The consumerization of IT has brought together two very powerful forces: mobility and cloud. Either of these two represents a major shift on their own, but how they interact is giving organizations a real headache. Not least is the expectation of users – who only want a few simple things: all of their own data and the corporate data they need for their job, anytime and everywhere. Modern users also want easy and secure ways to share data with colleagues, business partners and customers. Simple.
If IT is to match the expectations of their users and get the productivity boost promised by mobility, it is important for organizations to move beyond traditional storage practices and adopt more user-centric approaches. This means giving users the same sort of experience from your organization that they already get from mobile devices and the consumer clouds that come with them, with regard to data access and sharing.
This is no small challenge; it is now commonplace in most organizations for more data to exist on mobile devices than in the data center. There is also pressure to tighten security and governance on mobile data, and at the same time users want more access made easier.
It’s a sad state that IT support for data on mobile devices usually only extends to basic backup for laptops (though even that is all too rare) with little or no provision made for smartphones and tablets. But if you’re going to the trouble of collecting data on laptops, maybe you could do more with it. And if you could do more with it, maybe there’s more reason to invest in managing mobile data.
Data management is giving everyone a headache
Failure to manage data on mobile devices causes significant (but avoidable) risk and related cost issues while, at the same time, stifling productivity. Users can be relied on to find ways to circumvent anything they don’t like when it comes to the IT department and this is especially true when it comes to mobile devices. If users are told not to use private cloud storage but not compelled to stop, or offered an equally effective option by IT, you can bet they will continue to use it. This willingness to bypass the IT department to arrive at an acceptable experience can cause all manner of headaches for an organization that needs to ensure data is secure, be that for commercial or regulatory reasons.
Part of the problem is that neither side of the mobility and public cloud equation (users and IT) is looking at the issue from each other’s perspective. ‘Selfish users’ want the freedom to make their work as easy as possible and the ‘draconian IT team’ don’t understand how users go about their jobs.
Tough questions don’t always require hard answers
So how do organizations deliver a data management strategy that suits users and IT in the mobility landscape? The answer is that they need to redefine data management and give data mobility the weight of consideration it deserves. And to do that, they need to ask (and answer) a number of questions.
It’s remarkable how often CIOs, even IT managers, avoid these questions because they feel they could be too difficult to address or, even worse, that they could lead to a revolt within the organization if they result in draconian measures being put in place. It doesn’t have to be like that. In reality, businesses don’t have to invade staff privacy to arrive at a more effective data management regime. The fact is they can provide the controls required to improve security, risk and productivity without antagonizing their employees.
As for those who refuse to acknowledge there is an issue at all, they need to realize that pretending Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) isn’t happening and isn’t widespread is not an acceptable excuse for inaction. It’s commonplace for teams to share data in open public cloud folders and there are many real-life examples of companies falling foul of this. I heard recently of a sales team at another company that kept their prospect list in such a share and one of the team that left for a competitor was still able to access it many months later.
Striking the right balance for everyone
It is possible for organizations to mitigate all of these challenges and provide the productivity tools that users are happy with. The wide availability of fast networks and modern deduplication technologies mean that collecting data from user’s laptops isn’t intrusive or the storage challenge it used to be, and once back to your data center, you can start to do things with the data that works in everyone’s favor.
Once user data comes under control again you can then enable secure, in-house sync and share features, keeping files synchronized and accessible on all their mobile devices, so employees have what they need, when they need it. File sharing inside or outside the organization becomes simple for users whatever device they are using and it can be managed, with access properly controlled and made secure. The regular collection from user’s devices effectively becomes a backup, keeping them productive even if the worst happens, all with the security of remote wipe for lost or stolen devices.
Then there is the matter of governance if there’s a chance the data on mobile devices affects the company’s compliance status. As the mobile workforce continues to grow and more data gets generated outside the data center, bringing endpoint data into a searchable dataset for governance, compliance or legal reasons becomes critical.
This does raise privacy concerns for some though. Organizations need be completely transparent about what is collected and how it is used; there needs to be a privacy charter created for employees. The good news is that this isn’t as hard as it seems and, with the right technology, corporate actions can be audited for transparency.
It may not be apparent to organizations and users that mobility can introduce significant risks to their established data management regimes. But if businesses want to ensure they are ready to flourish in the much-altered landscape ushered in by combined mobility and cloud functions, they need to look for solutions that enable them to access and use data no matter where it resides. It may not be as hard as you expect but it’s certainly more urgent than you think.
About the Author: Nigel has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry with the past fifteen years focused on storage and data management. He has helped organisations ranging from SME’s to multi-national corporations deal with their storage management challenges, ranging from backup & recovery through to archiving, compliance & information management.