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How do consumer and enterprise sync and share differ?

Enterprise-grade file sync-and-share products offer more comprehensive features than consumer-grade file sharing applications.

Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive typify the free consumer offerings that enable users to share files between devices and other users. Consumer-level file sharing is very simple to use -- in fact, simplicity is a major adoption point. Consumer-level sync and share also offers attractive free models for gigabytes of data storage, a measure of data security and, perhaps, application integration like OneDrive for Microsoft Office.

However, consumer sync and share is not nearly as popular with IT. With the growth of BYOD, employees are as likely to use Dropbox for sensitive work files as they are for their home movies. IT's solution is to adopt enterprise sync and share, which offers the robust centralized control that is impossible with consumer-level.

Enterprise-level sync-and-share functionality falls into three broad areas:

1. Central IT control. Centralized management is a primary distinction between consumer- and enterprise-level sync-and-share products. Features include central management consoles, high-security settings, compliance tool sets, policies, data retention management, versioning, application integration and managed user access. Data protection features might be native to the sync-and-share product as well.

2. Security. Arguably, consumer-level products offer security for their millions of users; the difference is that enterprise sync and share can apply corporate security and governance policies to shared data processes. For example, enterprise sync and share uses existing network permissions such as Microsoft Active Directory for centralized access control.

3. Compliance. The lack of compliance is the single largest issue with consumer-grade products. Enterprise sync-and-share options include compliance policies to guard against unauthorized sharing and also include audit trails and activity logs.

However, IT cannot simply insist that corporate users stop using the Dropboxes of the world, especially on personal devices. If the interface on an enterprise-level product is hard to use, then unhappy users will go right back to using consumer-level products. Enterprise products are full-featured with layers of policies, administration, encryption and audits. The best enterprise file sync and share hides all this complexity under the covers, presenting a highly usable and simple interface.

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