Are CIO's falling in love with file sharing?

March 13, 2012: 11:39 AM ET

Not exactly. Despite being courted, corporate America -- from Pabst Brewing to Zynga -- has mixed feelings about employees using popular services such as Dropbox.

FORTUNE -- A growing number of employees are using file-sharing services to circulate and collaborate on documents and presentations, but many of them are doing so without the blessing -- or knowledge -- of their IT department. The companies that provide these file-sharing services are trying to change that.

Those that started out in the consumer space, like Dropbox and Box, are wooing CIOs with added security features and integration with existing software. Meanwhile, traditional enterprise players are trying to woo consumers such as Accellion, which just launched a mobile file-sharing service it calls "Dropbox for the enterprise". Even pioneering site YouSendIt, which launched nearly a decade ago, is gunning for IT departments—the company recently announced a business-ready file-sharing tool called Workstream that can be integrated into Microsoft (MSFT) Outlook and SharePoint. But is all the wooing paying off? In other words, how do CIOs really feel about pushing sensitive files into the cloud? We caught up with a few to find out.

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Debra Chrapaty, CIO, Zynga:
"I'm not a big advocate of using file sharing sites in the enterprise. While they have their use cases, reliability and security remain a concern for me as a CIO. I know a lot of file sharing companies are moving towards enterprise-level maturity, but most that I've seen are not quite there yet. This is not to say file-sharing sites aren't a great solution for personal use. For enterprises, as it is with deploying any new technology, it's important to exercise caution."

Ben Haines, CIO, Pabst Brewing Company:
"I'm consolidating infrastructure and removing software licenses and storage. For me, integrating a service like Box means I don't have to worry about my capacity and backup. I actually started using Box at a previous company. I introduced it there and it took off very quickly. From the end user side it's a 15-minute conversation—we just tell them here's your folder and here's what you do to get in. It's great for end users and great for IT.

Tom Peck, CIO, Levi Strauss & Co.:
"While we don't ban online file sharing sites, we strongly encourage employees to use an internal FTP system instead. Our internal system allows strong security, increased capacity and saves the company money. We've found that employees are happy to use the secure company system – it's all about communicating about the options available. We continue to follow the evolution of this technology niche and the companies in this space and are encouraged by the continued developments."

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Drex DeFord, CIO, Seattle Children's Hospital:
As a healthcare organization we have a lot of privacy and security concerns. At the same time, as we move forward into the future healthcare reform will demand greater collaboration between healthcare organizations, government and insurers and vendors. So it's important to find the right tools with the right level of security that allows all those collaborators to feel comfortable. We have been using Accellion and by embedding it in email we make it easy [for employees to share large files].

We're not blocking services like Box. These services are freely and publicly available and once you block one another one pops up. But we coach users about the proper use of those products and continue to pull them back toward using Accellion and other internal products. The challenge is sometimes the organization that they are collaborating with has already been using Box or other products. Our security folks take a look at those situations, and it's an ongoing process for us as we continue to expand the rule set.

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About This Author
Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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