Home > cloud, ECM > The Great Big File Box in the sky – help me out here…

The Great Big File Box in the sky – help me out here…

The internet is buzzing with the success stories of Dropbox.com and Box.net. How much they’ve grown, how much they are worth, who’s likely to buy whom, where does iCloud/iPages come into it, etc., etc.

Am I the only one who doesn’t quite get the point here? Yes, I can see how it makes file sharing easier and how it potentially reduces internal IT costs by outsourcing the management of large volumes of information.

How is this ever a good strategy?

We have spent the last 20 years, trying to educate companies on the need to organise their information rather than just dumping in on shared file drives. Classification, version control, metadata, granular security, records management, etc. Anything to convince users to think a little bit further than just “File, Save As” in order to minimise the junk stored on servers, to maximise the chance of finding information when you need it and maintain some sense of auditability in your operations.

So instead of moving forwards, we’re moving backwards! First Sharepoint and now these wonderful cloud services, allow us to shift our junk from our own fileservers to The Great Big File Box in the sky.  With no plan, no structure, no governance, no strategy, no security model, no version control or audit trail.

How is this ever a good idea? I plead ignorance – please help me understand this…

Did anyone go to an “all you can eat” buffet restaurant and not come out feeling bloated??

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  1. October 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    You bring up so really important points. One question though George, have you ever used a system like Box.net for work? I do, and for me it’s certainly NOT a dumping ground for information, far from it in fact. I primarily use it to collaborate externally with customers and partners, so the information has a perishable life cycle. I have complete control over access, audit trails, file types, and tools that easily manage and report that information back to me.

    So yes on security, governance, structure, plan, versioning, and an audit trial. Maybe you have the consumer solutions confused with the personal plans? I’d be happy to create a trial account for you to see the difference. Within 5 minutes I think you’d really enjoy the user experience.

    • October 20, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks for commenting Daniel, I appreciate it. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against the tools as such. I haven’t used Box.Net, but the from the site and the papers I’ve read it looks pretty cool. (I have used other cloud-based file-sharing and collaboration tools, such as LotusLive). I agree with you that, when used correctly, it can be a valuable tool especially as temporary area for collaborating with third-parties outside the firewall.

      Where I have my doubts is its positioning as a Document and Content Management tool. Whilst it has capabilities that would allow it to be used as one, these are not enforced, they appear to be very much optional. People like you and me, with an ECM / DM / RM background, will use folders and will apply appropriate security and will clear things out when they are no longer needed. But I’m willing to bet that the majority of users and the majority of content currently on these platforms, are treating them as a dumping ground. As a glorified FTP server, or as a simple cloud-based fileshare. And if you read the on-line marketing positioning, that is very much promoted and encouraged.

      What worries me, is that good information management practices and disciplines are being sacrificed in the interest of market share and market penetration: People, bring us your files! Set up a free account and store anything you like, whichever way you like…
      Regards, George

  2. October 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    No worries George, I think they way these products are marketed to consumers is very different that how they are positioned to the enterprise. As experts, the education and strategy we provide is critical to make sure that best practices are considered at the beginning.

  3. October 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    You make some very good points — and this is indeed disturbing. I wrote up a bit on the “Personal Cloud” idea, where you will bring your own way of sorting and storing information to your professional life:

    http://social-biz.org/2011/09/24/bring-your-own-cloud-to-work/

    We will do this for a number of reasons:
    1) the “plan, structure, governance, strategy” that you point out is highly context dependent. The way I structure information is different from the way you do, and that is part of the unique capability that I bring to the job. There is not single unified way to sort/organize information.
    2) IT departments are slow to pick up technology that liberates knowledge workers. They tend to treat the workplace as a pre-designed factory where workers need to be forced into a single view of the world, and this is for the most part a disaster. So knowledge workers are finding they HAVE to bring their own cloud to work.
    3) organizations will become more fluid utilizing fewer employees and more consultants, and those consultants will bring a library with them
    4) Cloud storage supports my numerous mobile devices which my IT department has ignored. 40+% of smart phones are bought by employees themselves to bring to work and get work done.

    Those are causing the trend, but one thing you point out should have us all concerned: security. Often the technical and legal aspects are complicated and not well appreciated by the workers, and there needs to be standards and audits in place.

    The solution is for organizations to PROACTIVELY embrace secure cloud storage that allows employees to organize things their own way. If the organization does not provide this, they will be shut out eventually.

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