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BANNING DROPBOX DOESN’T WORK!

By Anders Lofgren Director of Mobility Solutions, Acronis.

The digital revolution has turned the way we work on its head and radically transformed the office space – gone are acres of beige PCs replaced by a mobile workforce who are no longer tethered to their desks.

Financial services firms are benefitting from the mobile revolution in terms of productivity, increased availability of data and enhanced employee/consumer engagement.  Suddenly work is for many no longer a place to go, but a set of tools that can be used to get the job done from any location.  But how did this all happen?

Anders Lofgren
Anders Lofgren

One key factor has been consumer file sharing services such as Dropbox and Box. Employees can store data in these simple online virtual storage utilities, making the files accessible from any location.  They no longer have to email files to themselves or carry around flash drives. They have quite simply revolutionised the way files can be stored, shared and collaborated on. At the same time, smartphones, tablets and netbooks have enabled work on the move

These file sharing services, coupled with mobile devices, have brought about a sea change in productivity for employers and workers alike. Employees can share files with co-workers 24/7, the most up-to-date files are always available wherever there is an internet connection and data is stored in the cloud, regardless of the hardware being lost, stolen or destroyed.

All is happy in the world, aside from those in the IT departments, whose job it is to keep data locked down.  They are deeply concerned about the rise of employees using unapproved consumer services like Dropbox and SkyDive, to view, save and share corporate documents on mobile devices. It is a trend that has brought data way beyond the safe confines of the company network, and can undoubtedly pose a real threat to sensitive business information and applications. Suddenly financial institutions are left wide open to enterprise risk where customer data can be lost or duplicated, creating huge legal headaches.

We all know these services can be breached and many have.  Only a few weeks ago, both Dropbox and Box were in the news over a security breach.  This one inadvertently exposed data through publicly shared links.  It is therefore a top priority for IT managers to know exactly who is accessing what files and with whom they are sharing them.  IT has to maintain security and put in place best practice for file sharing in a workgroup environment. Losing control of data could ultimately end up in a complete lack of security where everything from financial details to competitive proprietary information could be disclosed.

Normally IT instigates a VPN (virtual private network) as a pipeline for connecting remote employees to central work servers.  Many companies maintain VPNs so that employees can access files, applications and other resources on the company network without compromising security.  But with so many consumer cloud services mushrooming and employees increasingly bringing their own devices to work, they are choosing the fastest and easiest way to get the job done.  It is no good telling employees they can’t use the services they like, IT departments instead have to offer a secure alternative that gives an equal, or even better user experience.

If you want to keep employees happy you need to bin any Draconian anti-BYOD (bring your own device) policies.  Not only will you have miserable employees, but you will find it impossible to enforce them! So instead of trying to force your employees to use outdated and ineffective tools and services, focus on creating a user experience workflow around tools that they will actually enjoy using.

Choose applications that are not training-intensive.  If the tools are intuitive, training will be minimal.  You also won’t waste time and money training employees in tools they will do anything to avoid using.

Make sure employees have quick and easy access to all areas they need for mobile working, be it an enterprise file server, network-attached storage or Sharepoint.  At the same time don’t dictate devices. Provide access across all the devices your employees use, be it netbooks, iPhones, tablets or Android smartphones.  As long as they can do their work on these devices, let them and build them into a secure environment.  A happy workforce is a productive one!

The key is to make security invisible.  Consumer cloud services are attractive to employees because they are so easy to use, where some enterprise collaboration tools are complex and make security the priority.  Of course security is very important, but the experience should be seamless for the user.

The reality is that it is very hard to get employees to comply to security guidelines. But security and a positive user experience can actually be complimentary.  Employees are responsible for around two-thirds of security breaches.  Providing employees with secure solutions they will use makes it easier for them to be compliant and is the best way to protect your data.

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