Mobilizing SharePoint

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — August 08, 2013

SharePoint, a document management system used by millions, was initially designed for the hardwired, Intranet days. That’s when content was shared among tightly controlled, password-protected desktops and bandwidth wasn’t (usually) an issue on the network.

Built for that generation, Microsoft’s collaboration software did not inherently have the extensions needed for a mobile world — where huge Powerpoint files can slow down a tablet, and corporate data can easily leak into the wrong hands.

Because of the rapid adoption of tablets, end-users — the employees —are expecting just as fast solutions to their problems — in this case, how to access data needed for their jobs. And if that means via SharePoint, enterprises have to figure it all out.

In an interview with Mobile Enterprise, Tyler Lessard, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Fixmo, explains that users want easy access to corporate documents and the ability to work with them offline and have changes synchronized.

Burden on IT
Fixmo’s solution, SharePlace, allows users to edit documents on their mobile device, which are automatically synced up to the server, and vice versa. Alternatively, users can download documents, edit securely within a sandbox and manually upload back. This would be in cases where folders simply cannot be synchronized due to company policy.

And that’s where IT often bears the burden. How much corporate data is accessible? Are they even aware of what’s being shared?

“Most organizations actually have no visibility into who sends what to whom on BYOD devices,” said Rohit Khanna, EVP, SEEBURGER, a provider of managed file solutions. Many employees, using their own or corporate devices, often share content via YouSendIt and Dropbox. In addition, a data leak can stem from someone with intent (a disgruntled employee for example,) or someone without intent (sending company files by mistake.) In all cases, it’s a problem.

Get Compliant
Although its solutions can be used across verticals, Fixmo primarily serves government and regulated industries where compliance is not an option, and is thought about every day. “In other industries, when it comes to mobile devices in particular, there usually isn’t any additional vetting for those organizations.  They have to ensure they have the right policies in place as more content is being shared,” Lessard said.

However, no matter which industry it’s in, organizations should think like a regulated one, when it comes to sharing information. Simply opening SharePoint and allowing access to everything and everyone, is like starting a bonfire and walking away.

“Allowing employees to access SharePoint on a mobile device absolutely increases the level of responsibility as an organization,” Lessard noted. As a new vector for data to leak out, it poses a greater risk factor at the end of the day.

Share It, Securely
When a solution is in place, only authorized users are allowed to access SharePoint on mobile devices, and only to documents the corporation has determined meet compliance.

Identifying data that has a specific security or compliance risk is the challenge for enterprises. Trying to track every single document is time consuming and practically impossible. Organizing types by subsets, however, is much more suitable to the task of determining which files are okay to share.

In Fixmo’s case, the solution also keeps the corporate files within a container, whether it’s a PDF, a Word or Excel file, or even an image, so they are not going to be copied over to the personal side of an employee’s device. Should there be security concerns over particular information, the work side can be wiped without impacting the personal.

More BYOD
Whatever the enterprise’s stance on BYOD, if it’s considered a headache or a bonanza boost in productivity, the security issues remain, especially when it relates to file sharing.  When will companies pay more attention?

“The trigger often comes from a mobile incident, or compliance,” said Khanna.  An employee accidentally sending proprietary information causes not only an embarrassment, but a competitive disadvantage. An employee sending out healthcare data will cause the company to be in the red for huge fines due to HIPAA regulations. “Every CEO dreads this today.”

Many Ways About It
As the need to access corporate data on mobile devices grows, solution providers are responding. Next week, for example, Accellion will announce its new features which will enhance secure mobile access to SharePoint content.

"We're seeing great demand for easy-to-use solutions that connect workers with their content, anywhere, at any time, on any device,” said Colman Murphy, Director of Product Marketing, Accellion, by email. “SharePoint is part of the core content infrastructure of many of our customers; the global shift towards a more mobile workforce is driving huge demand for solutions that extend worker productivity into that mobile space, while maximizing usage of existing infrastructure and systems like SharePoint."

And finally, as the “trend” to mobilize becomes commonplace, other ways of authenticating will also be incorporated into solutions. These alternative modes will prove "you are who you say you are," instead of alpha-numeric codes, which anyone can figure out, sometimes by just looking over one’s shoulder. Alternative methods include freeform gestures, eyeball recognition and fingerprint scanning.

“If you think about this whole mobile world, it becomes a bigger and bigger issue,” said Lessard, referring to the issues surrounding corporate data, and how to minimize, if not eliminate the risks. “It’s not just a mobile problem. It’s a general challenge.”

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