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When Intranets and SharePoint Aren’t Mobile-Ready, Users Fall Back on Email

July 9, 2014 - 11:00am
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Enterprises have invested heavily in SharePoint and intranets, but in too many organizations these services are not ready to support mobile users. As a result, mobile workers are falling back on email for sharing and transferring files.

That’s one of the revelations found in a recent survey of U.S. workers by theCOMMSapp, a New York-based technology company. The survey found that SharePoint and intranets remain inaccessible to many mobile workers:

“82% of those with corporate Intranets said they either have never tried to access this channel via their mobile device or have a difficult time doing so. Similarly, with regard to social collaboration networks, 78% of those who have such networks have either never tried to access them or have a difficult time doing so via the mobile device.”

The same survey found that 96% of employees had mobile devices, 58% had purchased mobile devices themselves, and of those, 66% used them for work. Across industries, workers are increasingly mobile: only about half still spend 75% or more of their time at their desks.

If these mobile workers are not connecting to intranets or social collaboration networks for data, how are they getting the files and other information they need for their everyday work? Mostly through email. The survey found that employees prefer email as a way of learning company news, but employees are receiving so much email, important messages are being overlooked.

Overlooking a message with important files is just one of the risks of relying on email. Relying on email for file-sharing poses other risks, as well, including security risks. Email undermines the access controls configured in SharePoint and other ECMs to limit access to data to authorized users. And accidents happen: employees sometimes accidentally forward emails with confidential data to unauthorized users. IT administrators and compliance officers often have difficulty tracking the distribution of files through email, especially when users working remotely use personal email accounts such as Gmail.

Email is likely to remain an important communication channel for businesses—and that’s fine. But enterprises need to extend their intranets, SharePoint, and other Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems to be more readily available to their increasingly mobile workforce, while at the same time improving the efficiency and security of file sharing and collaboration with external users.

At Accellion we're helping enterprise organizations extend their investments in SharePoint, intranets and other ECM systems to embrace mobile users.  Our mobile file sharing solution, called kiteworks, enables mobile workers to securely access and share files directly from SharePoint and other ECMs on their preferred mobile device. Think of it as a universal secure connection to enterprise content, from any mobile device.  

So if you want to avoid having users reverting back to email for sharing files, there is an easy way to extend SharePoint and intranets to your mobile users - and it's called kiteworks.  

Tags:  BYOD, Enterprise Content, Mobile Productivity

Survey Finds BYOD Devices Cluttered with Mobile Apps

July 3, 2014 - 9:32am
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How many mobile apps are installed on BYOD devices? The answer varies from employee to employee, but broadly speaking, the answer seems to be, “lots.”

IBM company Fiberlink recently surveyed mobile workers and tallied the mobiles apps installed on their devices. As reported on Dark Reading, the survey found:

  • 17% of employees have 9 or fewer apps on their devices
  • 18% have between 10 and 24 apps
  • 35% have between 25 and 49 apps
  • 25% have between 50 and 99 apps
  • 5% have 100 or more apps

Most mobile phones and tablets come with about 10 apps by default. These include an email app, a maps app, and a calendar app. Many enterprises provide their employees with additional apps, such as apps for special business functions and services, like a CRM app. Other enterprise apps might address IT security, such an app for VPN. Of apps provisioned by enterprises, 38% have been customized in-house by IT, and the rest are publically available apps that IT departments have tested and endorsed.

It’s safe to assume that those 30% of employees carrying 50 or more apps on their devices have some, if not dozens, of consumer apps that were not tested and provisioned by the IT department. These apps might include public-cloud file sharing services like Dropbox that operate outside the control of the IT department. The apps might also include games and social media apps that most likely were purchased impulsively and not evaluated for safety or stability.

These untested, unsanctioned apps pose potentially serious risks to the enterprise. Some apps may be infected with malware, which grew 167% last year. Others might be used in intentionally or accidentally to share confidential data with unauthorized users.

What’s the lesson here for enterprise IT departments and security teams?

Enterprises should adopt security models that assume that employees will install multiple unknown and untested apps on their devices. To protect business data, on-device BYOD solutions should include secure containers for data and apps, so that business data is always shielded from potential malware threats and unauthorized access. Enterprises should be able to remotely wipe the apps and data in a secure container, should a device be lost or stolen, or if an employee leaves the company.

In addition, enterprises should ensure that mobile workers can perform all their work-related tasks with apps that have been officially provisioned by the enterprise. These tasks include file sharing, ad hoc communications such as messaging, and other everyday forms of collaboration. Employees might be tempted to rely on consumer apps for these services, but consumer apps cannot be trusted to keep business data safe. By creating a “white list” app store of tested and trusted apps, enterprises can reduce the chances of employees turning to risky apps for everyday work.

By assuming that BYOD devices will mix business with pleasure, enterprise IT organizations can design and deploy mobile solutions that keep business data safe, no matter how many apps—or dozens of apps—employees have installed.

Tags:  BYOD, Consumer Products, Data Security and Compliance

Managing Exponential Data Growth with Mobile Technology

July 2, 2014 - 4:27pm
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Electronic data is growing at a furious rate and has quickly become unmanageable for many. Unfortunately, the data isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The 2014 IDG Enterprise Big Data study found that the amount of data being managed per organization will increase by an average of 76% in the coming 12 to 18 months from 164.2TB to 289TB. The top sources contributing to this growth are emails, customer databases, and Word documents.

Not only is the sheer volume of data a challenge to manage, but also the reality that there’s too much data in too many places, making it at times impossible for employees to find the information they need. It’s this wild goose chase across scattered and cluttered data stores that can have serious business repercussions.

AVL, a developer of powertrain systems for the automotive industry, was experiencing all of the above. Not only was the company’s total stored data doubling every two to three years, but where the data was stored was multiplying in tandem, with AVL’s global development teams using multiple storage and content management systems. Not only did AVL’s 6,650 internal users need a more efficient way to get their hands on critical product information, but they also needed a secure and quick manner to share simulation videos, software updates, and time-sensitive documentation with 3,000 external collaborators and 5,000 clients.

How did they do it? With Accellion’s secure mobile content containerization, employees began rapidly using the mobile app to collaborate with internal and external partners, improving their productivity with the ability to work, wherever. Only a few weeks after AVL rolled out Accellion to all its employees, it had become integral to their daily mobile activities. The company also integrated Accellion with all of its existing Microsoft solutions including SharePoint and Outlook, so that there was no direct impact to its employees established workflows. 

Click here to read AVL’s full story, and learn more about how they've jump started mobile collaboration across their entire workforce.

Tags:  Collaboration, Enterprise Content, Mobile Productivity

Accenture Study Finds Enterprises Struggling to Meet Their Goals with Mobile Computing

June 26, 2014 - 12:54pm
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A new Accenture study of 1,500 IT leaders finds enterprises are committed to mobile strategies, but less than half have achieved break-even ROI and many are struggling to achieve their mobile-computing goals.

According to the study, enterprises recognize the strategic importance of mobile computing, even when compared to other major IT initiatives such as Big Data and cloud computing:

  • 77% of respondents consider mobility to be one of their top five priorities for the coming year
  • 43% of respondents consider mobility to be one of their top two priorities for the coming year

But despite valuing mobile computing and investing heavily in new mobile technologies, most enterprises are struggling to achieve their mobile-computing goals. Accenture reports:

‘Most companies have not made substantial progress toward the mobility priorities that are important to their business—on average only slightly more than four in 10 companies have made at least good progress across these priorities. Looking more closely at our results, we found no more than 18 percent of respondents that described their progress as extensive on any one priority. Consistent with this is the fact that less than half of respondents (46 percent) described their overall adoption and deployment of mobile technologies as effective.’

Enterprises are setting bold goals for mobile computing and failing to meet them. Why?

Some of the problems are management-related, such not assigning ownership of new mobile projects to specific project teams and not establishing criteria for evaluating mobile initiatives. About two-thirds of companies had trouble rolling out new mobile technology, while many had difficulty developing and deploying new mobile apps that met employees’ expectations. Enterprises also had difficulty integrating new mobile technologies with existing workflows and infrastructure.

But the picture is not entirely gloomy:  Some companies are finding success with their mobile initiatives. Companies that are successful with their mobile strategies tend to be financially successful companies, though not necessarily big companies. Success can be found in any market and in companies of any size.

Enterprises that succeed with mobile strategies tend to do the following:

  • Take an “ambitious, strategic, and cross-company approach” to mobility.
  • Involve senior management in mobility initiatives.
  • Apply superior methodologies for developing and deploying mobile apps.

Compared to other enterprises, mobility leaders tend to:

  • Consider the full range of digital technologies available.
  • Look for ways to apply those technologies to create entirely new digital businesses rather than enhancements to existing businesses.
  • Have formal, company-wide strategies, rather than piecemeal strategies for individual business units or functions.
  • Focus on creating an enterprise app store which can be easily accessed and employ robust methodologies for developing, testing, distributing, and updating apps.

Clearly, it’s important for companies to focus wholeheartedly on mobile, rather than bolting it onto existing strategies and solutions. For more thoughts on supporting mobile users across the enterprise, see our earlier blog post on designing solutions for end users’ “mobile moments.”

Tags:  BYOD, Mobile Productivity

The Snowden Effect: Why International Companies Are Wary of U.S. Public Clouds

June 20, 2014 - 9:17am
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Following a steady drumbeat of news stories about the NSA’s widespread surveillance of consumers, companies, and even foreign heads of state, companies based outside the U.S. are increasingly wary of trusting their data to cloud services managed by U.S. firms.

A story in IT World reports that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the agency’s data collection activities has “prompted a slew of requests from European customers to have data cordoned off from U.S. infrastructure.” German companies are leading the movement, with Swiss companies close behind.

Germany has a strong tradition of protecting the privacy of its citizens: the German federal state of Hesse passed the first data privacy law of the computer age back in 1971. Not surprisingly, then, Germans have been rattled by disclosures that the NSA routinely sweeps up email data from U.S. public-cloud vendors and has tapped the cell phone of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel.

To preserve the privacy of their data, German, Swiss, and other European companies are now asking that their service providers “cordon off” their data from US infrastructure. Some companies are trying to avoid infrastructure based in Canada, the U.K., and other nations known to have cooperated closely with the U.S. on its intelligence-gathering.

It’s difficult, however, for public-cloud service providers, especially those based in the U.S., to avoid infrastructure in U.S. territories. John Dickson, a principal with The Denim Group, told IT World: “That kind of thing is an anathema to the cloud.” He points out that hosting firms need to maintain centralized control of their assets and customers’ data. For U.S. firms, that centralized control will almost certainly involve U.S. infrastructure.

To provide E.U.-based alternatives to U.S. public-cloud vendors, companies based in the E.U. are launching new cloud services. New start-ups specializing in local cloud services may appear as well.

Of course, international companies have another option for protecting the privacy of their data: avoid public clouds altogether. By running services on their own private clouds, they can minimize the risk of intelligence agencies sweeping up data in violation of local privacy laws, and they can know for certain exactly where their data is residing, and how has control over it.

Learn more about Accellion’s private cloud file sharing solutions here.

Tags:  Data Security and Compliance, Private Cloud File Sharing

New Study Highlights the Risks of Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC)

June 18, 2014 - 1:05pm
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A new study by the Ponemon Institute, The Insider Threat of Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC), analyzes the risks of enterprise employees using cloud services without the permission or oversight of the IT department—a practice that the study’s author calls “Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC).”

The study findings highlight the risks of insiders’ accidentally or intentionally disclosing confidential data through unmonitored public clouds. Here are just some of the findings, which are based on responses from 400 IT and/or security practitioners:

  • 62 percent of respondents reported they knew of employees using their own private accounts for public-cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Docs, and Evernote in the workplace yet only 26 percent of respondents said this practice was permitted.
  • 55 percent of respondents say the risks posed by BYOC are increasing, and that BYOC affects data security risks overall. What are these risks? According to the study, they include “the loss or theft of intellectual property, compliance violations and regulatory actions and loss of control over end user actions”
  • 85 percent of respondents say BYOC makes it harder to manage access governance and privileged access to sensitive and confidential data

The scariest finding is probably this one: “Most respondents say they are not confident or have no confidence that they could stop or prevent data loss in the BYOC environment. The primary reason could be attributed to the lack of BYOC security measures and difficulty in addressing the insider threat to data in the cloud.”

Since most enterprises do not officially support BYOC and since most IT workers recognize that BYOC is risky, why is BYOC allowed to be so prevalent?

According to the survey, employees using BYOC services are more productive. This makes sense, as popular services like Dropbox, Evernote and other file sharing services do address the productivity needs of today’s mobile-first workforce. However, they do so in a risky, unmonitored, and decentralized way that leaves IT and security teams on the sidelines.

To benefit from the productivity of a BYOC-style workforce without incurring the risks of unmonitored cloud usage, enterprise IT teams should step forward and offer their own solutions for file sync and sharing, group editing, and other common collaboration tasks. By offering a secure alternative to BYOC, enterprises can keep data safe while offering employees solutions for increasing productivity.

Tags:  Consumer Products, Data Security and Compliance, Private Cloud File Sharing

Consumer Solutions are Revolutionizing Enterprise Computing

June 12, 2014 - 10:32am
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Are consumer solutions revolutionizing the way that enterprise software is created? Quentin Hardy of The New York Times says yes, and points to the increasingly short time period between product updates on newer solutions like Workday, as compared to product updates from traditional enterprise vendors like Oracle that can take years to be released. Today’s fast updates allow software vendors to pivot quickly with market trends, and quickly integrate features that customers are requesting.

I agree with Hardy; consumer solutions are dramatically affecting the way enterprise software solutions are created and where I’m seeing this influence the most is in the user experience and design of enterprise solutions. Professionals use consumer apps in their personal life, and they are demanding the same ease-of-use and intuitive designs be implemented for their enterprise apps and solutions.

In today’s mobile world, we need tools that are designed mobile-first, so that users have one simple interface to learn, whether they’re accessing the solution on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. However, some companies are moving towards this too slowly for users, and thus their enterprise software deployments are getting left by the wayside, by employees that find it too cumbersome or complicated.

My opinion is that many companies just aren’t willing to invest the time to re-create their solutions for the mobile world we now find ourselves living in. To create a beautiful, simple mobile-first experience takes much more than just bolting a PC-based solution and workflow onto a mobile device. The two form factors are fundamentally different from a user experience perspective.  Not only do they not operate the same way, there are also inherent differences in how someone performs various functions on a PC versus a mobile device. Just as an example, you have no overlapping windows on a tablet or a smart phone and you don’t have a mouse.  Creating a software solution for the desktop/laptop first, and then scaling it down for mobile devices is just not the right approach.

At Accellion we approached designing for our latest solution, kiteworks, from a tablet-first perspective. Why a tablet?  We believe it is the optimum form factor for employees in today’s mobile era and it is also a more restrictive platform.  Once we’d created a beautiful experience for the tablet form factor, we scaled the functionality down for smartphones and up for desktop/laptops. We now have the same user-experience across all devices, which greatly simplifies the learning curve for users, and ensures that employees can access information or content in the same manner, no matter what device they have close to hand.

I believe that enterprise software vendors need to take a page from consumer solutions, and create solutions that are easy-to-use, and fun to use. The easiest way to get started down this path is to design your solution for mobile first, and then expand the same interface onto other platforms - companies that don’t will be left behind by their customers.

Tags:  Consumer Products, UX

Are Cloud Services Taking on a Life of Their Own?

June 10, 2014 - 4:26pm
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A new report from SkyHigh Networks – a company that tracks the use of cloud services for corporate customers – found that cloud services are growing exponentially within enterprises. The findings in the report were based on traffic generated in the cloud by more than 8.3 million users in organizations spanning multiple industries. The research showed that services seem to be multiplying by the minute, deployed faster than IT can even say, “Help!”

Check out these numbers:

  • On average, organizations use 759 cloud services – a 33 percent increase since last quarter.
  • On average, 24 different file sharing services are being used and 91 different collaboration services.

Managing such an overwhelming quantity of services could only be done by a superhero in disguise. And since most IT administrators aren’t donning capes, they are finding themselves outnumbered by the seemingly unstoppable growth of cloud services. Does it sound ominous? It should, particularly when SkyHigh did additional digging – looking at encryption, retention policies and past security compromises – and discovered that of the 3,571 cloud services in use only 7 percent were “enterprise-ready.”

So, not only are there way too many cloud services available for employees to use on a whim, but the vast majority are not secure. It’s time for enterprises to take inventory of what services are available, and be selective about which ones are being used to share or collaborate on sensitive business information. No company should have 91 collaboration solutions running, or 24 file sharing solutions. Having this many competing solutions running in an organization decreases productivity, as employees try to learn how to use different solutions, and it dramatically increases the risk of data leakage through an unsecure, public-cloud solution.

Take back control of your IT environment by deploying a standardized set of cloud services for file sharing  and collaboration that are designed for enterprise use, with robust security capabilities. Learn more about why Accellion is one of the 7 percent of cloud vendors considered “enterprise-ready” here

Tags:  Consumer Products, Data Security and Compliance, Private Cloud File Sharing

What Consumers Risk When They Put All Their Data in a Public Cloud

June 5, 2014 - 10:40am
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Are consumers better off putting everything in the cloud?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asked that question and presented answers by two industry pundits:  Frank Gillett of Forrester Research and Triona Guidry of Guidry Consulting, Inc.

Before considering their answers, it’s worth noting that consumers unquestionably are trusting more of their data to cloud services. Every day, millions of consumers trust Dropbox with files ranging from family photos to financial spreadsheets to confidential customer records. Consumers also trust their confidential files to Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Zoho, and other public cloud services.

Should consumers trust cloud services?

Yes, says Frank Gillett of Forrester Research. He points out that without cloud services, our mobile devices become far less useful. We need access to our data for those “mobile moments” where we’re going to make a decision or take action on the go. As for security, he maintains that cloud services do a much better job addressing data security and service availability than average consumers can do on their own. He also believes that, in light of recent news stories about data breaches and subpoenas from government agencies, cloud service providers now feel compelled to demonstrate that they are committed to safeguarding consumer data. Consumers, therefore, should trust the cloud and take advantage of the convenience of anywhere, anytime data access. Consumers who refrain from adopting cloud services have more or less confined themselves to the PC era with its limited, immobile access to data and services.

Triona Guidry counters that when consumers use cloud services, they trade security and reliability for convenience. She points out that security breaches have become so common that risks of identity theft now seem ubiquitous. Data assumed to be confidential might not be, since cloud service providers mine consumers’ data for advertising purposes. Also, cloud service providers are not as trustworthy as they are often portrayed to be. She cites a survey that predicts that 25% of the top Internet service vendors will be out of business by 2015. So much for business continuity.

Guidry recommends that consumers set up their own local services that they can closely monitor and control. While non-technical consumers are not likely to follow this advice, small businesses and larger businesses certainly can, and should.

Private cloud services offer the convenience of file sync and sharing lauded by Gillett, while avoiding the risks of security breaches, service outages, and business failures cited by Guidry. Business data, particularly confidential business data, has no place in a public cloud whose vendor claims rights of re-use and publication (as Google does for Google Drive) or who has failed to protect customers from spamming or accounts going half a business day with password protection turned off (as Dropbox has).

Consumers using cloud services should choose prudently, avoiding risks and realizing the benefits of convenient access and improved productivity. Businesses on the other hand, who have IT experts available to them, should move towards private cloud services that enable users to enter the mobile-first era, knowing that their data will be both available and secure.

Tags:  Consumer Products, Data Security and Compliance, Private Cloud File Sharing

Good News: Enterprises Take Mobile Security Risks to Heart

June 4, 2014 - 12:21pm
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According to Good Technology’s “Q1 2014 Good Mobility Index Report”, more companies than ever are taking steps to mitigate security risks by leveraging secure mobile apps. The report found that secure enterprise app activations among its customer base grew 57 percent from Q4 2013, which is great news.

That’s not all. Good Technology also found that companies are prioritizing providing VPN-less access to employees via secure browsing apps – wanting to enable easy access to enterprise data while maintaining the highest level of data security. In addition, apps such as mobile printing, notes and unified communications grew more than 100 percent quarter over quarter, supplementing organizations’ mobile computing strategies.

We, as a Good Technology partner, are doing our part too to help IT address the proliferation of mobile devices without sacrificing security. The kiteworks Mobile App for Good allows users to:

  • Securely share enterprise content while content policies, and access controls are transparently managed and applied without impeding end-user productivity
  • Enable secure content sharing with Good for Enterprise email integration
  • Enforce app level policies. If an app or device policy is violated, or if there is a need to revoke app level access, the app, its container, and all of its contents can be selectively wiped, while keeping other device data intact
  • Prevent users from cutting and pasting content to unapproved consumer apps;
  • Separate work and personal data via the secure mobile container

Providing secure mobile apps to end users is crucial, as it enables employees to work how and where they prefer, without exposing sensitive organizational data to the risk of leaks or breaches. The use of mobile apps and devices for business purposes will continue to grow, and companies that don’t take steps now to secure their sensitive information on all devices will be subjecting their company to unnecessary risk.

Tags:  Data Security and Compliance, Mobile Productivity

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