Here Comes SkyDrive

By Julie Knudson | Sep 19, 2012 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/windows/here-comes-skydrive.html

With Windows 8 comes built-in SkyDrive, a cloud storage and synchronization platform that likely has consumers cheering and enterprises cringing. The ramifications for IT managers could be significant -- employees will now have the opportunity to store and access corporate data without respect to location. The only thing is, many of them could do that before. Dropbox and other similar services have already infiltrated many a corporate infrastructure, so does SkyDrive really change the game?

The issue of off-site cloud-based storage isn't new, but discovering the level to which these services are within the enterprise (often installed behind IT's back) has been an eye opener according to Marc Maiffret, CTO at BeyondTrust in Carlsbad, Calif. "A lot of people in IT don't realize they actually have a lot of this in their environment," he said. After offering a free version of the company's vulnerability management product on their website, Maiffret said he heard from a number of enterprises that were surprised by the amount of unauthorized cloud storage going on in what they had assumed was a clean, locked-down environment.

Amongst the various flavors of cloud storage available, one thing many administrators have found lacking is the level of control necessary to allow these services to exist within the network while still adhering to company policies on data protection. "They have become a security nightmare, because employees are using them broadly and they aren't or can't be certified as compliant with corporate policy," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif. SkyDrive, which looks to have enterprise-friendly IT controls in place, might be ready to change all that.

One thing that Microsoft is likely to have a handle on is providing administrators with robust group policy options. Maiffret said he knows that enterprise-level controls are planned for Windows 8, and those will probably extend through to SkyDrive's functionality, including "the option to control what SkyDrive can and can't do, or disabling it altogether." The concern, though, is that IT doesn't always know how to use these controls correctly, potentially opening the enterprise up to end user activities that they thought were limited or downright prohibited.

Precisely how these controls will be implemented and what their management features will include won't be known until the full version has been released. But given the information available today, some predictions about how network administrators will implement SkyDrive can already be made. "By the time Windows 8 launches, I expect Microsoft will have made more IT managers comfortable with this offering," Enderle said. Even so, some will undoubtedly block the feature entirely. Enderle said he expects at least a portion of enterprises to allow SkyDrive to launch, albeit under tight policies, while others will instead provide alternatives because "users don't deal well with 'no.'"

The cloud storage space is full of competitors, some attractive on the enterprise side and others not so much. "Based strictly on market share, Dropbox is the biggest competitor to SkyDrive," said Mike Snyder, principal at Sonoma Partners in Chicago. However, based on many of the needs corporate IT departments have identified as important -- integration with Active Directory login to eliminate the need for multiple passwords and employer-controlled security configurations and access rights across all user accounts among them -- Dropbox's offering may not appeal to administrators.

"Another competitor, Box, does offer more enterprise-focused features, such as Active Directory integration, admin access to user files and activity reporting," Snyder said. The company recently enhanced its tracking and reporting functionalities, and has also said it is introducing new partnerships to provide more security for team collaborations that happen outside the firewall. The feature set and corporate-focused direction may be catching the attention of IT managers: Box's enterprise revenue growth tripled from 2010 to 2011, indicating increased traction in precisely the space SkyDrive wants to inhabit.

Ahmet Tuncay, vice president of product management at Campbell, Calif.-based Soonr Inc., said the trick is balancing security, access and ease of use. "If you want a lot of control, you're going to make somebody unhappy who wants to be very agile," he said. Like Box, Soonr is rolling out new features geared toward enterprise customers, including IT controls, integration with Active Directory and advanced reporting capabilities.

In a research report released by Aberdeen Group (which is available through a Dropbox , 77 percent of best-in-class companies reported enforcing security policies for collaborative tools, and those enforcing risk management and compliance standards for collaboration was lower at only 59 percent. Those are the businesses that are on top of the IT game -- companies classified as "average" were at least 20 points lower in both categories. So while robust controls and policies may be among the features enterprises say they need, whether or not they actually use them (and how their availability affects real-world platform adoption or endorsement) may be another story.

Precisely how these controls will be implemented and what their management features will include won't be known until the full version has been released. But given the information available today, some predictions about how network administrators will implement SkyDrive can already be made. "By the time Windows 8 launches, I expect Microsoft will have made more IT managers comfortable with this offering," Enderle said. Even so, some will undoubtedly block the feature entirely. Enderle said he expects at least a portion of enterprises to allow SkyDrive to launch, albeit under tight policies, while others will instead provide alternatives because "users don't deal well with 'no.'"

The cloud storage space is full of competitors, some attractive on the enterprise side and others not so much. "Based strictly on market share, Dropbox is the biggest competitor to SkyDrive," said Mike Snyder, principal at Sonoma Partners in Chicago. However, based on many of the needs corporate IT departments have identified as important -- integration with Active Directory login to eliminate the need for multiple passwords and employer-controlled security configurations and access rights across all user accounts among them -- Dropbox's offering may not appeal to administrators.

"Another competitor, Box, does offer more enterprise-focused features, such as Active Directory integration, admin access to user files and activity reporting," Snyder said. The company recently enhanced its tracking and reporting functionalities, and has also said it is introducing new partnerships to provide more security for team collaborations that happen outside the firewall. The feature set and corporate-focused direction may be catching the attention of IT managers: Box's enterprise revenue growth tripled from 2010 to 2011, indicating increased traction in precisely the space SkyDrive wants to inhabit.

Ahmet Tuncay, vice president of product management at Campbell, Calif.-based Soonr Inc., said the trick is balancing security, access and ease of use. "If you want a lot of control, you're going to make somebody unhappy who wants to be very agile," he said. Like Box, Soonr is rolling out new features geared toward enterprise customers, including IT controls, integration with Active Directory and advanced reporting capabilities.

In a research report released by Aberdeen Group (which is available through a Dropbox , 77 percent of best-in-class companies reported enforcing security policies for collaborative tools, and those enforcing risk management and compliance standards for collaboration was lower at only 59 percent. Those are the businesses that are on top of the IT game -- companies classified as "average" were at least 20 points lower in both categories. So while robust controls and policies may be among the features enterprises say they need, whether or not they actually use them (and how their availability affects real-world platform adoption or endorsement) may be another story.