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17347128_sEmployees need to share files with each other, so why are companies blacklisting enterprise file sharing applications? The short answer is data security, but that doesn’t explain the entire situation.

Device management service provider Fiberlink released a study based on 2 million endpoints managed using the company’s software. The study found that only 10% of companies blacklist mobile applications and those that do are usually in the manufacturing and service industries. Among the top 10 iOS apps to be blocked are file sharing services Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net and Google Drive.

So why do companies blacklist enterprise file sharing applications? Fiberlink’s Director of Marketing offers three drivers, in order of importance:

  1. Reducing data risk, specifically where corporate data can go.
  2. Ensuring that the device is being used for its intended purpose. For example, if a company tablet is being provided to provide a customer-facing experience, companies don’t customers to see the employee playing Angry Birds or browsing Facebook (which both make the top 10 list of blacklisted iOS apps).
  3. Curtailing excess bandwidth consumption, which is why Netflix makes the list.

But given that the majority of mobile devices at companies are employee-owned (remember the days of the company-owned Blackberry?), a trend that doesn’t seem to be reverting back anytime soon, you can’t blame file-sharing applications for their clashes with IT. Companies such as Dropbox, after all, were conceived as consumer products that spread like wildfire because of their ease of use and high viral coefficient (we both need Dropbox to make it useful, plus the referral bonus made sharing Dropbox valuable to users looking to get more free storage). As coworkers started sharing company materials alongside photos of the company baseball outing, IT departments got understandably worried.

Other file-sharing applications, like Microsoft’s SharePoint, while conceived for the enterprise and holds the distinction of Microsoft’s fastest growing product in company history, isn’t without its own IT governance challenges. If your company has too many SharePoint projects that aren’t centrally coordinated, you can probably understand where these challenges originate.

As the business side of the organization continues to give the IT department headaches, the front line employees will continue to seek out the easiest, most convenient way to access information to help make that sale or to share files within the company. It will be up to IT departments to proactively guide the business side as to what applications solve the need to provide data security and governance while providing ease of use to reps in the field.