Countering the Dropbox.com Security MenaceBy Michael Vizard | Print
Open source technologies such as ownCloud present the channel with a unique opportunity to simultaneously address security and productivity issues
To say that IT managers and chief security officers are a little paranoid about anything to do with Dropbox.com these days is more than just an understatement; it also highlights a fundamental IT inability to service a specific end user need.
Based on the millions of people using Dropbox on a regular basis, it’s pretty clear that IT organizations were not prepared for the need to share documents among users that more often than not don’t have a common computing platform in common. As a result, many of them decided to take matters into their own hands by leveraging the file sharing services of service such as Dropbox in the cloud.
IT professionals often scoff at Dropbox because in their mind FTP servers or virtual private networks (VPNs) were designed to handle this task. But given the fact that FTP servers and VPNs are cumbersome to set up and difficult for the average person to use it is little wonder that people embraced Dropbox with or without the permission of their companies.
Now, of course, a host of cloud computing services have emerged as more secure alternatives to Dropbox, all of which come with some sort of fee attached once you exceed a certain amount of storage space. Even with the availability those services, DropBox usage continues to climb if for no other reason than market momentum.
But one alternative running under the radar of all this controversy has been a set of open source technologies called ownCloud, which allows end user to share and synchronize files without having to drop them into any specific location. Users of ownCloud can simply share files residing on local systems and servers anywhere. Now ownCloud, Inc. has been formed to provide commercial support for the open source project, and one of the first actions of the management team has been to create a channel program that provides not only technical support, but also access to co-marketing programs.
IT organizations are more than a little anxious about the security implications of Dropbox. At the same time, they don’t like to make sweeping unpopular security edicts that limit end user productivity. The ownCloud approach to file sharing creates an inexpensive way to securely share files, which means the IT organization gets to stay in compliance with regulatory mandates while still meeting end user demands for flexibility.
All that has to happen next is for an enterprising solution provider that is savvy enough about ownCloud to show up and guide the customers through the installation process. ownCloud is already well proven technology with an installed base of 400,000 users. Most of the users, however, are accessing Linux servers, so the next big opportunity, says Holger Dyroff, ownCloud vice president of sales and marketing, would be to deploy ownCloud on Windows servers.
What all this means is that there is a significant base of customers out there that are fairly anxious to hear about a way to address an issue that is casting the internal IT organization not only in a bad light with end users, but also starting to raise some uncomfortable security issues with the board of directors.
Solution providers, of course, have been caught between the often conflicting demands for greater security and increased productivity for years. It’s a rare moment when solution providers get stand in front of their customers with a technology that for once simultaneously addresses both issues.