New app gives church's iOS users secure access to corporate files

Egnyte's iOS, Android apps leverage virtual server to reach through firewall

Egnyte today released iOS and Android apps that let mobile employees work not only with files stored in the vendor's cloud file sharing service, but also now with private files behind a corporate firewall.

The new apps are part of a push by Mountain View-based Egnyte to extend secure file sharing for enterprise users on the go, while giving IT groups more control over what files these users can access. The new mobile apps work with Egnyte’s Storage Connect virtual appliance, introduced in September, to create an encrypted link to files held in an existing corporate file system.

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iOS and Android users now can securely access behind-the-firewall files via Egnyte’s newest mobile app (shown here for iPad) and its Storage Connect server.

Users at Calvary Chapel, a big non-denominational church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., already had an Egnyte app that let them upload and share files from their client machines to Egnyte’s Cloud File Server, whether they were using Macs, Windows PCs or mobile devices. The church also had installed Egnyte’s separate Storage Sync application, a virtual appliance that runs on the church’s VMware infrastructure. Storage Sync manages and secures a subset of Calvary’s files -- stored on premises in a DataCore storage area network – and synchronizes these with files mirrored on the cloud service. Mobile user could also access these synced files. Calvary has been using this arrangement for about four months.

But plenty of files will never move to the cloud, partly for space or time reasons, partly for security or regulatory reasons, says Keith Andresen, network administrator for Calvary Chapel. Until now, these files could only be accessed by a corporate PC or Mac on the church’s network.

About 25,000 people attend services and programs weekly at Calvary and its seven satellite campuses. The church has about 1,000 staff, and a K-12 private school with 1,800 students plus faculty. A majority of personal computers are now Mac laptops or desktops, with some Windows 7 PCs. IPad and iPad mini use is growing, in part through church-issued devices and in part through its bring-your-own-device policy.

Calvary was a recent beta test site for Egnyte’s new Storage Connect product, a separate virtual appliance that’s designed for remote and, now, mobile access to files on existing, in-place corporate data stores behind the firewall. “I tell Storage Connect what local files it can ‘see,’” says Andresen. “Our mobile users, with this new iOS app, now have the option of selecting ‘local storage’ [behind the firewall] and they would see whatever I’ve told Storage Connect to let them see.”

Mobile end users can now work directly with any corporate files that they have permission to access, regardless of where those files are stored.

And IT groups don’t have to jump through hoops to make it happen. “It’s all based on my Active Directory groups and permissions,” Andresen says. “I tell Storage Connect to connect to a specific share, for example. The mobile end user presents his credentials, gets authenticated, and has a transparent connection to my in-house file system. I already have everything set up. We’re just using their security, their mobile apps and webpage to talk to my already-created [file] system.” Storage Connect also supports identity management systems based on LDAP and SAML 2.0.

Storage Connect and the new mobile Egnyte app create a SSL tunnel for end-to-end encryption of communication and transfers, without having to use a VPN. On the device, the Egnyte app encrypts any downloaded files. Egnyte lets IT administrators set and enforce a number of broad-brush policies, such as banning file downloads, or daily clearing out of files downloaded via Storage Connect. Egnyte ties into third-party mobile device management applications to use their finer-grained, more detailed file restrictions, such as “no uploads of corporate files to DropBox.”

Enterprise customers subscribe to Egnyte’s online filesharing service, and the new Egnyte for iOS and Egnyte for Android apps are available free from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play. Accessing files outside of the cloud or Storage Sync requires deploying Storage Connect. Subscriptions start at about $15 to $20 per user per month, but vary depending on whether users are accessing just Cloud File Server or on-premises files. For big companies with thousands of users, Egnyte now offers enterprise licensing agreements, with yearly fees that vary based on the specifics of each deployment.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwjohn_cox@nww.com

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