Cloud File Sharing vs. the Corporate Shared Drive: Why Should We Care?

Mindy Rathe
September 28, 2012

Cloud file sharing is becoming more pervasive, so how does it differ with using a corporate shared drive? Is this just a slight upgrade over VPN or something else and why should we care?

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the difference between Cloud File Sharing and a Shared Drive is through an example. In this case, John is courting a new client and wishes to customize the standard sales presentation to meet the prospect's specific requirements.

John accesses the marketing folder on the shared drive by VPN, opens and modifies the presentation. John also goes to the finance folder to download the latest financials, which have not yet been approved by the finance department - the customer wants to see this data, and John is happy to oblige. Despite the fact that the presentation has been created as "read only," John accidentally saves the presentation to the shared drive, overwriting the original. John must now communicate with the marketing department (with his tail between his legs) that he has overwritten the original file, and that they now have to find the original and repost it.

In this case, John accesses the marketing cloud file share (which he has permission to view), and begins to modify the presentation. He looks on the finance cloud file share, and downloads the latest financial overview, which is the only one that he is authorized to see. When he goes to save the presentation, the "read only" setting forbids him from saving the file to the marketing file cloud share, so he saves it to his personal hard drive instead. John successfully updates the presentation without overwriting or having unauthorized access to anything.

Organizations have successfully used shared drives to share access to content about as long as Windows Explorer and VPN have been around. With a cloud file share, corporate policies are more easily set for a given set of documents, enabling them to be more easily enforced. VPN just provides access and, while shared drives have an ability to limit access, this is often forgotten and not set - leading to horror stories of entire folders with thousands of files being deleted in one keystroke, with IT having to back it up from tape. Cloud file sharing provides a key element in providing a consistent means to track document usage within an organization, enabling simplified compliance and reduced information distribution risk.

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