Out of the shadows: EFSS and data protection

Jan 13, 2016

Out of the shadows: EFSS and data protection

BY Andrew Burton

Datto Products

The use of consumer file sync and share services such as Dropbox for business purposes is part of a phenomenon that many have described as “shadow IT.” Creepy right? It can be.

Shadow IT is a term used to describe technology used by employees without explicit approval of the business. Employees obviously use file sync and share services for productivity purposes. That part is great - businesses are always looking for ways to increase productivity. So what’s the problem? Well, for one, it impacts your organisation’s ability to protect data. When employees individually select and use file sync and share services the data they store and modify using the service is outside corporate IT’s control. This, of course, increases the likelihood of data loss.

Wait, isn’t versioning a form of backup?

Many file sync and share services allow users to roll back to previous versions of a file. Versioning could be looked at as a form of backup, allowing users to restore files that were corrupted or accidentally deleted. However, that’s not the real issue. Let’s say 20 employees use their personal file sync and share accounts for business purposes. That means you’ve got corporate data in 20 different password-protected locations, which the IT team has no ability to access.

What happens if one of those employees quits or gets fired? Now, multiply that by 20 (or many more). You’ve got a bunch of little islands of data out there that IT can’t protect. And, the more places that sensitive or confidential business data exists, the more likely it will be lost or accessed by unauthorised individuals. If any of that data is unique and subject to regulatory compliance guidelines, you’ve got no way to ensure that it will be protected to the proper standard.

Enter EFSS

Enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) has emerged as an option for organisations to eliminate these issues. EFSS allows users to save files in cloud or on-premises storage and share them with co-workers, while allowing for corporate IT oversight of data. Many EFSS products also include security capabilities such as authentication and encryption, reducing the likelihood of unauthorised access to data.

There are a variety of ways to deploy EFSS today. There are enterprise editions of popular consumer file sync and share tools as well as stand-alone software products.
And, many data protection vendors, including Datto, have have baked file sync and share functionality into their products. It makes perfect sense—a trusted backup vendor is uniquely suited to provide IT oversight and data protection of file sync and share data. It also means one less vendor you’ll need to work with.

Back in 2011, Apple’s Steve Jobs famously told Dropbox founder Drew Houston that file sharing is a feature, not a standalone product. At least in the data protection space, it seems he was correct.

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