EMC's Syncplicity service tightens controls on shared files

Data can be made unavailable even when it's stored offline, EMC says

EMC will give users of its Syncplicity file-sharing and synchronization service more control over how their data can be accessed and used, including the ability to make files "time out" on a certain date wherever they may be stored.

Syncplicity, which competes with services such as Box and Dropbox, is designed to help enterprises make content easily available while controlling how and where it's used. The "time out" capability is one of a series of features, announced in a blog post on Tuesday, which should strengthen users' ability to manage data based on policies.

Stronger rights management tools will allow users to share files with others through Syncplicity but place strict controls on how they can use those files. Among other things, they can block the ability to print the file or copy content from it, said Jeetu Patel, general manager of the Syncplicity business. In addition, a timer in the file can make it unavailable after a certain date, such as when the content goes out of date. To do this, Syncplicity encrypts the file and revokes the key to it, Patel said.

The key can also be revoked if the file has been offline from the Internet for a given period of time. This feature is designed to prevent users from storing files on thumb drives and other offline locations that may not be secure, Patel said. Syncplicity can also make a file unavailable if the user arrives in a place where that file wouldn't be safe, such as a country where it would be considered sensitive data. These features will be generally available in the first half of next year, Patel said.

Syncplicity also plans to update its mobile apps for accessing files while on the road. Users will now be able to edit documents within the app. That saves users from having to download the file, and in some cases from having to install an application to a phone or tablet, such as software for word processing, Patel said. The editing capabilities aren't comprehensive but cover what users want to do with files most of the time, he said.

The apps for Android and for the Apple iPad will be updated in December, and the iPhone version will follow in January. The version for Windows 8 doesn't need the new feature because the integration of Microsoft Office on that OS already allows users to edit files without downloading them, Patel said.

The company has enhanced several other parts of the service as well. In the Syncplicity StorageVault feature, administrators can set and later modify policies for where various types of data should be stored. Those locations can include public cloud platforms such as Amazon.com S3 and EMC Atmos as well as private clouds located on-premise, Patel said.

This will allow enterprises to use a combination of internal and external resources for their Syncplicity data and keep each file where it best belongs. Organizations may choose different types of clouds based on factors such as the cost of storage, the need for performance and the need for users to access it in different parts of the world, he said. That feature will be available next month.

The company has also given IT shops more granular control over use of a file, such as whether it can be read, opened, downloaded or shared. Rather than setting a global policy that applies to all users in an organization, they can write policies for specific groups, Patel said. If a user belongs to more than one group, such as an executive team and a functional department, Syncplicity can grant that person the highest privileges available among those groups, he said. The group-based policies feature is available now.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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