There's no shortage of vendors or service providers claiming to be the Dropbox of the enterprise. Box, IntraLinks, Proofpoint, SkyDox, WatchDox and many others are vying for a piece of the pie. Even VMware is getting into the game. Now EMC is throwing its hat in the ring with a twist: an end-to-end, on-premise storage solution for online file sharing.
Built on technology from EMC's acquisition of Syncplicity last May and its EMC Isilon scale-out NAS, the idea is to provide a secure, easy-to-use solution for file sync and sharing across devices, but on highly scalable, on-premise infrastructure that gives IT control over where managed files reside.
"Consumer-grade applications have been great for the user, but have created a nightmare for IT from a risk and liability standpoint," says Jeetu Patel, vice president and general manager of the Syncplicity business unit of EMC's Information Intelligence Group.
"Integrating Syncplicity with EMC Isilon on-premise storage extends our guiding principle of delighting the user with an easy-to-use cloud solution for file sync, sharing and collaboration while empowering IT with tools and control to protect the business," he adds.
Users Love Dropbox, But It's a Nightmare for IT
Users love file-sharing services like Dropbox. In the enterprise, Dropbox has become one of the most common forms of rogue IT because users desire to access their files where and how they want and on whichever device they want—including tablets and smartphones. EMC notes that enterprise users typically store 20 to 30 GBs of file data on their computers and devices. And users aren't just turning to these devices because they want to work from their iPads: often they need a solution to share files larger than email can handle or to work with clients and contractors that sit outside the corporate firewall and can't easily be added to a SharePoint group.
If IT does not provide the tools necessary to allow them to do their work (or even if IT provides clunky, difficult-to-use tools) many users are prepared to go around them with services like Dropbox.
For IT and the organizations it represents, this trend presents a host of difficulties--some of them obvious, like security, data loss prevention and compliance issues--and some of them perhaps less so, like version control. With more than 10,000 laws in the U.S. alone that specify retention of different kinds of records, an inability to track documents, access them, put holds on them and expire them could present an enormous risk to the enterprise.
EMC Says Syncplicity Provides Flexibility and Control
And that's where EMC sees opportunity with its on-premise solution. It wants to provide enterprises with the best of both worlds: a cloud-based online file-sharing solution that simplifies end user deployment and administration with on-premise storage that gives IT control of the storage layer.
In some ways, Patel says, EMC's solution is even more easy to use than the consumer-grade alternatives. For instance, if you use Dropbox, the only files that you can sync to online are the ones located in your Dropbox folder. Syncplicity allows you to share any file or folder on your computer simply by right-clicking on it.
"With Syncplicity, a key benefit and value is there is no extra step," he says. "You can take any folder in your files and right-click on it to make it Syncplicity-enabled, no extra step required. It is as easy for you to share information in Syncplicity as it is to share photos in Facebook. On average, we have anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000 files managed per user."
For IT, Syncplicity is focusing on reporting capabilities, especially the ability to track active use, perform auditing and chargeback.
"We have our first reporting tool that should be coming out shortly in the next few weeks," Patel says. "You can import reports into your own reporting tool or Excel or what have you. We will continue to add more and more reports as time goes on. We have a very rich set of data that is being captured."
Additionally, with the EMC solution, data objects stored on premise remain on premise and within IT control. Files are not duplicated in the cloud, so they remain subject to IT security governance and protection policies.
"The one-two punch of EMC Isilon and Syncplicity applies industry-leading scalability to next-generation file management, giving IT unprecedented ability to serve user needs for file access, sharing and collaboration," says Sam Grocott, vice president of product management and product marketing for EMC Isilon.