How to Make a Business Case for Secure EFSS

When properly implemented and managed, secure enterprise file sync-and-share (EFSS) applications can improve project management and empower your workforce. Unfortunately, making the business case for secure EFSS isn’t always easy – especially when users and management aren’t aware of the risks existing applications pose.

Don’t get discouraged, though! The arguments in favor of change are strong. If you’re pushing your organization to eliminate public cloud use from the workplace, the following blueprint can help you set up a convincing business case.

1.   Recruit advocates

Numbers make a difference. The more advocates you can win over, the more likely management (or even the C-Suite) will consider your case.

Start with IT. Few of your colleagues will understand the problems, security-related and otherwise, related to users sharing files in the public cloud better than IT. Your IT department may already be dealing with file movement issues  without support from management. If so, their receptiveness to your message is all but guaranteed.

But what if you are IT? Taking your case to senior-level employees – the people management knows and trusts – is a viable first step. The closer you can get to a decision maker’s inner circle, the better.

2.   Draft a comprehensive plan

To present management with a convincing business case, you need to present them with a well prepared plan. Just rattling off a few reasons why Dropbox is jeopardizing information security is unlikely to cut it. You need to address business objectives, and those usually involve money.

The plan you create should cover all of the following:

  • The challenge your organization faces: End users, seeing the real efficiency-enabling benefits of cloud sharing applications, are engaging in EFSS activities that place sensitive data in the public cloud. When data resides on these unauthorized servers, IT can’t track it. It may also be vulnerable to theft and could lead to a failed compliance audit.
  • Issues exacerbating the challenge: From the lack of clear data management policies to the absence of adequate EFSS software, a variety of things are probably contributing to the problem. Don’t discount the fact that applications using the public cloud may very well be helping users get their work done. The UI may just be simpler and more practical than what your organization offers.
  • Costs of the challenge: Audit failure, loss of intellectual property, theft of customer data… the potential costs of compromised data security can be extremely high and harm the organization in significant ways. Cite real-life examples of people and organizations who have suffered the consequences of keeping sensitive data in the public cloud.
  • The solution: There might be multiple paths forward, depending on the extent of the problem and the forces exacerbating it. Firmer policies on EFSS activity may need to be established and mobile devices secured. If the organization lacks an EFSS solution with adequate security features, consider Novell Filr. With Filr, users get a Dropbox-like interface and collaboration tools; the difference is that the files they sync-and-share reside on servers you control.
  • Ways to measure success: Assuming you can sway management to your side, they’ll want to know how to measure progress. From IT control over file activity to user adoption rates, there are various ways to determine whether your push for more secure EFSS was successful. With tools like Novell File Reporter, IT can get a birds-eye-view of file storage activity, so they’ll know for certain whether users are keeping files where they’re supposed to or moving them to an unauthorized location.

3.   Establish an indisputable business justification

This isn’t so much an additional step as a point you need to emphasize in your plan. The costs of letting employees share data in the public cloud are simply too high for management to look the other way, and you’ll need to provide evidence that this is the case.

An example from your very own workplace can go a long way. Have you had to caution a colleague about sharing sensitive data with Dropbox? Has someone ever lost track of a file in the public cloud with IT completely unable to track it? While you probably don’t want to name names and rat out a well-intentioned colleague who made an honest mistake, anecdotes like these can help management understand the consequences of letting insecure EFSS activities continue.

If you can’t provide a story from your own workplace, you can always relate stories from someone else’s. The examples are numerous.

Be sure your justification emphasizes projected ROI from a new solution or new file management plan. Pitting the long-term costs of a data theft scenario against the mostly short-term costs of a new EFSS solution can be a good way to affirm the investment potential of rethinking the status quo. With Filr, your organization can probably get by without any investments in new hardware at all!

4.   Deliver the package to management.

With your coterie of security-advocating colleagues, a comprehensive plan, and an indisputable business justification that emphasizes ROI, it’s time to present your case to decision makers.

Assuming your plan covers all of the items discussed in Step Two, it should be difficult for management to reject it. With the rampant use of insecure file transfer activities in the enterprise workplace, the justification for secure EFSS solutions is stronger than ever.

Management might not be merely supportive – it might even be enthusiastic.

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