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IT's new concern: The personal cloud

Robert L. Mitchell | May 21, 2013
Personal Cloud services are difficult to control, and users are adept at going around IT.

Bring your own device is so 2012. The next big push in the consumerization of IT is bring your own cloud. And just as when consumer devices poured into the enterprise, many IT organizations have already responded with a list of do's and don'ts.

The standard approach has been to forbid the use of personal cloud applications for business use, by offering official alternatives -- the "use this, not that" approach -- and to carve out separate cloud storage workspaces for business documents that can be walled off, managed and audited. But personal cloud services are difficult to control, and users are adept at going around IT if the productivity tools in their personal cloud can do the job easier, faster and better. IT wants a bifurcated approach to consumer and professional cloud apps and storage. But users don't work that way anymore.

Getting Around IT
Scott Davis, CTO of end-user computing at VMware, originally began using a personal cloud app for business after the IT organization failed to offer a viable solution that met his needs. Davis, who has speaking engagements all over the world and needs to share large multimedia presentation files, asked for an exception to VMware's email attachment size quota. IT responded first by suggesting that he pare down the content and then followed up by suggesting that he buy "a bag full of USB drives" to send presentations by mail.

"That's when I started using Dropbox," he says. "IT has competition. People know what's out there and how to get the job done if IT doesn't help them."

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg agrees. "IT has to deal not only with bring-your-own devices but bring-your-own services," he says. People will bypass even viable alternatives if they feel that the officially sanctioned professional cloud offering isn't equal to the task -- or if they have a personal cloud app they like better. "If it's digital and it's consumer, it's going to find its way into the office. People will come up with reasons for using it," he says.

At construction management firm Skanska USA Building, employees are mashing up business and personal work on a wide range of personal cloud services, including Dropbox and Evernote. Today, says senior enterprise engineer Jeff Roman, "We don't control that." But IT is actively reviewing its options. "What are we going to limit? What can they access at work and at home?" he asks. Right now that's controlled by use policies that employees must follow as to what types of documents need to stay out of the cloud and what's permissible. For example, financial data "should never touch a cloud service," he says, nor should some documents relating to government projects.


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