To sync or not to sync?

why-sync-files

 

There’s a lot of anger and hate in the world these days. It’s amazing the vitriol that Microsoft is suffering about their OneDrive for Business sync tool and how it does(n’t) work for people. So many IT providers are yelling at Microsoft, threatening to take their customers to Google because the sync tool isn’t up to it yet.

I do wonder what on earth these people shouting at Microsoft are thinking? They need to take a deep breath, sit down, have a cup of tea and relax because why the hell would they want to set up a sync tool for their customers?

Let’s think this one through a bit. Sync capability through the likes of Dropbox has been awesome for the consumer market. I sign up to Dropbox and my personal files are synced across any device I like. This could include my work laptop. These are the questions I would ask in that scenario.

 

QUESTION #1:


Should a work laptop have my personal files on it? What’s to stop some rogue virus hitting my home computer and then syncing to my work laptop and then the entire network?

Let’s now think about a typical scenario for business. Let’s say I’m a smallish business with 10 staff and 100,000 files stored in Office 365. Would you really demand that your IT provider works out a sync solution for you? I know Microsoft say you can, but do you really want it, really?

 

QUESTION #2:


You have all your business files stored in one place, a single source of the truth for these files - do you really want a copy stored on each employees’ computer, their tablet and their smart phone? Maybe also on their home computers too?

When you think this one through that’s up to 4 extra copies of each document for each employee and now you’ve got 4,000,000 files to manage rather than 100,000. Of course this is exaggerated to make a point. But say 4 people sync the files to 2 devices each that’s still an 8-fold increase in files to manage.

 

QUESTION #3:


How do you govern multiple copies of files in different locations and ensure that everyone is working with the latest updates?

 

QUESTION #4:


How do you secure all your files on all these devices?

Traditional computing isn’t outdated just because the cloud came along. In fact, the concepts of cloud computing were around before the local server and workstation that we all used in the past. One of the fundamentals of file management was having one copy of each file that everyone could access over the network. This meant always accessing and using the only version of the file available.

We always recommend not syncing your business files to devices because:

  1. How do you know which is the latest version of a file? Someone may have updated it on their device but been offline so an update sync didn’t happen.
  2. You won’t be able to collaborate on the same file with someone else.
  3. If some leaves the business and they have your files on their device they can walk out the door with everything because you created a policy allowing them to do so.
  4. If every device has a copy of your files you’ve magnified the opportunity for someone else to steal that information and for your staff to lose it.

 

QUESTION #5:


Are these risks really outweighed by the convenience factor of having files synced just in case the internet goes down or you’re offline? How often is the internet actually down or can you not get access even if tethering you phone?

To me the IT companies out there either recommending that businesses set up cloud based file systems that rely on sync or their customers who are demanding it are not thinking things through properly. Microsoft’s sync tool not working properly isn’t the issue, the advice being provided is.

What do you think about syncing? Have you had issues with it in the past? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!


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