Some scary (for some) statistics around file sharing usage

Cloud is big. File sharing is massive. Recent statistics show just how big and massive those things are.

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Sometimes it's helpful to gain some statistics to paint a picture of just how big a market or sector is. And so it is with some statistics from cloud security vendor SkyHigh that paints a picture of how organizations are using file-sharing solutions like Box and Dropbox. Skyhigh tracks usage data across the 22 million employees working within the 500 or so organizations it sells product to. While not an exhaustive sample, that's big enough to derive a sense of what is going on in the industry.

So. Some data points of note. Firstly, around 39 percent of corporate data that is uploaded to the cloud is related to file sharing applications. That is more than any other category.

That is somewhat logical (after all, the files being shared on cloud solutions are, as a matter of course, larger than data from enterprise SaaS solutions. Total data quantity for file sharing should, therefore, be the largest contributor to cloud storage). That said, we've long heard that while enterprises will be happy to use some peripheral cloud solutions, many are still reluctant to move core file sharing to the cloud. This statistic calls into question that assumption.

In terms of data uploaded to Box, 23 percent of the corporate data uploaded to 16,000+ cloud services is uploaded to Box, far more than any other cloud service. In a market where multiple vendors (Box, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, etc) are all fighting for market share, that can be seen as a significant win for Box. Especially so given that the average enterprise uses 57 file sharing services and the average employee uses 4 distinct file sharing services.

Worryingly from a data security perspective, the average organization shares documents with 826 external domains, which includes business partners and personal email addresses such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail! and Hotmail. While this is a massive number, shared documents still only account for a relatively small proposition of total data stored in file sharing solutions -- 64.3 percent of documents in these services are not shared with anyone and are only accessible to the individual who uploaded the file (or administrators with admin privileges within these applications). The remaining 35.7 percent of documents are shared either internally, with outside collaborators, or both.

Across the 35.7 percent of documents that are shared, the vast majority (71.4 percent) are shared internally with individual employees -- a seemingly low-risk statistic. Some concerning results surface when sharing patterns are investigated in depth, however. Of shared files, 12.8 percent are visible to the entire organization, 28.3 percent are shared with individuals at business partners, 6.1 percent are shared with personal email accounts and 2.6 percent are publicly accessible on the Internet. Across all documents shared externally, 9.2 percent contain sensitive information. While this is lower than the average of 16.2 percent across all files, it’s nonetheless troubling considering the volume of content shared with personal emails.

While there are a lot of numbers in here, there are some patterns that will either be of concern (if you're a security-conscious CIO within a highly regulated industry) or positive (if you're involved with a cloud file sharing solution provider). Either way, surfacing this sort of data helps everyone plan and react to what is going to be a continuing pattern of use.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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