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What Is EFSS?

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What Is Enterprise File Sync and Share?

Enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS), referred to as enterprise file sharing or enterprise file syncing and sharing, is a software system that enables users to store, access, transfer, and manage documents, images, videos, and other digital assets securely. A key feature of an EFSS system is that it makes it safe and easy to share and collaborate on files by providing broad interconnectivity. 

Similar to consumer file-sharing systems, EFSS systems provide those capabilities and more to support business use cases. EFSS systems are available for on-premises, cloud, or hybrid environments. Data stored in EFSS systems can be made available for internal and external access by employees and authorized third parties. Access is granted based on strictly enforced permissions.

EFSS systems are deployed and supported by IT departments and are meant to provide a centrally managed corporate alternative to consumer-centric file systems that lack control and visibility. With EFSS systems, IT can better provide the high levels of enterprise-grade security and accountability required to safeguard business assets and adhere to compliance requirements. Using an EFSS helps tamp down the use of publicly available cloud services that result in unsafe shadow IT, which puts organizations at a heightened risk of cyber attacks by compromising security. While it is a critical part of business operations, file sharing does come with risks. An EFSS system helps businesses reduce risks, including the following.

  • Accidental sharing of sensitive information
  • Data breaches
  • Identity theft
  • Malware threats
  • Potential hacking
  • Ransomware attacks

EFSS systems make it easy for users to securely share documents, photos, videos, and other data across multiple devices and people by using file synchronization, or copying, to store files in an approved data repository. From here, EFSS systems allow users to access the data remotely from any devices that the EFSS supports.

Generally, EFSS systems take the contents of an individual’s or group’s folders, store copies in a service provider’s cloud storage systems, and provide access to those copies to users or groups on other devices. This is the “share” part of EFSS systems. The EFSS solution also automatically distributes changes when they are made to file. When a change is made to a file on one device, a Word document, for example, the solution automatically distributes those changes. This is the “sync” part of EFSS systems.

With an EFSS system, the sync and share functionality commonly done using email and file attachments is simplified and streamlined. This not only relieves the strain on email systems and declutters email inboxes, but also takes a burden off of storage devices by eliminating duplicate copies of files and piles of older versions of the same file, which also cause workflow issues.

To address the critical requirements for security and privacy, EFSS systems use encryption to protect sensitive data, making it difficult for it to be accidentally or maliciously compromised. Many EFSS systems facilitate access management by offering easy integrations with identity management and access control platforms ((e.g., IBM Security Verify, JumpCloud, Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Okta Workforce Identity, OneLogin, Rippling, StrongDM, WSO2 Identity Server). This not only prevents data leaks but also enables businesses to provide users with strong or customized authentication capabilities as well as time-saving conveniences like single sign-on and federated identity management.

Why Use an EFSS Service?

Among the many reasons to use an EFSS service is that they generally offer helpful capabilities, such as:

  • Allowing users to share links to files and folders within and outside the organization to simplify collaboration
  • Ensuring that version conflicts are avoided, and users have access to the most recent version of files   
  • Integrating with existing user management and enterprise applications, making it easier for IT teams to  manage access and permissions to data
  • Protecting data with security tools, such as anti-virus, anti-malware, encryption, and data loss prevention 
  • Providing auditing and reporting related access and usage of files
  • Syncing files from corporate storage to user desktops and mobile devices so users can work wherever they are

Five commonly cited factors that influence organizations’ decisions to implement EFSS services are:

1. Ability for users to access content on their mobile devices   

2. Enterprise-wide collaboration

3. Secured file sharing 

4. Ease of access to shared files

5. Version controls for shared files

EFSS services enable organizations to develop processes and enforce protocols that ensure that files can be easily and seamlessly transferred across locations, allowing people to work on them together while maintaining document security. Another reason organizations use an EFSS service is that it has emerged as an essential collaboration tool that enables the sharing of documents across various devices, with the ability to synchronize changes across the platforms, devices, and channels used.

Features and Benefits of EFSS

The many features of EFSS systems provide a variety of benefits to organizations, including the following.  

Ability to set access time limits 
With an EFSS system, access to a file can be withdrawn after a set time limit. This can be set by the file creator or by an administrator as part of standard protocols.  

Audit trails  
To meet requirements for internal and third-party audits, EFSS systems create and store audit trails that provide complete, immutable records related to document access. Any changes to files are recorded along with details about who made the change and when it was done. 

Ease of Use
A driver of EFSS systems’ adoption is their simplicity. Users do not have to be tech-savvy to use an EFSS. Most EFSS systems include built-in file creation, previewing, and editing capabilities to support multiple use cases. In addition, it is very easy to access secure folders and files as well as add user permissions to those folders.  

Fast access to most recent files
The syncing functionality of EFSS ensures that master documents remain as master documents and includes the latest revisions. This makes it fast and easy to find the correct files. EFSS systems eliminate tedious searches through multiple versions in downloads.

High availability
Most EFSS systems are stored in a secured central repository, usually the cloud. When stored in the cloud, EFSS systems can provide the high availability service providers offer in these environments.  

Improved performance
EFSS systems are designed to manage file sharing at scale and to meet strict performance requirements. With an EFSS system, users across an organization, regardless of geographic location, are able to simultaneously store, access, and share large caches of documents quickly and easily. Despite the volume and velocity at which data is produced, and the growing number of employees, customers, and third parties who need it, an EFSS system makes it accessible without any degradation of performance or discernable latency. 

Integration with other business applications 
EFSS systems have APIs that facilitate integration with other applications, such as email, calendar, and productivity. These integrations expedite deployment and optimize workflows, which increases users’ adoption of the EFSS system and decreases the use of shadow IT.

Ability to add comments  
EFSS systems enhance collaboration with live commenting functionality available for teams when content is being created and edited.

Productivity gains
By making it fast and easy to find, share, and store files as well as automating many administrative functions, an EFSS system streamlines workflow, which results in improved efficiency and productivity gains.

Regulatory compliance and data governance
EFSS systems play an important role in regulatory compliance (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR, SOX, PCI-DSS) and data governance (e.g., file naming protocols, data retention periods). Not only do EFSS systems maintain audit records of all interactions with data, but they also allow administrators to implement and enforce rules and controls related to data storage and usage.

EFSS solutions use robust security systems to prevent unsecured and unauthorized sharing. Several of the many systems that be used with an EFSS solution to ensure data security and privacy include:

  • Access permissions
  • Authentication
  • Browser security (e.g., CSP, SCC)
  • Brute-force attack detection 
  • Containerization
  • Continuous monitoring of granular file movement 
  • Data loss protection
  • Disaster recovery
  • End-to-end encryption  
  • HTTPS connections  
  • Identity access management  
  • Localized control  
  • Multi-factor authentication 
  • Ransomware protection

Streamlining administrative processes
EFSS systems include functionality to help with everyday tasks, such as backup and recovery processes. In addition, most EFSS systems also include automation capabilities for functions such as scheduled file transfers.

Support for transferring large files
EFSS systems allow enterprise users to move and share extremely large files easily.  

Support for unique file extensions
EFSS systems accommodate a broad range of file types, including those with various file extensions. Among the many types of file extensions supported by EFSS systems are those used for:

  • Archiving and compression—e.g., ZIP, TAR
  • Audio files—e.g., MP3, AC3
  • Computer-aided design or CAD files—e.g., 3MF, RFA
  • Desktop publishing—e.g., INDD, AI
  • Documents—e.g., DOCX GDOC
  • Financial data transfer formats—e.g., IFX, QFX
  • Financial records—e.g., MYO, TAX
  • Font files—e.g., TTF, OTF
  • Geographic information systems or GIS files—e.g., GPX, GML
  • Graphic files—e.g., JPG, PNG
  • Physical recordable media archiving—e.g., ISO, IMG
  • Programming languages and scripts—e.g., CPP, PY
  • Tabulated data—e.g., CSV, TSV
  • Video files—e.g., AVI, 3GP
  • Web pages—e.g., HTML, ASP

Visibility into data access
An EFSS system provides visibility into file transfers. This is of particular value with confidential transfers of sensitive information. An EFSS system offers transparency, making it easy for administrators to see who accessed which documents.  

Workflow capabilities
Included in EFSS systems is functionality that allows users to set up workflow notifications. This feature alerts users, usually by email or text message, of tasks that need their attention. It can also be used to set permissions related to document usage, such as who can edit files, add comments to, or track file versions.

From EFSS to Content Collaboration

In 2016, Gartner eliminated EFSS as a Magic Quadrant category. EFSS was moved into the Content Collaboration category. It was followed in 2017 by enterprise content management (ECM). Despite the category consolidation, EFSS and ECM persist as solutions. 

However, EFSS has evolved to take on more of the capabilities associated with collaboration and content management. This has kept it a relevant tool as digital workplaces continue to grow and change. Today’s EFSS systems provide a blend of consumer-simple usability with military-grade data privacy. Continued efforts to streamline and simplify workflows in EFSS systems are key to EFSS adoption as users expect the same easy experiences they have with consumer apps. In addition, security is paramount. For content collaboration to be effective, the data must be protected from security breaches that can result in theft, exposure, or damage.

The range of services and functionality available with EFSS systems have kept them a relevant part of the content collaboration platform (CCP) market, which includes a variety of solutions and services that optimize the accessibility and use of content to increase productivity and facilitate collaboration. EFSS systems, like others in the CCP market, are designed for use by individuals and teams, inside or outside an organization. These content collaboration capabilities make EFSS systems a critical part of digital workflows by making it easy for businesses to provide more open access to enterprise content.

Considerations when Selecting an EFSS Solution

EFSS systems make sharing sensitive files and collaborating with colleagues, customers, and trading simple and allow IT departments to effectively control sensitive data–whether the EFSS deployment is on-premises or in the cloud. These powerful systems have evolved to become more than a file storage technology. EFSS products have become a vital collaboration tool that helps businesses keep users productive regardless of where they and their PCs, laptops, phones, and tablets are located.

With mobile workforces becoming a norm, EFSS systems provide the requisite solution for securely providing access to corporate data everywhere and always. With an EFSS system that is easy to use, IT can keep end users from putting corporate data in personal file-sharing accounts. This is a big step up for security, but is only possible with EFSS systems that are able to garner high adoption rates amongst end users. 

In addition to security and usability, the following are several other considerations when choosing an EFSS system.

  • Ability to integrate with existing business tools and processes 
  • Content management controls 
  • Cost of purchase and ownership
  • Document upload and download restrictions
  • Granular access control
  • Passcode protection
  • Real-time tracking and auditing
  • Remote device lock and wipe
  • Secure data backup
  • User productivity features

Taking time to evaluate EFSS options thoroughly is critical to a successful deployment. When IT admins match an EFSS solution with the specific technical and user requirements, adoption rates are high, the systems work well in the existing environment, and organizations can rest assured that security and privacy requirements are met.

Egnyte has experts ready to answer your questions. For more than a decade, Egnyte has helped more than 16,000 customers with millions of customers worldwide.

Last Updated: 14th July, 2023

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