Research that has found that one in five employees uses Dropbox for work files, highlighting the need for more robust controls that take the security risks out of collaboration. To add to the worry, the study – with insights from more than 1,000 corporate IT users – also reveals that when IT has a policy against using file sharing at work, half of employees use these services nonetheless; and corporate leaders are the worst culprits. VPs and directors are most likely to use Dropbox despite the risks.

The findings, from enterprise storage provider Nasuni, corroborate and support my company’s own industry research on cloud sync services. The study, conducted with IT professionals earlier this year, found that:

  • 80% of companies do not allow their employees to use the cloud services they want due to security fears; however, 36% of respondents reported that they are regularly using cloud-based file synchronisation services
  • 70% of companies would use these services if they were as robust as internal tools
  • 20% of companies have no measures in place at all to prevent their staff from accessing file synchronisation tools, leaving their employees free to take sensitive data outside the company with them
  • Only 9% of those have created authorisation and review processes for the data residing in the cloud
  • Only 30% report that senior management knows where organisational data reside
  • 78% of those surveyed would prefer to use their existing permissions and storage rather than the cloud.

With Bring Your Own Services (BYOS) threatening to sweep past all company defenses and carry away the company data, the reaction seems two-fold: while the majority of companies block file sync services completely, the rest leave their employees free reign.

I wasn’t surprised to see the results of Nasuni’s research. I know from my own experience that as workers are increasingly required to divide their time between working on the move, at home and in the office, companies and employees alike yearn for the convenience of file sync services. There continues to be an increasing amount of industry research that’s proving employees are circumventing IT controls, breaching the defences of a corporation and introducing a host of new vulnerabilities.

The challenge for us all as solution providers is to deliver services that maintain the robust security controls while empowering staff to do their work wherever, whenever and from whichever device they need. Here are some tips for secure collaboration:

  • Create an inventory of your most used collaboration platforms to get an overview where data lives, who has access to it, and who is using it
  • Identify data owners for each data set and have owners perform a preliminary entitlement review to see if data is stored in the right place and if the right people have access to it
  • Remediate any exposures, such as data that is accessible to too many people or regulated/sensitive content that is stored in the wrong place
  • Monitor access to all data – this will help easily identity data owners and identify unused data and abuse
  • Put a process into place that provides secure collaboration for remote employees – including synchronisation, mobile device support and extranet functionality – that works within the existing enterprise servers and infrastructure.