have representatives tasked with solving the problems of the IT department and providing on-the-spot time-sensitive solutions.
With the above philosophy in mind, Citrix looks like they’ve made ShareFile an excellent addition to the cloud storage (and secure private cloud) products that we currently have available in the market.
It also means that IT departments suffering with the “Dropbox problem” will be looking at the landscape of that market for good customer service, centralized security, and a way to integrate this sort of productivity application into their toolboxes–hopefully without taking the draconian step of banning cloud data storage entirely.