The strategic value of enterprise file sharing

Posted by Achmad Chadran on Mar 27, 2015 2:30:00 PM

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Enterprise file-sharing services have taken off in the past few years, and for good reason. Smartphones and tablets give us new freedom to work whenever and wherever we want, so our ability to access and share our unstructured data—documents, spreadsheets, graphics, and multimedia files—is more important than ever before. Email is fine up to a point but really clunky for sharing multiple revisions, and sending large attachments can quickly swamp company servers.

At the same time, attacks on sensitive data just keep getting bolder. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear breaking news about yet another major data breach. These dangers make FTP-based file-sharing sites and consumer-grade file-sharing services far too risky for company use. Business-grade file-sharing services, on the other hand, are engineered to higher control and security standards, providing all the convenience without all the risk.

Especially valuable for SMBs

SMBs run the gamut, but as a rule, they all need to do more with less. With their smaller budgets, SMBs are especially prone to employees using consumer products without permission.  Analyst firm ESG recently found that 70 percent of organizations either know or suspect that their employees have exposed company data through personal apps or other means.

The value of enterprise file sharing to SMBs is clear: They simplify collaboration without compromising security. These services enable even the leanest organizations to:

  • Simplify collaboration on documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and other files
  • Set up corporate “file servers in the cloud” to allow secure access to contracts, forms, and other resources virtually anytime, anywhere, and on any connected device
  • Leverage smartphones, tablet computers, and employee-owned devices for productivity and quality
  • Set and enforce file-sharing policies, based on approved users, devices, or content

MSPs: Ideal file-sharing service providers

For IT solution providers, the rise of file sync and share spells opportunity. Why? Because solution providers serve businesses who are both IT-savvy and budget-conscious.

In fact, numerous MSP owners have told me they rolled out file sharing not as part of any business imperative but because their customers requested it. They all appreciate afterward how file-sharing services boost their margins and strengthen customer loyalty. In a nutshell, enterprise file sharing is a “sticky” service that tends to cement the MSP-client relationship. Once companies start using a file-sharing service, moving them off it usually takes a lot of work.

This said, solution providers still play a vital role as a trusted advisor. Your insights on your clients’ specific needs and IT environments make your file-sharing expertise extremely valuable. Both you and your clients win when adoption is fast and effortless.

That’s why it’s often worthwhile to conduct a formal onboarding session with users. Give them ideas on the different ways they can use the service. Use situations they can relate to and tasks they actually face in a typical workday. If you can spur a handful of power users to share everything on the new platform, you might just see viral growth in new user requests.

Another plus: bundling file-sharing services with other service offerings is easy. Depending on your business model, you can offer file sharing as a default service across service tiers or include it in your vertically-tailored packages.

Success is in the details

A last word to the wise: Choose your service carefully. File-sharing stickiness is fantastic if your plan makes you money but lousy if it doesn’t. Given the maturity of the platforms available to you, it’s probably best to avoid building your own platform (an experience one MSP owner described to me recently as “a monster.”) Remember: Complexity is your enemy.

Make sure you choose an enterprise file-sharing service you can ride into the sunset. Read the fine print on the product support you’ll get, the way your product scales, and the features you know will matter to your clients. Test before you buy. The right file sync and share service will enhance your brand. The wrong one will diminish it.

Photo Credit: Matthew Hurst on Flickr.com. Used under CC by 2.0 license.

Topics: Professional Services

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