Fie sharing is making inroads into the enterprise content management (ECM) market as business users look for easier ways to shunt content around the enterprise. But recent research shows even the file sharing market is evolving with many users now looking for hybrid cloud/on-premises solutions, as opposed to the pure cloud-based approach.
In effect, many online file sharing (OFS) users are now looking for ways to store at least some of their data on-premises as an alternative to storing that data in third-party data centers, reversing the current trend to move everything to the cloud.
File Sharing Developments
The findings are contained in new research by ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group) and Workshare, entitled The Demand for Hybrid Online File Sharing Solutions. It is based on responses from 334 IT professionals in North American companies that range in size from small businesses (under 100 employees) to enterprises with more than 1,000 employees. The objective was to find their views on file sharing and collaboration and determine their preference for deployment models.
Globally, the findings show that many businesses have been investing in OFS as vendors have been developing the functionality to meet business goals by layering new features on top of the existing offerings, as well as offering them different deployment models.
With many of these solutions now entirely cloud-based with both enterprise data and administrative panels stored in a third-party center, many enterprises are opting for public cloud deployment models.
There are a number of advantages to the public cloud route. Public clouds enable users to share the cost of data storage and infrastructure management with other businesses on the cloud, while ESG found that some of them offer unlimited storage to business users.
However, even if public clouds are bit cheaper, they also take some of the control around the data out of the hands of the data owners, with the service provider deciding how the data will be protected and how it will be secured.
In the light of this, when asked about it, more than two thirds of respondents said they would be open to storing all their data on-premises. An interesting figure emerged here, too, which reflects the continued anxiety many enterprises have about releasing control of their data.
According to the research, of those businesses that have no file sharing applications, or have no current plans to introduce file sharing, more than half said that they would be interested if they were offering the option of storing all their data on-premises.
Needless to say, when asked why they preferred to keep their data on-premises, more than half said they wanted to have flexibly and control over where their data was stored, while 38 percent of them said they were in a position to protect their data than third-party services.
In this respect, they pointed out that in the event of an outage or security breach, customers would not be able to access their data until the outage or security breach had been rectified. Given the number of breaches that have occurred over the past year, this is not an unreasonable concern.
For large enterprises there is also the additional fact that many of them have invested heavily in data storage in recent years, and it would make economic sense to keep that data in-house, even if the price of data storage in public clouds is cheap and getting cheaper.
A final concern, and one which we saw earlier in the week in regard to email, is that many enterprises are concerned about give third-parties access to their data, even if that access is only to administrators monitoring the data centers.
If the cloud provider has both the data and the keys to the data, as many cloud-based OFS providers do, they must turn data over to law enforcement agency in the event of a subpoena.
The result is three convincing arguments for offering enterprises the possibility of keeping at least some of their data on-premises: control, security, and regulatory compliance
However, ESG and Workshare went further and looked at the kind of data that enterprises did not want stored in the cloud. A wide range of data fell under the umbrella from regulated data to intellectual property to customer data and more. What is noticeable is that more than 90 percent of cloud-based users had at least one data set that they did not want out in the cloud.
Online File Sharing Choices
This leaves enterprises with two options. They can either abandon OFS or find a new model that fits their purpose. Whatever the drawbacks of OFS, the advantages are too great for many users to abandon.
ESG found that as OFS develops and vendors add more and more business features, the single cloud-based approach is not going to cut it for many enterprises and new means of sharing will have to be developed.
For IT departments, the features and functionality are just about irrelevant until decision has been made about the deployment model, given that the kind of application that is deployed will have to meet the security and compliance requirements of the enterprise before it can even be considered.
ESG also found that interest in new kinds of model is particularly high among those who are currently subscribing to cloud services, with many of them indicating that they would be interested a solution that offered them the possibility of keeping at least some of their content on –premises.
The research shows that many that have experience with OFS are not completely happy with it, largely because of the security concerns around the cloud.
While vendors have strengthened capabilities in the areas of security, administration, control, and reporting many of their customers are unaware that there are hybrid option for file share that can enable existing on-premises storage infrastructure investments to be used in hybrid deployments.
Ultimately, file sharing is about enterprise collaboration and the best ways of sharing information sickly and quickly. While cloud computing offers the speed, many enterprises, as we seen on numerous occasions are not convinced about security.
Hybrid deployments are bridging that confidence gap and helping enterprise transition to full-blown enterprise cloud computing. File sharing is just one application where the hybrid model can work well.
Title image by alexskopje (Shutterstock).