One of the things the Coronavirus Covid-19 has brought sharply into focus is the topic of employee remote working. Whether this is to limit the spread of the virus or because employees are self isolating, many companies may find themselves in a position where a significant part of their workforce is working out of the office.
The aim of this post is to outline how the File Fabric software may help companies who wish to prepare or facilitate remote working.
Firstly some background on the File Fabric. The File Fabric is a secure multi-cloud content management data collaboration solution. It does not provide any storage rather it indexes and works with existing on-premise or on-cloud storage silos. It unites files in these disparate storage platforms to provide a single cohesive way for people to securely work and collaborate.
The File Fabric has a strong ethos and governance and compliance of the data that it indexes and makes available providing event based audit and configurable compliance policies.
There are three ways to use the File Fabric today:
1. For small businesses from our SaaS hosted platform. This version of the File Fabric does not have all of the features of the enterprise version.
2. Enterprise Version that is self hosted by a company and can be deployable on-premises or on-cloud.
3. For free using our self hosted personal version.
Let’s take a looks at some of the challenges and solutions that may be faced by remote workers and how the File Fabric solves them.
Securely access files Stored locally or on Windows Filers / SMB Shares from home
Many companies are in the situation where they may have Windows filers in their office and/or other forms of local storage such as NAS / SAN / SharePoint / Object Storage etc. Moving this data to the Cloud may not be an option particularly if it is sensitive data. If people are out of the office it can be difficult for them to be able to access these files.
The File Fabric works with Windows Filers, CIFS, NFS, SMB, NAS, SAN, SharePoint, and Object Storage (such as Amazon S3 and Azure) and it provides an easy way for employees to securely access files, using existing authentication mechanisms (Active Directory, LDAP or SAML) coupled with additional two-factor authentication (2FA) which means that once a user has authenticated with their domain credentials, for additional security, an OTP challenge can be set.
For many users they won’t even see a difference in their workflow (see below) even though they are not within the bounds of the corporate network.
Cloud ‘home’ drives and App Integrations keep user workflows similar to their office environment
Most user workflows are very ingrained. Email, Home Drive and relevant Apps. Productivity can drop when these workflow are remove, and worse than that, it is the very act of this modification of change of routine that can often result in security or compliance issues.
The File Fabric provides a home drive, just like the ones that employees are used to in the office except the files are stored remotely (on-cloud or in the office) and are downloaded on authenticated access with strict security and compliance policy enforcement.
Additionally the File Fabric integrates into best of breed applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Mac Mail, Microsoft Office / Libre Office, and other productivity applications such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and even enterprise applications such as SalesForce.
Users don’t need to change their workflows to work with the File Fabric, the File Fabric embeds itself into their existing productive corporate workflows.
Secure password protected File Sharing minimizes security risks and makes collaboration easier
Secure Link sharing, rather than adding files as attachments has many benefits both for the company and remote workers. Firstly, from a bandwidth viewpoint, it’s much ‘lighter’ and easier for remote employees to share files using links rather than large file attachments.
From a security viewpoint these links can be password protected, have download limits and time expiry polices set against them. Companies can also ensure that if remote data is shared then the sharer has to be specific about who the data is being shared with and why. This is a key tenet of legislation such as GDPR, CCPA and HIPAA.
Finally also such shared links are audited and logged, again for legislation purposes, to fulfil for example, Subject Access Requests.
PHI / PII Constant real-time checks protect existing and new data
Of particular concern is compliance legislation and obligations therein and also the vulnerability to breaches because of a disruption in company workflow which could lead to inadvertent sharing of a folder or bucket which contains sensitive information.
In the first instance the mechanism in which the File Fabric facilitates secure link based file / folder sharing should put a stop to any need to ever share Amazon or Azure buckets / containers directly, but additionally the File Fabric can be setup to constantly scan for the presence of sensitive information.
This works against existing data and with new data that employees may be uploading from home. If sensitive data is discovered in content then a data automation rule can be pre-configured to take an action, such as move the file/folder to a non shareable location and flag the issue to a pre-nominated person.
DLP helps protect Documents that should be visible to customers and partners but not downloadable
Working remotely can cause issues with sharing documents, particularly the types of documents that a users wished to share for viewing only ie. not downloadable. When face-to-face this is easy as you can just open a laptop and put in front of the other person but its not so easy when working from home
The File Fabric facilities this by providing the ability to define view only permissions in which documents can only be viewed from a web browser and in which the document is digitally watermarked with a trackable code that can be tracked and tied back to the sharer and the person shared with.
Compliance Policies and enforcement ensure that Remote working does not lead to a Compliance breach
We have heard a lot from CISO’s and Companies in general that one of the key capabilities that they require is to protect the sensitive data remote employees access, share and collaborate on while working remotely from the office.
Whereas confidential corporate information such as financial data, contracts, etc used to be locked to office infrastructure access, as more employees begin working from home more of this type of data is accessed and worked on remotely.
The File Fabric’s Policy enforcement engine is exposed to end user administrators to ensure that company policies and compliance legislative polices can be applied transparently across a companies on-premises and on-cloud file stores.
Less bandwidth on home broadband means large files become more of a problem – File Transfer Acceleration solves this
As we discussed earlier using shared links instead of file attachments can save a lot of bandwidth but also the File Fabric can be configured to use a feature called M-Stream, which stands for ‘Multiple Streams’ in which large files can be parcelled up, sent in parallel, and then put back together again. This can dramatically speed up file transfers of large files and it works from cloud-to-desktop and desktop-to-cloud.
Making it easier to share with Internal and External Users
Often Employees have a need to share a group of files with an external customer, partner etc. Making this easy to achieve not only helps with employee productivity it helps minimize security risks as employees are not tempted to find their own way to achieve sharing.
The File Fabric can enable the secure sharing of a password protected folder that users can be shared files ‘with’ or share files ‘to’. As with everything the File Fabric does, this can work with Amazon S3, Azure etc.
If users want to share with an internal users then this can easily be done using Shared Team Folders or using Permalinks to files.
Of course sometimes sharing or collaborating can be more discrete such as a comment on a file to a user.
Or it can be simple productivity gains of the File Fabric’s content search in which all file contents are indexed and searches performed that cross each of the data silos. This works across all clients and Apps.
Separately The File Fabric can also facilitate a virtual workspace, similar to a data room. This is especially useful if there are several parties that need to collaborate
Summary and Next Steps
This blog post steps through how remote workers can work with existing on-premises and on-cloud Company data without introducing any new data sources to facilitate remote working. Workflows can be kept similar to what they are in the office and access can be secure and use existing corporate authentication mechanisms whilst security and compliance polices are satisfied.
The File Fabric is an enterprise product so it encompasses a lot of features and has a lot of touch points. We did not cover things like Ransomware Protection, or encryption and you may wish to the follow the links to find out more.by