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Secure Information Sharing: Which approach to choose?

Feb 28, 2014 by Martin Kuppinger

There are various approaches to Secure Information Sharing (SIS), as I have explained in previous posts. However, which one is the best? As always, there is no simple answer. It depends on the requirements of the customers. Nevertheless, the various product categories have their strengths and limitations.

Let’s look at the categories within SIS first:

  • IRM: Information Rights Management is about technologies that encrypt documents and assign entitlements. Users can only open the documents if they are entitled. Applications enforce the entitlements such as limitations on printing, sharing, editing, etc.
  • Secure Data Rooms: This category provides secure data stores. These data stores can be accessed by various persons, allowing them to share information. A typical use case is sharing data in merger & acquisition processes. Typically, online editing is allowed but downloading is restricted, so that these solutions also can enforce restrictive entitlements on documents.
  • Collaborative Networks: These networks typically are focused on industry collaboration and provide environments that enable not only information sharing but also the management of the users and other functions. The obvious limitation is that they do not enforce entitlements on documents once these are downloaded. However, combination with IRM is potentially feasible.
When looking at these three concepts, IRM appears to be the best choice. The challenge for now has been, that IRM solutions had their challenges in managing (external) users, that they were lacking broad application support, and that most of them were rather complex to implement. As mentioned in a previous blog post, Microsoft has removed these barriers with its Azure RMS service. Thus, IRM is now an approach that any organization should consider to fulfill its need for SIS. Aside from Microsoft, there are some other players in the market, such as Nextlabs, Covertix, Watchful Software, or Seclore. They might work well for specific requirements.

The strength of Secure Data Rooms is primarily that they are “ready to use”. Instead of setting up an IRM infrastructure – which even based on Cloud offerings requires some planning – they can be used immediately. Thus they are a good solution for rapid deployment. However, IRM appears to be the more sustainable concept.

Collaborative Networks have a somewhat different role, because they provide value-add services for communities within industries. They are not only a tool but a service. The larger the community, the higher the value.

All approaches to SIS have their strengths and their weaknesses. However, there is good news: There are sufficient mature options now for SIS to finally start the SIS program in any organization. There is no argument anymore for collaborating with business partners without SIS in place.

Don’t miss EIC 2014 – it will be the place to learn more about Secure Information Sharing.

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Martin Kuppinger
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