BYOD worries in mind, Novell and NTP bust out secure mobile file sharing

Novell's Filr, NTP's Universal File Access both use a company's existing active directories for access rights

Novell and NTP Software today announced their own versions of file sharing services for mobile devices.

Novell announced Filr and NTP unveiled Universal File Access.

Both apps address file sharing in a similar way, by using an organization's existing filers and active directories for user identification and access rights.

Novell, which was acquired by Attachmate Corp. in 2010, said it's getting back to its roots in intelligent workload management through its Filr service.

Novell's Filr service leverages a business's existing infrastructure through an on-premise, virtual appliance that exposes applications to users through traditional file servers.

The virtual appliance integrates with a company's active directory, including NetIQ eDirectory and Microsoft Active Directory, which it then uses to authenticate users. So, there's no need to create a new user repository in order to find out who accessing content behind the firewall, according to Eric Varness, vice president of product management at Novell.

"We're tapping into the file and networking expertise that we've been selling for 30 years," Varness said. "You can't compare us to Dropbox as they're more consumer market oriented ... and is still cloud based."

Filr uses wireline encryption through secure socket layer, the same type of authentication that banks use for online transaction processing.

On the mobile devices, Novell relies on the built-in device encryption. That can be enforced by using an mobile device management (MDM) tool such as ZENworks Mobile Management.

Filr also offers global search capabilities across an organization, also based on a user's access rights. If a user makes changes to a file offline, those changes will be synchronized when they're back online.

The application also allows employee collaboration on a file with the ability for multiple users to add commentary and work on a single document simultaneously while keeping the document secure.

NTP's Universal File Access

NTP's Universal File Access is a SaaS offering that maintains a connection with an on-premis Windows virtual machine (VM) and integrates with common storage hosts, in a private cloud or even object stores to offer access to corporate data behind the firewall.

NTP's Cloud Connector offers one or more services that maintain a connection between internal storage hosts and its Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Manager.

"Those VMs communicate with our suites of applications developed for Android, Windows and iOS," said NTP CEO Bruce Backa. "All the user has to do is get all the VMs running in the hosting environment and tell the VM which shares to make available across the cloud."

Mobile users are connected to their data storage networks in the same way a desktop would be, so they'll be using the same, familiar interface, according to Backa.

Most importantly, Backa said, Universal File Access is not a synchronization and sharing application that automatically pushes data out whenever an employee is connected.

Sync and share "promiscuously" copies file data anywhere and everywhere making security and risk management even more difficult -- if not impossible, he said.

"It's an important distinction we're trying to make," Backa said. "The Dropboxes and SugarSyncs of the world are all about what industry calls sync and share."

"Traditionally, we've control data on corporate networks, providing content filtering, trending analysis, billing and audit tools," he continued. "In the course of building that suite of apps over the past 15 years with EMC, Hitachi and NetApp, we've become deeply embedded in their file and storage systems."

The Universal File Access works by using extensions in the OS and file systems of Windows, and storage software from NetApp, EMC and Hitachi Data Systems. The file sharing app will not allow executable files to be stored on the backend systems, which precludes viral infections and no apps can be copied out of the data stores, which protects licensing agreements, Backa said.

UFA also includes a BYOD Manager -- one or more services that offers connections to end-user devices. It provides flexible caching options, proxies Active Directory security and aggregates communications. It also offers a BYOD Suite, which is client software appropriate for all common devices and operating systems.

BYOD Manager also provides end users with the ability to immediately upload and delete file data, and allows for lost or stolen devices to be shut down and wiped of business-critical information

NTP's Universal File Access requires a company to buy a core technology license for $15,000 and then pay $99 per year per user or $10 per month.

Novell's Filr is sold on a subscription basis for $45 per user per year.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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