Although documents and other user-generated files are ideally kept on a file server or in a cloud application such as SharePoint Online, users may occasionally have operational requirements that require them to store certain files locally on their laptop or other device. In these types of situations, it is important to give the users the tools necessary to do their jobs, but without compromising security or risking data loss in the process.
Enterprise-grade file sync and share software can be an ideal solution to this particular challenge. It allows a user to synchronize certain files from a network file server to their laptop or other device. If the user happens to modify a file, then those modifications can be automatically synced back to the network the next time that the user is connected. The nice thing about this approach is that a copy of the file remains on the organization’s file server, where it can be backed up.
As handy as file sync and share software can be, not all vendors' solutions are created equally. Some of the lower-end solutions, for example, may lack the features that an organization needs, or ould perhaps even put the organization’s security in jeopardy. As such, there are some key features that you should look for when shopping for file sync and share software.
One of the first things that you should check when shopping for file sync and share software is the software’s overall capacity. Some of the products on the market impose a limit on the total number of files that you can synchronize, or on the total volume of synchronized data. I have also seen products that place a cap on the maximum number of users whose data can be synchronized. Typically, these types of limitations come into play when a vendor offers a consumer- or SMB-oriented solution, but wants to push larger customers toward licensing a much more expensive version of their product.
When selecting file sync and share software, it is also important to pay attention to the level of performance that the software can deliver. Early on, there might only be a handful of users who need to synchronize files to their devices. Over time though, the demand is almost certain to increase. As such, it is important to make sure that whatever solution you select is able to keep pace with the demand.
Most file sync and share products aren’t really built for scalability, at least not in the traditional sense. Even so, there are some features that will make a file sync and share product more likely to be able to meet the demand. Some vendors, for example, offer data deduplication or other data reduction capabilities. Similarly, it is important for a solution to be able to perform parallel synchronization options. Otherwise, if a user chooses to synchronize a large file over a slow connection, it can hold up everyone else’s files until the large file has finished synchronizing.
Ideally, the synchronization process should work at the storage block level, or even at the bit level. You should avoid any solution that requires an entire file to be copied every time a user makes a change to it. Synchronization solutions that require a full file copy (after the initial synchronization has completed) tend to be much slower than those that only copy storage blocks or individual bits of data.
Of course, security is a huge priority when picking out file sync and share software. At a bare minimum, the synchronized data needs to be encrypted while it is in transit. Most of the better solutions will also perform device-level data encryption, storing the synchronized data in an encrypted data vault on the user’s device.
Another important security feature to look for is a way to manage end user permissions. The reason for this is that many of the file sync and share products that are on the market give users the ability to share files with people outside of the organization. While there can sometimes be a legitimate business need for this type of external data sharing, an administrator needs to be able to disable data sharing for sensitive data.
Finally, a good file sync and share product should include auditing, reporting and alerting capabilities. The bottom line is that there needs to be an audit trail for all IT activities, and a file sync and share application should not create a blind spot in the organization’s auditing capabilities. Ideally, a file sync and share solution should create an immutable security log, and it should be able to generate activity summary reports, while also alerting administrators to suspicious activity.