Everybody’s talking about the CLOUD...
It might save the U.S. Government $12 billion from the annual deficit, it’s currently creating a generation of tech-savvy kids with their heads stuck in this new trend, and according to Bloomberg’s Adam Johnson, it’s the “single most powerful theme within tech today.” Cloud storage, or the ability to quickly access your content from any device when and where you want it, is a cultural phenomenon. The biggest players right now are Dropbox with an impressive 50 million users and Box with 8 million users respectively. Their valuations are incredible and the amount of capital they have raised is mind boggling. Moreover, finally after 6 years of talk and rumors, Google recently released their version of cloud storage named Google Drive. And even Microsoft hopped on the bandwagon when they released their version called SkyDrive. So what does this all mean? Though the Cloud has made content easily sharable and accessible for users, it has become significantly more complex and difficult for system administrators to contain and control such content– a phenomenon we call “Cloud Chaos”.
I recently read an article from Box that had some absolutely fascinating statistics. Apparently, 82% of Fortune 500 companies choose Box! I don't know exactly what that means – are they enterprise customers where these products were rolled out across organizations, or just individual users that happen to work at these companies? I find this interesting, because a number of my colleagues whom I have spoken to that work at Fortune 500 companies are explicitly prohibited from using these types of tools due to corporate compliance and privacy policies.
I’ll admit it; these products are awesome when you need to collaborate within your organization. From one employee to another, they have enabled organizations to share, collaborate, discuss, and review, like never before. These products connect staff within an organization allowing anyone to upload content and share with whomever they want, but management has little ability to track their employees’ actions. It is difficult to see which content has been shared, who has shared it, or how many times an employee or customer accesses a particular document. I think it’s safe to say that most companies’ management teams would love the ability to directly manage content, customers, and employees through advanced activity tracking on a cloud based application. But today’s mainstream products don’t have these abilities.
Furthermore, if you want to share outside of your organization, it’s nearly impossible to maintain absolute control. Although Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Drive, are great for sharing information among employees, they do not create any boundaries. The question that remains is: Do Fortune 500 companies really want to invite their customers into a Box folder to share sensitive data? Do they want to force their customers to download Dropbox just to keep them up-to-date? By using these powerful cloud storage tools, sharing becomes the easy part, but it is impossible to control the user experience or the organizations’ intellectual property. Even more, instead of highlighting each individual organization’s brand or unique web experience, the Box or Dropbox logo is the first thing a customer sees when logging in and all content sharing transports the customer to an outside environment, which diminishes the exclusive customer experience each company normally creates.
The capabilities of cloud storage today are phenomenal, but in practice, the act of sharing outside of organizations demands a more secure, branded environment. Without this protected environment, organizations will become a part of this ever growing mass of cloud chaos. Basically, companies need to keep track of content sharing for ROI purposes and must be able to control the look and feel of their distinctive customer experience across all devices. This is cloud storage with boundaries and control, something that today's mainstream tools simply do not offer. So as we look to the future of technology, there is no telling which direction this cloud trend will blow, but one can surely say this type of storage must become organized with specific restrictions to protect company and user privacy; or we just might end up in a world of Cloud Chaos.
David is the co-founder and CTO of Chicago-based startup, Fippex.