Is the term “enterprise-grade” just a marketing term? Or does it truly speak to a distinct class of business-appropriate information technology products?
The IT world is rarely vague with its definitions – at least not for technical terms that are often very explicit in their meaning. “Enterprise-grade” started popping up when the “consumerization of IT” trend started five or so years ago. When workers started using SaaS or mobile apps intended for consumers for their business processes, vendors who sell to companies began using the term “enterprise-grade” to differentiate their products from those that are really meant for consumers. Enterprise organizations have very different needs from individuals.
While there’s no formal or universal definition of what enterprise-grade really means, the noted analyst firm Gartner offers up a definition in the Gartner IT Glossary: Enterprise-grade describes products that integrate into an infrastructure with a minimum of complexity and offer transparent proxy support.
Technopedia defines enterprise-grade’s close synonym, “enterprise class.” According to Technopedia: Enterprise class is a buzzword that refers to applications that are designed to be robust and scalable across a large organization. There are no firm standards for what makes an application or platform enterprise class, but enterprise class applications are generally:
- Open and compatible with existing databases and tools
- Customizable for the needs of specific departments
- Powerful enough to scale up along with the needs of the business using it
- Secure from outside threats and data leaks
Open, compatible, customizable, scalable and secure. Yes, those are all characteristics that an enterprise would need in its applications.
What Intralinks means by “enterprise-grade” when we talk about our file sharing and collaboration platform and services
We take it a step further. We believe “enterprise-grade” is defined by these essential characteristics – not merely individual features, but an over-arching strategy to support the complex needs that organizations have today:
Productivity – The very reason people use a file sharing and collaboration tool is that they have a job that involves sharing information and working with others, and they need a tool that will make them more productive. In this case, “enterprise-grade” means that the tool is easy to use and adopt, by both internal and external members of the workgroup. There should be nothing that impedes a worker from using the tool, such as having to stop and download and install a desktop agent – if that’s even permitted. What’s more, the tool should facilitate people doing their work efficiently; for example, through the use of workflow processes.
Security – This is a very big requirement, if not necessarily for end users, then certainly for people in IT who are responsible for keeping the company’s information safe and secure. We believe that security requires a holistic approach across applications, infrastructure and processes, and should not be “bolted on” after an application or platform has been developed. A true enterprise-grade application will consider the importance of security from the outset of development.
Key aspects of security include, but aren’t limited to:
- Industry-best levels of encryption of data at rest and in motion, with the organization maintaining control over the encryption keys
- Data security that follows information even after it has gone outside the company firewall
- Granular levels of user access to information, which can be revoked at any time, even after the data has been distributed
- Protection of data through use of a SOC 2-certified data center
Compliance – Enterprise organizations such as corporations, government agencies and public and private institutions are often compelled to comply with government or industry regulations. For example, HIPAA, PCI, FERPA, GLBA, GDPR, etc. enterprise-grade applications and platforms provide the necessary features and functions to help organizations efficiently define policies, implement controls, and capture, manage and access data over time. This includes data governance requirements, which often dictate how end-customer data should be treated, and where it can be stored or processed. Moreover, enterprise-grade solutions are aware and ahead of the curve in understanding the implications of these regulation changes, and provide as part of their systems the controls, auditing, visibility and segregation of management over the data to ensure they can align with the changing regulatory landscape.
Integration – A truly enterprise-grade application supports integration with other applications and the existing IT framework, typically through APIs. This minimizes business disruption by simplifying complex process workflows that span applications or datasets.
Administration – Organizations need the ability to easily provision and onboard users and manage their environment to suit their business group needs and policies. They need granular management of policies at the user level, and to be able to report enterprise-wide on everything users have done with valuable content.
Support – A vendor of enterprise-grade products provides support at all stages of implementation and use, including professional services to help optimize solution integration and use cases.
Scalability – Enterprise-grade solutions should be able to easily accommodate tens of thousands of users, with the ability to scale seamlessly for additional growth of both users and files under management.
So, at Intralinks “enterprise-grade” is not just a marketing term. Our definition may be a bit long, but it clearly shows the characteristics that make an application worthy of handling even the most sensitive data needs. We put a lot of effort into making products that enable the highest levels of both security and productivity, to truly earn the name “enterprise-grade.”
You can learn more about us at www.intralinks.com.