Some Enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) vendors don’t do much to appease IT managers who are so nervous about putting Enterprise information in the cloud that they simply don’t do it. Never mind that their potential customers have good reason to do the opposite, given the high operating expenses and substandard user experiences that on premises solutions provide.

The cloud-only vendors figure that the advantages of SaaS solutions, time and the emergence of the mobile-first, cloud-first world will eventually appease the fears of would-be customers who have been spooked by the likes of NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden and the cold, hard proof that governments can (and do) tap into service provider data—triggering questions and conversations about data privacy, service provider trust, metadata, blind subpoenas, the NSA and the US Patriot Act.

Citrix isn’t one of those kinds of EFSS providers; instead, they take their reluctant customer concerns very seriously and work day and night to develop solutions that will make enterprise managers confident about storing, sharing and collaborating on files in the cloud.

Responding to Concerns

“We’re introducing the next generation of file storage,” said Jay Tomlin, principal product manager at Citrix.

To be successful, Citrix looked at issues that their current and would be customers surfaced during conversations and developed a list of five commandments to address their concerns.

5 Rules for EFSS Service Providers

1. No metadata
Having metadata—file and folder names—visible to the service provider is not ok. File names can convey sensitive information.

2. No user impersonation
Service providers must not be allowed to access files that belong to their customers. Enterprise single sign-on with SAML may be convenient for end users, but we mustn’t forget that SAML enables service providers to impersonate the users. That’s like having a one-way domain trust from your enterprise out to the cloud.

3. Data ownership requires key ownership
Encryption is almost meaningless when the service provider owns the keys and/or the servers that perform encryption. Encryption is a service that must be under full control of the customer.

4. User experience has to be consumer-grade
File encryption and data protection must not come at the expense of application compatibility or a seamless user experience. If users have to think about encryption keys, certificates or plug-ins across all their devices in order to unlock their files, they will find a way to use a friendlier, less secure service. 

5. Data sovereignty is mandatory
Service providers can no longer dictate where customer files are stored. To comply with local regulation and protect intellectual property, customers must have the option to keep their data inside their country or even their city.

To align with these commandments, Citrix had to take a good look at the products and services that it itself offers. Forget that Gartner already rates Citrix as an EFSS leader and one that is especially strong in keeping information safe. If they were going to talk the talk, they’d have to walk the walk and raise their own game.


Learning Opportunities

Today Citrix introduces Restricted StorageZones, an industry-first EFSS solution that puts data encryption “squarely in the hands of its customers,” said Tomlin. He explains that in a Restricted StorageZone files are accessible only to authenticated domain users within an enterprise.

That’s right, Citrix has no ability to impersonate users or access files.

Not only that, but it also offers metadata encryption key ownership so that file and folder names are encrypted with a customer’s private key before being written to the ShareFile cloud. The encryption is done via an on-premises StorageZone Controller server. Authenticated access to that server is required to unencrypt the metadata, meaning that Citrix employees are blind to the names of files and folders. So if the government or other third party wants to know about the file, the team at Citrix really doesn’t have a clue.

And if that’s not enough, Citrix ShareFile customers can opt for network access restrictions to prevent a Restricted StorageZone from being exposed to the Internet. So if a user wants to access, sync or share a document with an internal-only address, users must be on the company network.

Citrix customers can now also opt for governed sync and sharing. In this set-up, authorized employees can still enjoy the benefits offered by ShareFile including mobile access, web browser access and file sync across multiple device, but files in a Restricted StorageZone are prevented from being shared outside of an organization’s domain.

Will this be sufficient to appease reticent managers? Tomlin thinks so.

The Right Move

Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Terri McClure seems impressed with Citrix’s ShareFile Restricted StorageZone solution:

I’ve been watching this space for a number of years. A number of industries, especially finance, healthcare, government and European organizations, are under heavy regulatory pressure when it comes to data privacy, she said. “ Having unencrypted metadata in the cloud is unacceptable to these regulated industries. Next-generation Citrix ShareFile StorageZones – where files are stored in the customer’s preferred location and both files and metadata encrypted with customer-owned keys – will help CIOs make the case for a SaaS file sync and share offering. There are three or four SaaS file-sharing vendors who have been heading in this direction. Good for Citrix for getting out in front."

We second that.