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Finding security in a file sync and share solution

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Private and public entities need the ability to quickly and securely share knowledge among different stakeholders, so they are looking at new enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) solutions.

Leo A Daly, a Nebraska-based architectural engineering firm with more than 30 locations and 900 employees, needed a way to collaborate between offices and have backups that would be uniform among workers and offices. Performing those functions with the company’s legacy system was painful, according to Stephen Held, Daly VP and CIO. It involved dragging files from one server to another, a function that only worked if both servers had complete Internet connectivity.

Additionally, transferring large files—many were more than 20 MB—resulted in latency issues for anyone else using either server. Email also wasn’t an option for larger files due to size restrictions for attachments. Overnight mail was costly and meant delays in the ability to share files. So another solution was needed.

“The traditional price tag for backup solutions was pretty outrageous,” Held says. “We don’t have computer specialists in every office. We needed something that would enable us to reach out to our people and that would enable us to scale. We were growing as an organization, so we needed something that would allow us to bring projects into a common environment where you could see everyone else’s stuff, where you didn’t have to think about [backing up and saving it] every day. That way you could hop onto a project very quickly if you needed to.”

Backup and recovery capability and efficiency were other critical elements in selecting a solution, Held adds. So in January 2015, Daly executives started looking at a solution to those challenges, considering several vendors, including the one that had supplied the legacy system. Based on a variety of factors, the company chose Nasuni Enterprise File Services, a file sharing and backup/recovery solution.

“Nasuni has given us a better option for sharing files with our customers and partners,” Held explains. “We can securely share files without the complexities of managing separate systems that create copies of our corporate files and spawn new version histories and audit trails. And with the ability to deploy to an unlimited number of devices, we can scale how we share and access files without increasing our costs.”

Nasuni also offers global file locking and near real-time replication to other sites, according to Held.

About three months after selecting Nasuni, Daly migrated its first files. Once that proved to be successful, the company migrated directories, ERP files, individual files and then marketing. The company started migrating major project drives in June 2016.

“Now the information is coming across in a more dynamic way,” Held says. There is no more stopping work to move files. Files are automatically replicated every hour to protect against file losses in the event of a system crash.

“Everyone can access information now from a central location,” he adds. “The information is organized in such a way that you can see the full scope of a project in a directory.”

The ability to dynamically share information also has helped eliminate the mental barrier of local offices, with more of a focus on a worldwide, collaborative environment, according to Held. He sees the company continuing to expand its capabilities within Nasuni to include ever-larger files and mobile capabilities.

Collaboration with security

Texas A&M University, with several locations across the state, serves three distinct constituencies—researchers, students and faculty, each with its own file sync and share needs and restrictions. Each used a combination of methods to handle those needs, but few if any met the university’s own security requirements for certain files with restricted access.

“There were several issues with the way things were being done,” says Danny Miller, the university system’s chief information security officer. “A lot of people were using Dropbox but that was an uncontrolled means of getting information out. We had no visibility or control over the information.”

Miller adds, “We have a $1 billion research arm, thousands of students, administrators and faculty. They all did what they wanted to do. We needed to get our arms around a way to provide those services in a secure way so they would be able to collaborate. Researchers have to share information in order to collaborate.”

However, some information, like grant details, needed to be restricted only to authorized users. Other information was limited by government rules to use in the United States. Still other files had various requirements to be enforced. Consequently, in 2014, the university sent out an RFP, receiving 10 initial bids. The university eventually chose Syncplicity.

Syncplicity offers a secure cloud environment for users in the Texas A&M University System to store documents. It gives users the ability to sync any folder or desktop, include and exclude subfolders, and use native clients for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.

“There were a couple of initial hiccups, but it’s worked very well,” Miller says. “We’re avoiding risk because we’ve been able to get a number of people off [various file sharing systems].”

However, Miller admits that it’s a slow process to convince faculty and researchers to change the way they’ve been doing things. “Educators tend to be distrustful of internal security. We have to persuade them of the benefits of Syncplicity over their Dropbox accounts.”

He adds that Syncplicity’s geo-fencing capabilities enable the university to limit restricted files to in-country usage. As more faculty and researchers convert to Syncplicity, he expects more of their peers to convert as well. As those conversions grow, he anticipates negotiating with Syncplicity for additional storage space on the cloud-based system.

In addition to universities and private firms, expect more companies to continue to seek better file sync and share solutions.

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