Taking a Therapeutic Approach to Collaboration

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2014-11-14 Email Print this article Print
File sharing and collaboration

Acorda Therapeutics turned to specialized file-sharing software to boost internal collaboration and connectedness, while ratcheting up security and IT controls.

Sharing data and information across an enterprise and various digital channels is a growing challenge for businesses. At Acorda Therapeutics, which develops pharmaceutical drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury (SCI) and other disorders of the central nervous system, it's a critical element for meeting basic business needs and ensuring that salespeople and customers obtain the information they need to make good decisions.

In the past, the organization relied on File Transfer Protocol (FTP) services, traditional file sharing over a virtual private network (VPN), and cloud services such as Dropbox to manage and exchange key files. However, "One of the major challenges we face as a company is that we have a highly mobile workforce that constantly collaborates and shares files," says Josh Bauer, director of IT network operations. As the environment became increasingly chaotic, "We realized that we had to rein things in and introduce a better collaboration solution."

Further complicating matters: Acorda is a publicly traded company and must provide detailed data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That wasn't easy with existing systems.

"We had no unified polices," Bauer recalls. "We had no way to ensure that people were backing up files correctly and securely. In addition, we had people wanting to use mobile devices, such as iPads, iPhones and Android phones, which introduced additional complexities and risks." .

As a result, Acorda turned to EMC Syncplicity to take its file management to a healthier level. The application, which went live last summer, delivers the versatility of cloud-sharing services, but ratchets up security and IT controls, Bauer says.

The application delivers military-grade encryption, a remote wipe feature, enterprisewide access controls and integration with mobile device management (MDM) software. "It offers a level of functionality and protection that redefines our business," he adds.

The biggest benefit is that the more than 500 employees using the system can now access files on any device, at any time. "They can begin work on one device and complete it on another," Bauer explains. "They can collaborate easily and effectively without having to worry about whether the files are synced. If they don't have their laptop available, they can view it on their phone."

The software also offers built-in permissions and controls. What's more, "Our legal department and the compliance team are happy because they are able to keep the data in house, and it's managed by IT," he notes.

The company is running the system within a private cloud in its own data center. "We have control over the interface, and nobody can access or use the system until they are provisioned by IT," Bauer says. This improves security because the company can ensure that employees create strong passwords to complement the encryption built into the software.

"We do not operate in a 9-to-5 mode," he adds. "We have people working on projects at all hours of the day and night. The cross-organizational capabilities [of the system] have transformed the way we work and interact."


Samuel Greengard, a contributing writer for Baseline, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.


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