How the personal cloud is your IT team’s next challenge.
If 2013 was the year of BYOD, 2014 is shaping up to be the year of Bring Your Own Cloud. With the rise of services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive, more and more employees are storing their data – and your data – in their own little piece of the cloud.
The standard response of many corporate IT chiefs has been simply to ban access to these services and only to allow access to officially sanctioned services and accounts. But people are smart – and unless they’re getting something better, easier and faster, it’s likely they’ll find a way round whatever restrictions you try to impose and use the service that suits them.
The big personal cloud operators are getting wise to this trend, and are launching versions of their products that allow companies and employees to mix business with personal files. Evernote for Business, for example, offers a business layer that adds a business services layer that includes policy-controlled business notebooks and adds business document libraries to the user’s personal Evernote account. Personal and professional documents reside in different repositories but with a unified view.
This strategy means that users can use different areas of the same service for work and home use – which means they are more likely to act in a compliant way that helps businesses keep control of their files.
But not every employee will work this way, and not every service will offer a combined work/personal service. IT will have to adapt. One simple way of doing this is allowing users to use whatever approved service they like for non-sensitive files, but insist sensitive documents (finance, policy, personal data etc) are stored either locally or on the approved service.
Could DRM be the key?
Another approach is to stop worrying about where the files are, and to focus on protecting the files themselves via digital rights management. Unpopular with consumers, it could finally have found its niche in helping companies keep hold of their data wherever it is on the internet.
Existing services like WatchDox automatically encrypt files as they leave the corporate network, requiring that users have an authenticated reader app to view them. Though it’s not an elegant solution, and it probably isn’t yet ready for prime time, it is an interesting development that, with for example public key encryption, could be a good way for companies to protect their files.
But one thing is sure – the user is now king. Trends in consumer technology are irresistible, whatever policies and tools you have in place. Perhaps the best way to protect files may turn out to be through using the most old-fashioned method there is: trust.
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