Product Review: Colligo Briefcase – Secure SharePoint Sync on your Terms

Joel Oleson March 21, 2012 1
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My experience with Colligo Briefcase

The one thing that stands out about the unique value that Colligo brings to the table with Colligo Briefcase Pro for iPad and their enterprise tools for management, is security, first and foremost. Since Colligo started with enterprise desktop applications and, based on customer needs, brought their document management and desktop file sharing solution to the iPad, they started with security and built the solution around that. I’m not talking about a simple password. I’m talking about encrypted storage (AES-256 bit hardware based encryption), the ability to remotely wipe a device, and so much more. And, via Colligo Administrator, you get more even control, including restricting which sites are available offline, and centrally configuring all the application settings.

In the screenshot you can see a sample of the settings.

Passcode enabled – This gives you the ability to add a passcode on this app. You can set a timer on top of your normal iPad settings that would require a passcode to open this app, and, if it is idle, it will lock them out. You decide if it’s time-based, or simply the prompt for passcode on getting into the app. Since the files in your synchronized folders, lists, and libraries are simply copies of what you’ve got on your servers anyway, there shouldn’t be much of a hesitation to add an "Erase data after 10 failed logins" either. The Colligo Administrator connection setting, when enabled, allows for the settings to be brought down to the device so it can be managed via policy. You can set it up to sync every 15, 30 or 60 minutes, or make it all happen on demand.

This past week I’ve been using Colligo Briefcase Pro on my own blog. I decided it would be handy to have a synced copy of all of my images and articles offline. Not only can I choose which lists and libraries I want to sync, I can sync it down to the folder and file level. Upon fetching a file, I’ve got it ready to go offline. There are little color indicators to make it easy to tell what is available offline.

While it may sound heavy-handed to start syncing your SharePoint sites offline to your iPad, a few settings help in a big way. You can choose the maximum amount of space you want to allow the app to consume, and you can save your bandwidth by choosing not to sync over 3G. Need your files? You can turn that on and selectively choose the content you need. There are simple controls for forcing a list sync as well.

Which Problems Does it Solve?

The iPad has taken the enterprise by storm. At a recent Office 365 Saturday, I listened to Barry Jinks, the CEO of Colligo, talk about how the iPad, once thought of as a toy, is becoming a full citizen on corporate networks around the world. No one could have imagined just how much. It is quickly finding a solid place in board rooms. Some executives travel only with the iPad. It’s incredible. IT departments have been taken off guard and don’t know how to deal with browser issues, app management, and governance. Do you image it? What if there are jail-broken devices on our network? If we allow some in the enterprise, will we have to allow anyone to bring their device from home? Big-time wake-up call for IT. Your employees are already using it for email. They are already using it for work. Would you rather they use Dropbox to get their files? No way!

So people are trying to get files on their devices. Mapping drives, is there an app for that? Not a lot of answers, but there are lots of bad decisions. Colligo Briefcase and Colligo Administrator sit squarely in the "good decision" space. It helps take away the risk, and puts a solution in place to help you make smart decisions.

 

Business Value

In my opening remarks, you’ll find the Colligo Briefcase approach to solving the issues around using an iPad as a corporate tablet. Briefcase gets you your files when you need them and on your terms. You can even open up the files in the applications of your choice. Clever, but that familiar action button gives you the ability to open the file, copy the link for inclusion in an email or note, email it as an attachment or link, print to an air printer, and so on. I can Favorite a document making it easy to get back to. Easy is the other keyword here. All of the interfaces you’ll see are familiar, and simplified. If you can’t figure out how to use Colligo Briefcase within a few minutes, it’s because you haven’t used an iPad that much. I found the interface very intuitive. It took a few minutes to figure out the sync indicator colors and start syncing my lists and libraries. I found the preview window and, by sliding it around, I could easily navigate and preview pictures, Office (Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint) documents, PDFs, emails (in both .msg and .eml format) and more.

 

Challenges

Connecting most clients to SharePoint sites can be a challenge. While the interface was very intuitive, users still may struggle trying to remember their domain name for example. Some will not know if they need VPN to get the iPad connecting to SharePoint on the corporate network. You don’t need VPN, but that assumes you can connect to your environment over the web. Those on-the-go will find out quickly if their SharePoint environment is exposed. In my testing I ran into Microsoft UAG as a challenge, but Colligo support was quick to look into my issues to determine whether they were on my client, server infrastructure, and so on. They are aware of the challenges around authentication, firewalls, and security devices and they are responding to them. By their nature, I would expect challenges with some two-factor authentication, and some other additional layers such as single sign-on solutions, but, in my investigations, Colligo supports both classic and claims-based authentication which shows they’ve done their homework. I recommend you validate these scenarios with your environment.

One other thing I ran into when first getting it connected and going was time-outs. As with any iPad download, you could be syncing a lot of data. Sometimes you find it’s your connections and sometimes you just don’t know. How many times do you have to download a movie or tv show? That may be a decent analogy. I’m just saying there can be timeout issues which I often blame on slow wifi. It would be nice if the app had some type of information panel that showed what was being synchronized. While you can see the colors and files start popping up, at a list level you have to simply navigate back and forth to see what’s happening.

Ultimately, I was able to get all of my data and the subsequent sync became much simpler at that point. I found it extremely comforting to know I had all of the important files with me. For the lists I wanted to sync, I simply select the folder and click the familiar arrow for settings and slide from off to on, and also choose which views I wanted to display the data in. List displays are quite simple and focus mostly on the file name and description including dates with light sorting capabilities. The unexpected feature was search. I hadn’t seen search on other similar applications. It gave me the ability to narrow down files moved into SharePoint, right from the iPad. Colligo Briefcase gave me a familiar search experience right on the device, narrowing down the large lists and libraries just to the documents I needed.

Summary

In summary, I find Colligo Briefcase hits the enterprise sweet spot. It fulfills the needs of IT, in a way that is both easy and accomplishes the goal of those with the many hats. Whether a department decides to use the tool on an individual basis or as an enterprise deployment, there are lots of reasons this is a great way to go. Colligo has been around for years, and has built a lot of trust in the market by providing a very robust offline SharePoint solution for PCs and in helping you move files (including emails) into and out of SharePoint. Now that the files are in SharePoint, Colligo Briefcase on the iPad takes that user experience and builds on it. I am eager to see the adoption here. Are we ready to say iPad is a full citizen on the network? Maybe not, but we can’t ignore it, and it’s time we manage it, and build a strategy around it for how it connects, and how best to address the security issues that organizations face with mobile devices. Colligo Briefcase is a great start. If browser usage is any indication of how enterprises are opening up for non-PCs and non-IE browsers, and the writing is on the wall, you’ll see more and more diversity in the enterprise. It’s great to know that, with Colligo Briefcase, there is a solution that makes our lives easier for secure file sharing and collaboration on the iPad.

Colligo Briefcase available in three editions: Colligo Briefcase Enterprise, Colligo Briefcase Pro, and Colligo Briefcase Lite. My recommendation is to build trust with the free Colligo Briefcase Lite, which supports sync with one site and up to 50MB. Then, when you’re ready to get serious, add Colligo Briefcase Pro.  Colligo Briefcase 3.0. It’s a universal app for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, and adds support for photo upload and InfoPath forms. The Pro version is currently available for only $2.99—this is a limited time offer for launch and will revert to $14.99 when the promo ends.  You can download it directly on your device from the Apple app Store. Be sure to talk to Colligo when you’re ready for a full enterprise-managed deployment. Colligo Briefcase Enterprise, together with Colligo Administrator, gives you streamlined deployment, monitoring, reports, and metrics. Those concerns about getting it set up just right for each of your users are significantly simplified with Colligo Administrator, which provides centralized management through a server-based console for configuring the Colligo desktop and iPad apps in the enterprise. When you’re ready to explore … tell them Joel sent you. J

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