|By Pete Cafarchio||
|October 5, 2012 12:00 PM EDT||
The "consumerization of IT" is a topic we've heard a lot about recently - especially when it comes to "Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)." One area that is less talked about, yet a growing trend under the "consumerization" umbrella, is the use of free, consumer-type file transfer services in the workplace.
A tough economy has forced IT departments to do more with less - especially within small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Working with limited resources and budget, SMB IT professionals are still expected to manage everything from network infrastructure to cloud services to security and compliance issues, all while keeping the business running smoothly. Sometimes this results in long "wait" times for employees.
Unfortunately, some employees get tired of waiting for IT to help them out and take matters into their own hands in order to get their jobs done. When it comes to sending large files that an email server can't handle, many employees are turning to consumer-type, cloud-based tools, such as YouSendIt, Dropbox and iCloud. To them, it's a way to send files in a matter of minutes without having to bother the IT department. But in reality, it's a recipe for disaster and a data security nightmare.
Employees aren't the only problem. A recent survey by DataMotion found that nearly 35% of IT and business managers admit that they've actually used or recommended that others use free consumer-type, file transfer services for work purposes.
This is a major problem that needs to be addressed. Free services disrupt any semblance of centralized IT control, as there is no way to track and manage files sent via these solutions. These tools often have weak or non-existent security controls, which introduce serious risks when transmitting sensitive information. This can lead to data leakage, compliance fines, legal liabilities and a tarnished reputation. Need proof of the security issues surrounding these services? Dropbox recently confirmed that usernames and passwords stolen from third party websites were used to access its customers' accounts.
What Can Be Done?
To avoid putting their infrastructure at risk, some companies are banning consumer-type, file-transfer services in the workplace altogether. In fact, nearly 42% of DataMotion's survey respondents stated that their company forbids the use of these services in the workplace, and nearly 30% said their company even goes so far as to block the sites' URLs.
But, IT must offer employees viable, easy-to-use alternatives or frustrated workers will continue to find workarounds. Luckily, there are data delivery solutions that help employees transmit information quickly and easily through secure channels, while still providing IT staff with visibility and control over this data.
Here is a brief, yet important, checklist of product features to consider when evaluating data delivery offerings for your organization. Make sure the solution:
- Offers Simplicity - If the product is not intuitive and easy-to-use for both senders and recipients, not only will the IT support burden increase, but, employees will find alternative, insecure ways to send their data. The best security does no good if it is not used.
- Provides Flexibility - Going back to BYOD, employees are sending just as many emails via their mobile devices as they are on their computers. Consider a data delivery solution that integrates with mobile devices, so security and compliance controls are enforced no matter how - or on what device - data is sent. Solutions that do so natively (without the need to launch an application) make it easy for the employee to follow policy.
- Prioritizes Security - The ability to easily send sensitive information securely is vital. Make sure your data delivery solution encrypts data while it's in transit and at every "hop" where it's stored along the way. It's also important to ensure the solution's delivery methods adhere to your own internal - as well as industry - security and compliance regulations.
- Gives Control to the IT department - A solid solution will provide IT with centralized control, the ability to easily provision/de-provision users, and track and monitor all data transfers, including file names, sender and recipient IDs, timestamps, completion status notifications and other important metadata.
- Delivers ROI - Consider the difference between on-premise and cloud-based solutions. Cloud solutions often offer lower total cost of ownership (TCO) because of significant cost savings in hardware, OS licenses, staffing and disaster recovery. Additionally, because up-front costs are minimal and the solution can be up and running quickly, cloud solutions provide companies with a quick return on investment. Just remember to make sure your cloud provider upholds or exceeds the same security and compliance standards that you follow.
With data breaches more prevalent than ever, industry regulations rapidly expanding, and Big Data becoming the norm, companies must re-evaluate their methods of data sharing. Choosing a solution that encompasses the features outlined in this checklist will put you well on your way to protecting sensitive information and staying ahead of the competition. And pairing this with employee education and awareness will help you gain control back from the "wild west" of rogue application use.
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