BYOD and Cloud Storage: How Dropbox Has Changed the Game

Dropbox and other consumer-facing cloud storage services are fast becoming a focus for enterprise IT. Find out why you should be concerned about your network security.

June 12, 2012

5 Min Read
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It's been said that cloud storage and online collaboration are exploding, driven by the influx of multiple employee-owned mobile devices and the impacts of the consumerization of IT. In the age of bring your own device (BYOD), how can organizations shield corporate data from consumer-facing storage services?

Of course, organizations could issue corporate policies forbidding employees from using popular services. IBM has banned Dropbox and other file-sharing and storage apps because of security vulnerabilities. Whether that proves to be the right way to go remains to be seen.

In any event, the popularity of Dropbox and similar services simply highlights the rising demand for a simple, accessible, user-friendly storage and collaboration product that enterprises and their users will embrace.

"Over the past few months, we've been seeing a lot of demand for what's been coined an 'enterprise Dropbox' application from enterprise customers," says Rani Osnat, VP of marketing at CTERA Networks. "File sharing is nothing new … what people realize, though, is there is an easier way to do so, and Dropbox has showed them the way and now they want this."

Corporate IT was caught unprepared, he says--Dropbox is an external service that the IT department has no control over.

"Part of the problem is how any [corporate] data leaves your device, whether it's a laptop or mobile device, because they don't have client-side encryption," says Osnat. "It's encrypted when it gets to the cloud, but once it leaves your device, it's open. That's perfectly acceptable for family holiday photos but not for enterprise data."

Another area of concern with services such as Dropbox, he adds, is that the encryption keys for the data stored in the cloud are held by the service provider and not by the user. That, too, doesn't sit well with enterprise IT.

CTERA Networks offers an enterprise cloud storage enablement product that allows organizations to access mobile devices for storage, backup, and file sharing. "We built these capabilities based on specific customer demands and requirements, and not on hope that they will come," says Osnat.

Next: Are Cloud Storage Services Insecure?While some might point to the risks of BYOD and consumer-facing cloud storage services as a sign that cloud computing is inherently insecure, Mark Tauschek, lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, disagrees.

"Certain types of cloud storage would be seen as insecure alternatives to on-premise or hybrid. Services like Dropbox are problematic because there's really no control over the files and data that ends up there," he says. "Other enterprise-targeted cloud storage solutions are more manageable. There are also solutions coming out from mobile device management vendors where there are secure content lockers. They don't go as far as enterprise content management, but you can control the data."

Tauschek agreed with Osnat that the BYOD-cloud storage predicament is fast-becoming a focus for enterprise IT.

"This has happened so quickly. This phenomenon, if you will, started to trickle in with the introduction of the iPhone 3G--so, in less than four years," he said. "It's really taken off in the last 12 to 18 months and has become a major issue, and it's a challenge that's being met by a lot of different types of solutions."

Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, says security and policies are generally the focus of questions surrounding BYOD. But storage is a concern, as well, she adds, because as soon as you start using multiple, consumer-grade devices to access data, what's the most efficient and cost-effective way to get to that data?

"I think that's really one of the drivers behind the online file-sharing and collaboration market. Users aren't necessarily waiting for IT to solve the problem," she says. "If I have multiple devices, how so I share the same data across them? In the olden days, we'd email it to ourselves and sometimes we still do, but that's not efficient, so people are solving it themselves by signing up for personal Dropbox accounts."

Does that make Dropbox and its success the envy of other cloud storage vendors?

"That's a loaded question. Dropbox is probably by far the most adopted solution out there because it's a free, consumer solution that's very easy to get up and running on," says McClure. "I'm sure everyone envies their install base and ease of use. However, once you get into enterprise usage and you look at administration, security, application integration and all the things enterprise IT looks for, Dropbox isn't focused on those administration functionalities."

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, adds Tauschek. So services like Google Drive, which emulates Dropbox in a lot of ways, are indicative of the success of Dropbox in the cloud storage space.

"In terms of document management, access rights for personal devices and maintaining segmentation between corporate and personal data on devices, storage vendors have come a long way in a very short period of time," he says. "There are compelling solutions available [for enterprise IT]."

Meanwhile, Dropbox introduced Dropbox for Teams last year and appears to be making small, visible moves toward enterprise IT. McClure thinks it would be a tall order for the vendor to find success in the enterprise, however.

"This is my conjecture: They've got a massive consumer installed base. Even though they got $250 million in funding last fall, they've got a lot of development work to do in order to keep up with that base," she says. "It's really tough to juggle addressing the entire business market while simultaneously not abandoning their bread-and-butter market. It wouldn't surprise me to see them make strides to try to capture some of the business users and strengthen their enterprise usage side, but it'll be a tough road to travel."

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