The Anywhere Home Drive

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A VPN is an essential component of IT security, whether you’re just starting a business or are already up and running. Most business interactions and transactions happen online and VPN

I thought I’d put pen to paper to discuss a topic that was raised during the most recent UK Citrix User Group meeting. Discussions in the afternoon session were focused around user data, mobility and possibly the end of the user home drive as we know it. There has been lots of talk about how insecure DropBox is and the desire for businesses to implement an on premise solution. Obviously there are other commercial and open source services/products in market today that were not covered, e.g. Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive etc.

Ultimately we had AppSense, Citrix and RES in the same room demonstrating their respective products; DataNow, ShareFile and HyperDrive.

The ways in which these products are implemented varies significantly and they’re seemingly targeted at different markets or are trying to solve slightly different problems (some of which I’m not convinced really exist). For example, AppSense take a data aggregation perspective whereas RES are outwardly targeting DropBox with their current release.

From a UEM perspective there is obviously the desire for both AppSense and RES that the users’ personalisation is moved to a solution that also enables ubiquitous access within their respective UEM solutions. Synchronisation of favourites and signatures etc. regardless of device would be a massive boon for corporate users. Microsoft are doing some of this with Windows 8 today via SkyDrive.

My feeling is that regardless of what solution is implemented the vendors need to make using their product easier to use than “free” consumer products. I’m sure the majority of corporate users will happily utilise an alternative solution if it’s as easy or easier to use then their existing tool of choice. Key to this process is ensuring that a user does not have to move their data to a new solution and that their existing workflows continue to work. How many linked spread sheets are entrenched within businesses today?

Out of the solutions demonstrated the other week AppSense appear to have a head start. DataNow will currently (only) make a user’s existing home drive/directory available via the DataNow client on iOS and Android devices. This will be extended to other SMB shares and SharePoint in the future with the DataNow Enterprise product. You never know, it might actually make using SharePoint bearable!

Contrary to the DataNow product, the HyperDrive appliance is targeted directly at replacing DropBox with an on premise alternative. The caveat here is that data still needs to be moved from its existing location to a secured area managed by HyperDrive. Now don’t get me wrong; DropBox users do this already so this should not be huge undertaking. However, moving and duplicating data is not a long term solution.

Citrix announced at Synergy in Barcelona that the “Control Plane” that federates authentication and management for it’s ShareFile product is now available within the EU (Germany). For European organisations that was always going to be necessary requirement. One can only assume that this will be extended to further geographies in the near future?

The introduction of Storage Zones for ShareFile enabling on-premise data storage is something of a (welcome) surprise considering the relationship Citrix have with both AppSense and RES. OK; I’m not really surprised but it has happened quicker than I thought it would. Unfortunately for Citrix, until the Control Plane is able to run on-site it is likely there will still be some reluctance from enterprises as you’re still reliant on Citrix data centres for access to your data.

In summary all three of the products still need some development before they’re adopted by enterprises en masse, if at all.

  • The DataNow Enterprise product isn’t currently shipping (the Essentials version is) so it’s hard to recommend but looks promising.
  • HyperDrive is functional although a “little rough around the edges” but this should be expected for a v1 product. As a direct replacement for DropBox it is workable.
  • ShareFile has some fantastic opportunities with the Citrix Receiver integration but you’ll need both ShareFile Enterprise and CloudGateway Enterprise to the get the most out it. Would a smaller “point” solution be cheaper and easier to implement?

So who can deliver first…?

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