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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.

But Skanska is also looking for an officially sanctioned cloud storage option. It is considering Microsoft's SkyDrive Pro, using Citrix's ZenMobile to provide virtual access to files stored on back-end servers, or using niche services such as Autodesk Buzzsaw, which puts construction design tools and documents in the cloud. "We don't need people using all of these different tools," he says, but any solution must be as easy to use as the personal cloud tools employees rely on. Otherwise, users are likely to bypass the official alternative.

"It will be tough to find a one-size-fits-all solution," he says, "but we're working on it. I am hopeful that within the next year we will have one in place, whether that is on-premises or cloud or a hybrid of both."

Blurring the Lines
Organizations need to develop a three-pronged strategy for on-premises, off-premises and cloud, says Jim Guinn, managing director at consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers. "You really need to pay attention to how you secure documents that are in someone else's cloud-based service," he says.

Roman says some documents just don't belong in popular cloud storage services. "I've read the whitepapers on Dropbox and Box. I guess they're secure," he says. But for sensitive documents, he adds, "we don't want to risk it."

Even the issue of who owns business applications and how those applications are licensed is blurring. Evernote for Business, for example, 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.

"We're seeing a transition from two completely separate worlds to a world where there is no line between what's good for personal and what's good for business," says Andrew Sinkov, vice president of marketing at Evernote. And if the user leaves the organization, the account -- sans business documents -- goes with him. "This model is little understood but I think will have a profound impact," says Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.

With Office 2013 and SkyDrive, Microsoft has taken a small step toward creating a unified view of the user's personal and professional worlds. It has created synchronized, local versions of the user's SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro (SharePoint document library) storage repositories that exist as separate folders on the user's local desktop. In this way, Office 365 can create and modify documents in the cloud, Office 2013 can read and write to the same files in a local folder, and all changes will be synchronized. "There's a convergence happening from the user's point of view," says Microsoft storyteller Steve Clayton.

This strategy gets around the modal approach to personal and professional workflows -- the two-car-garage model where the user must back out of one account bay and enter another to view and edit documents. Office applications can save to either folder. And if the user copies a document from his personal SkyDrive folder into the SkyDrive Pro folder, that file will be copied back to the cloud, where the policies for that document library will apply.

 

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