As personal smartphones, tablets and other devices continue to penetrate the enterprise, another new phenomenon is emerging with the potential to disrupt existing IT architectures: Bring Your Own Cloud (or BYOC).
Like the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept before it, BYOC refers to the increasing use of personal third-party cloud storage and application services by employees in the enterprise. Many of these services are already familiar to us—Apple iCloud, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive, to name a few. What’s new, however, is the blurring between personal and business activities on these platforms. In a recent survey, 75% of U.S. consumers said they planned to use a personal cloud service in the near future, and 72% said they planned to use it to store both work and personal documents.
To users, the benefits of BYOC are compelling:
- The ability to access files and tools seamlessly from any device or location
- Data backup in the background without the need for configuration or disruption to their workflow
- Nominal cost or free
While for businesses, BYOC presents its share of risk too:
- Loss of data security and control and many points of vulnerability
- Cloud “sprawl”— when employees are not using the same tool, limiting collaboration, and reducing process and pricing efficiencies
Instead of walling off personal clouds, forward-thinking IT departments are experimenting with ways to integrate employees’ personal clouds in a secure yet flexible solution. One of the emerging models we are seeing is adoption of a blended personal-enterprise cloud approach. For example, Dropbox and Evernote are experimenting with corporate versions of their services, which allow companies to sponsor accounts for employees. Employees maintain control over their personal accounts while the enterprise maintains control over their enterprise account. Alternatively, documents can be partitioned into work and personal containers with services such as Microsoft’s SkyDrive or Apple’s iCloud.
Still, these are just baby steps in a move toward greater personal-enterprise integration of cloud services. Going forward, Forrester predicts that IT departments will adopt technologies that enable them to manage policy, compliance and security in a granular way. “Rather than the blunt all-or-nothing control at the device level, IT will develop the ability to attach policy and access controls to individual data objects and create segmented data stores within apps and devices,” according to Forrester.*
The music and film industries have been through this before. Whereas the music industry responded to the loss of its intellectual property from the advent of the MP3 with a more heavy-handed approach, the film industry partnered with its disruptors to adopt a hybrid model that both respected its copyrights and increased consumer access to its content. Companies in other industries might benefit from thinking of employees as consumers of its data, and then thinking how to manage that—just like the music and film industries did.
Undoubtedly, personal consumption of cloud services will not wane anytime soon. Employees will continue to find and use the latest apps for note taking, voice transcription, expense reporting, document capture, file access, presentations and more. Enterprise IT must strike a balance between the convenience, reliability and innovation demands of its employees and its responsibilities for data security, control and regulatory compliance.
*Forrester Research, Inc., The Coming Integration Of Personal Cloud Services And Enterprise Apps, March 2013
John Steggles contributed to this post.