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It’s hard to have a conversation about technology usage trends without hearing the term “consumerization of IT.” As tech-savvy business users increasingly look to take control of their IT environment, one of the most significant developments coming from the consumer technology space has been the dramatic rise in the use of cloud-based file sync-and-share (FSS) services.
The ability for users to store, backup and retrieve work data—often from personal mobile devices—in the cloud at affordable prices has resulted in a spike in FSS adoption in enterprise-class organizations. Workers also are using FSS services as a collaboration resource that is easier to deploy and more reliable than legacy FTP sites. By late 2014, 68% of business users were storing work-related information in a personally managed FSS solution, according to Osterman Research. That research came with an important footnote: “Most of these tools are deployed by individuals without any sort of ‘blessing’ from their IT department,” according to the report. That lack of IT involvement and/or direct management is vitally important when it comes to protecting work-related data stored on non-PC endpoints such as tablets and smartphones. A recent study—sponsored by Commvault and conducted with IT professionals in TechTarget’s network of technology sites—said that most IT organizations are not responsible for backing up and ensuring recoverability of non-PC endpoints.
Add in another data point from the TechTarget endpoint survey: 65% of respondents said cloud-based sync-and-share storage services were being used for work applications. Given the affordability of cloud-based FSS services and the ease of provisioning—typically without IT involvement or knowledge—it’s easy to see that data protection vulnerabilities often go hand-in-hand with FSS.
One important reason why FSS is on the rise in business environments is users’ familiarity with consumer-class FSS services for their personal data such as photos and music. But storing MP3 files and JPEGs in the cloud doesn’t carry the same level of risk and significant downside as storing corporate data. There are potentially huge legal, regulatory, financial and competitive risks in using cloud-based FSS in work environments, especially when IT oversight and proper data governance are missing. The challenge of adhering to best practices and governance policies spanning compliance, e-discovery and security cannot be overstated, especially in highly regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare.
“Corporate IT faces a tremendous challenge from any FSS app that does not satisfy enterprise requirements for data protection and IT control over corporate content,” according to Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research. “Until IT can once again regain control of their data, they risk serious regulatory, governance and security issues.”