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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 only in the cloud. While IT can control which files users can sync with SkyDrive Pro, the cloud service can't control what users do with the locally stored versions of those files. Users either must work with sensitive files in the cloud only or use Office 2013's Information Rights Management feature to control forwarding, copying or printing of specific documents.

"Clearly, there's a lot of change coming where IT has to integrate these [personal cloud services] into the current stack and figure out how it will work together," says Amit Singh, president of the enterprise unit at Google, which in recent years has added enterprise features to consumer-based cloud applications such as Google Docs. With the latter, individual documents can be shared between the controlled, auditable professional account and the user's personal account. But Docs offers no unified document view. On the other hand, Google Plus, Singh says, "was imagined as a semipermeable layer where we add controls for the enterprise from the bottom up."

Cloud Security

Ease of Use vs. Security: The DRM Dilemma
Like many financial services companies, The Blackstone Group must tread carefully when it comes to providing mobile access to its internal documents. The private equity firm uses MobileIron for mobile device management, has a data loss prevention program to control the flow of documents and added WatchDox's data rights management software to control and monitor the use of its most sensitive documents.

WatchDox encrypts documents uploaded into it by way of a local MyWatchDox sync folder. When the document creator drops a file into the folder, WatchDox uploads it, encrypts it and distributes it to all of the user's endpoint devices, as well as to other authorized users based on the policies that apply to that folder. Users can view the document only if they use a browser plug-in or app that authenticates the user and controls and monitors what to do with it.

Blackstone, which installed the software and then became an investor in WatchDox (and now has a seat on the WatchDox executive board), mostly uses the tool for its "crown jewels," as opposed to everyday documents, says CTO Bill Murphy. Wider usage will come, he explains, only when DRM tools are as easy to use as personal cloud apps like Dropbox. On the plus side, tablet and smartphone users are accustomed to downloading apps, so the experience isn't much different from using Dropbox or GoodReader apps, he says.

But it's not for everybody. "There has to be a real value to security in the firm for WatchDox to be the solution," Murphy says, including a need to know who's using those documents, and where.


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