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Online services like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive entered the scene to help consumers alleviate their file sharing and transferring woes, and have generally proven to be effective in their mandates. Partnerships with IT powerhouses like Microsoft further fueled consumer interest. In addition, the services were offered at little or no cost to users.

Suddenly, transferring high-resolution photos and lengthy audio files was easier and accessible to everyone. However, despite the positives surrounding these services, there were some detractors who believed them to be non-compliant for enterprise use.

Muhi Majzoub, head of engineering for OpenText, is one of those people. He shares his opinions with IT in Canada about why now is the time for enterprises to break up with these consumer-based services, and what the possible alternatives are.

IT in Canada: What led to the popularity of these file-sharing services?
Majzoub:
There are two major factors. One is the ability for companies to extend certain workloads in file sync-and-share to the cloud in an easy way to on-board users. In two minutes, the user can sign up for an account, activate it, create folders, uploading documents, dragging and dropping files from their C drive or file finder into directories and be on their way to sharing content. The second reason is the fact that these services are cheap, or in some cases free, with up to 10GB of storage space.

ITIC: Why are these services being marketed as enterprise-ready?
MM:
This is a very good point. We all know that marketers will often make statements that are not necessarily true. They are marketed as enterprise-ready because they are out to grab market share and trying to register the bigger players. But if you dig deep and look at the solutions available today, I don’t think any of them can truly be considered enterprise-ready for several reasons.

For something to be enterprise-ready, security is key. Many of these vendors have been breached, and users of these services have received emails advising them to reset their passwords. We all know that when you receive an email of this nature, it means your password, email and account information have been compromised.

As enterprises dig deeper into using these services, they find in some cases, they don’t own their data because these services are not true extensions of their enterprise solutions. For example, I am an employee of OpenText, and I can (register) through my Yahoo email account to create a Box, Dropbox or Google Drive account. I can drag gigabytes of information off my computer and (upload) it to one of these services. If in a year I leave OpenText, the owner of that account remains the user whose email address is linked to it. OpenText has no legal authority over my Yahoo email account, meaning that the content is no longer controlled by OpenText, and that creates a risk for the enterprise.

The third issue is data sovereignty. You have no control over where these services place their data centres. They will put their data centres where they can operate them in the cheapest way possible to continue to grab market share. If you’re a Canadian customer, you don’t want your data in China or (elsewhere). We all know that offering data sovereignty involves spending and investing millions of dollars into infrastructure and people to be able to create data zones and areas where you can offer much better data sovereignty solutions to your customers.

ITIC: What does OpenText offer as an alternative to these consumer-based services?
MM:
We have a product called OpenText Core that is enterprise-ready. It was organically grown in the engineering labs of our headquarters in Waterloo, Ont. It was developed on a modern platform from the ground up, has zero footprints to our data centre in costs so we can offer very competitive pricing. We offer data sovereignty and guarantee to our customers, provide data zones at the country and regional levels. We guarantee in writing that they will own their data, and we will wipe it clean from our servers at any time if they (notify) us that they no longer wish to use the service.

We wrap our services in governance and archival solutions, and we are leaders today in governance and compliance through our record management solution. Our work on this is ongoing, and we will offer it to our customers very quickly. We also wrap industry-specific services around our products so we can target certain verticals in the engineering documents, legal and healthcare spaces. I believe that is what’s needed, in addition to keeping the on-boarding (process) easy.

ITIC: Will more businesses discontinue their use of consumer-based file-sharing services in the future?
MM:
I think they will move to more reliable services, such as OpenText Core, where they could be given assurance and guarantees that their data will be protected. I think there are benefits in using file sync-and-share workloads, and here is an example.

If I am an enterprise, and I currently have seven companies that are contracted to do work for me in engineering, and I want to secure these shared documents with them that are sitting in a remote location, I don’t want to give them access to my network, VPN access, or an FTP account on my servers to upload and download files. File sync-and-share becomes a great extension to my enterprise operation. I can create a hierarchy of folders, upload all the documents I need to share with them.

With a single click, I can securely add their email addresses, and they now have an encrypted way of accessing this data. I can control all of the access, and with the flip of a switch, I can revoke that access. I make the interaction between my partners and myself easier, but at the same time, I keep my data protected.

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