Today is World Backup Day, which was created to encourage us all to back up our files so we don’t lose them. Its motto is: “Don’t be an April Fool. Be prepared. Back up your files on March 31st.” Really? Do we actually need to tell people how bad it would be if they lost all their files? Unfortunately, yes.
People tend not to use desktop backup solutions because they don’t see an immediate need. It’s like selling life insurance to 20 year olds—mortality isn’t top of mind and planning for it simply doesn’t register with them. So, while World Backup Day may sound silly, the fact is that protecting files is still a serious issue. According to the organization’s website (worldbackupday.com), 30% of people have never backed up their computers, 29% of disasters are caused by accident, and 113 phones are lost or stolen every minute. And even if users are backing up their computers regularly, traditional solutions only run once a day, which means that 23 hours and 59 minutes of hard work could be lost in one fell swoop.
And guess what? Things just got more complicated now that we’re all going mobile (or Going Lite!). Gone are the days when people only edited files on their desktops. In the old world scenario, you could get by with a single point of protection. But today, when files are edited anytime and on any device, you have to worry about more than desktops crashing—you need to worry about the security, availability, and synchronization of all files and devices.
So what should you do about it?
As much as we love to talk about our productivity benefits, the fact is that enterprises around the globe rely on Syncplicity to keep employees productive and files secure when devices are lost, stolen, or fail. Here’s why…
Laptops crash and burn. Mobile devices are lost and stolen. Files get corrupted and documents are overwritten. Your users may hope that these things don’t happen to them but, as Vince Lombardi said, “hope is not a strategy.” Not for your users and not for you. But don’t worry, if you’ve got Syncplicity, we’ve got your back—and theirs!
So, Happy World Backup Day everyone. And here’s to hoping the world doesn’t need to be reminded next year!
The Syncplicity Team
(Originally published in SC Magazine)
The conflict between IT and users appears to be coming to a peaceful end as together they are finding unprecedented common ground. For years, users have pushed software companies for easy-to-use applications to help them do their jobs, while IT has maniacally focused on delivering highly available, secure and reliable systems and applications with simplicity and intuitiveness taking a backseat.
The onset of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and bring-your-own-app (BYOA) era has meant that users can now do an end-run around IT and simply pick the apps that they want. The average consumer has 40 or more apps installed on their mobile device, many of which they use to do their jobs, whether IT has sanctioned its use or not. The problem is that creates a “shadow IT” system separate and isolated from all of the other company approved systems. Not only do users need help and support, but they can also get themselves in trouble and compromise their data as well as their company's.
With so much at stake, what has made the current treaty between users and IT possible? Two words: mobile technology.
The hundreds of thousands of apps on the App Store or Google Play offer users an almost unlimited choice of productivity apps, which provide clear alternatives to the apps that IT has traditionally given them. It is now abundantly clear that a high-quality, simple and intuitive user experience is as important a criteria for determining the apps that users will adopt as the criteria that is usually top of mind for IT. Although users are becoming as concerned about data privacy as companies are these days, security must not detract from the user experience. Apps must have a dual identity with a user friendly seamlessly integrated interface on the outside and a rock solid, best-in-class security core with encryption technology and other functionalities underneath.
Consumers relying on their own mobile devices and applications at work want some sense of control and privacy over their personal data and don't want to feel like IT is looking over their shoulder when it comes to their personal information. At the same time, IT wants to ensure that company information on the same device is fully protected.
The role of IT is shifting from that of pure service provider to a position that assumes the responsibilities of a broker or advisor on third-party services. Users often need help understanding and maintaining an acceptable level of security and compliance for data, and especially for the apps and devices which straddle their life/work balance. Innovations such as remote wipe and device lock for the user as well as IT are examples of functionalities which allow new areas of IT services.
In an era of landmark data breaches and controversies, the question “Do you know where your data is stored” is a more important than ever – all clouds are not equal. Although there is a major shift toward the cloud, companies are also realizing the public cloud is not the only answer. More and more, the hybrid cloud which gives IT the option to use public or on premise storage can prove to offer the best of both worlds, with the caveat being that it must not have any impact on end-user functionality or experience.
At no time in history have users been able to be store, share and manipulate their data and information on so many devices and in so many locations with such ease. This evolution has opened up both mobile risk and mobile opportunity for both users and IT and it is only by working together, truly collaborating, that organizations can expect to mitigate the risks and truly unlock all the value.
The use of enterprise file sync and share applications has seen tremendous growth in the past year. A December 2013 ESG report noted that 42% of organizations have IT sanctioned and company-funded file sharing applications – a sizable increase from the 28% just one year earlier. Clearly, the promise of these platforms - secure and easy viewing, sharing and editing of enterprise content – has grabbed the attention of forward looking organizations looking to enhance workforce productivity.
With this industry in a stage of tremendous growth, we thought it would make sense to take a deeper dive into the issues customers have experienced as they explore and deploy file sync and share technologies.
In our experience at EMC Syncplicity, we’ve seen three distinct evolutionary stages in enterprise file sharing. The first is completely end user-centric, often at the disadvantage of the cautious IT department. This stage is marked by a demand for convenience above everything else. The second stage prizes security and compliance, almost always at the expense of user convenience. The third stage – by far the most critical for enterprises – is when these two stakeholders reconcile their differences for mutual benefit, and adopt a solution that satisfies their diverse needs.
Stage 1: Convenience at Any Cost
It’s no secret that technology users have embraced popular public cloud-based services in their work and personal lives. Obvious examples are social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, email services such as Gmail and Yahoo, and note-taking applications such as Evernote. These services are intuitive, easy to use, and are readily available at no cost to users on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices – a consequence of the “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon. Users now expect all the work applications they use to be just as intuitive, easy to access and engaging.
The drawbacks to the enterprise, in this stage, need little explanation. Most organizations do not want their employees storing critical data in the public cloud. These applications do not meet the stringent regulatory compliance standards for transmitting or sharing critical data. To put it bluntly, these services may be convenient, but they are rarely up to IT snuff.
Stage 2: Security Brings the Hammer Down
As the pain of stage one becomes clear to IT, we enter a second stage mired in the “us versus them” paradigm. IT departments, fearing the risk to their organization’s most important asset – data –and facing mandates to comply with corporate and government regulations, are reluctant to give employees access to certain applications that require storing and accessing information on public clouds. IT departments have experienced too many data leaks or exploits through breaches or cyber espionage and it’s no surprise that a whopping 95% of organizations who use public clouds are searching for alternative data storage methods.
It’s at this second stage that IT quashes the use of purely public file sync and share platforms, pushing users to adopt older, more traditional file sync and share or FTP solutions that are slow, clunky, difficult to use and add, at least from the user’s perspective, very little value to their work. In the second stage, users start to rebel, taking matters into their own hands by downloading these banned “shadow IT” file sharing solutions, essentially returning the company to the first stage.
Stage 3: Hybrid Cloud Reconciliation
It’s at this third and final stage that users and IT find the solution that meets their collective needs. Specifically, users get a simple and easy-to-use platform, while IT departments can enforce strict policies on who can access what document when and where, and can dictate that certain data be stored on-premises, thereby avoiding the security and/or compliance headaches that can occur with a purely public cloud deployment. We call this the hybrid cloud model: it gives customers a choice to store their data in the public cloud or on-premises. Instead of file sync & share provider dictating where the information is stored, IT departments drive the decision making process, but maintain the support of end users by providing an ideal app experience regardless of the targeted storage backend.
At EMC Syncplicity, we’re working hard to help our customers bypass the first two stages – which are fraught with infighting, security and compliance challenges, low usage rates, and a significant reduction in productivity. Our customers require a solution that breaks the mold of the “security versus user experience” false dichotomy. Businesses demand simple and secure file sharing solutions in order to realize the full value of the app-based sharing economy. Any platform that does not satisfy the key demands of both users and IT departments inevitably falls short of the core promise of enterprise file sync and share and will never be fully adopted – and our customers cannot afford to be in that situation.
(Originally published on Wired Insights)
It’s no secret that smartphone adoption continues to explode with some studies estimating that 22 percent of the global population owning at least one device. That exceeds the 20 percent estimated to own PCs.
This growth trend makes complete sense given that smartphones and tablets now come equipped with computing power comparable to that of a mid-range laptops and desktops. Users are now embracing mobile devices as their primary work and personal computing devices while sacrificing few, if any, capabilities. It is no surprise that BYOD is today’s default expectation in the workplace. This paradigmatic shift is ushering in a new era for how users interact with information on their devices, but its full potential will only be realized if certain steps are taken.
With mobile fast becoming the de-facto computing platform, users are demanding improved user interfaces and experiences, similar to what they have gotten accustomed to with consumer apps. Even with hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in the development of enterprise mobile apps, end-users are still frustrated by their mobile work experience. They are no longer willing to put up with an antiquated desktop experience poorly translated into a mobile environment.
For example, until now, the primary goal of the mobile file sync and share apps has been to enable users to interact passively – to deliver simple access to files. This was, and has been, an important first step to extend access to desktop files from any device at any time. However, widespread mobile adoption is resulting in a convergence of forces including simplified user interfaces, and, most importantly, vastly improved and innovative software design that empowers sophisticated and intuitive interactions which have the promise to redefine how we interact with information.
Historically, users had to be exceptionally well organized to be productive, i.e., they needed to meticulously organize their files. In the new paradigm, the workflow is flipped with files keeping users themselves organized through follow a file, shared link, and folder, automatic insight alerts, and real-time push notifications. All these capabilities provide us the visibility into who, where and when our friends and colleagues are interacting with files.
What should be expected in this rapidly approaching mobile shift? We should expect to see two things.
First, it will be necessary to redefine, but not wholly reject existing structural work models. You don’t want to throw away the baby (or the tub) with the bathwater. Users do not want a completely new way of working -- file systems still have meaning. They want existing tools they use on the desktop to be simplified and optimized for the mobile platform, but with the same reassuring capabilities such as document creation, editing, annotation and presentation across all device platforms.
But within a smaller form factor and screen, simplified experience and progressive disclosure principles must be embraced. In this approach, the app reveals or discloses only the most necessary information in order to make it easy to complete a task.
Second, we should expect to see new or enhanced capabilities emerge which were impossible or poorly implemented in the era of the desktop, but are now reality on the mobile platform. Some of these capabilities already exist, such as voice to text recording -- ideal for content creation. Some are likely to go mainstream in the near future such as geo-location driven features where users can, for example, track or limit file access by location, or receive urgent reminders to approve time-sensitive files, or review a document in real-time with your colleagues using your tablet or smartphone
As mobile devices become further entrenched as the primary computer for the vast majority of the workforce, users are demanding a seamless experience that takes advantage of this unique platform’s strengths. The opportunities for progress and innovation are almost unlimited; from leveraging the inherent portability of the hardware, to respecting the need for simplified design, to transitioning it from consumption to a creation platform to using automation and location to eliminate mundane tasks.
Forward thinking companies will be the ones who embrace this directive and develop apps from a mobile first design principle to capitalize on delivering this new experience without time, location or access limitations.
Varun Parmar leads product management and user experience at EMC Syncplicity
(Originally published in Data Center Knowledge)
The demand for ubiquitous access to any file, any place on any device has resulted in a wide range of new cloud services over the last five years. While many of these services do deliver to some extent on this promise, they also end up creating entirely new silos of information. Now, when you want to access an important piece of information, you have to remember whether it is on your local hard drive, your shared file system, the document management application or the consumer file sync and share. Or all of the above? These silos exist because there is not just one that satisfies everything you are trying to accomplish.
Vendors don’t necessarily intend to create information silos, but their limited architecture and short-sighted approach forces users to drag and store all content in their system to make it work. This creates significant barriers for users who want to access their files. Where did they save it, is it the most current version and can they even access it from the road?
But wait. What if there was a better way – a method that started to break down all of these silos rather than creating a new one. How would that be? First and foremost, it makes much more sense to open up existing silos than to create new ones that circumvent the infrastructure you’ve already built – and we can now do this.
Bringing Your Data to the Cloud
An ideal enterprise solution would not copy all the files from the local server and place them in a separate information repository in the cloud as many consumer-centric file sync and share solutions do. Instead, it would simply open up the company’s existing file storage systems, making files and home directories available in the cloud just as they are on the local server. For example, as a tool specifically designed for the enterprise, EMC Syncplicity will be making information from Isilon and many other storage systems accessible automatically via the cloud.
This approach solves a common problem: with so many apps for file sharing, collaboration and productivity, users must often switch between different user interfaces and try to remember where exactly a file is located. This can be a problem if you are just using one file system, and it increases by an order of magnitude with each additional system you use.
As a comparison, think about how much easier your web experience is now that you can log in to consumer apps and sites using Facebook, giving you access to all your Facebook friends and the option to seamlessly share updates from those apps on Facebook. This eliminates steps, saves users time and creates a great user experience.
Unlocking Existing Silos
Furthermore, as the device ecosystem continues to expand and the BYOD trend continues to proliferate, having access to files on every device at all times is becoming less of a perk and more or an expectation. File sharing tools, especially for the enterprise, should unlock existing information silos so they are accessible on all the devices their employees may be using. Documents and files are useless unless they are accessible when, where and how users need them.
Many content management platforms, like Microsoft SharePoint, have thus far only been accessible via PCs connected to an organization’s server due to the lack of a secure, streamlined and cost-effective approach to delivering mobile access. Opening existing document management and file storage infrastructure to mobile, and eventually all connected devices, without requiring a full-scale migration of data is a challenge cloud file sharing services must tackle to truly turn on an increasingly mobile and connected workforce.
Just as files are useless if users can’t access them, a file sync and share solution fails to deliver on its promise when it only mimics the existing experience of yesterday’s technology. Mobile devices have penetrated almost every aspect of consumers’ lives and apps like FlipBoard have redefined how we interact with content, yet most file sharing solutions, like Box and Dropbox, are still simply recreating 20-year-old file trees on a small screen and calling it a mobile app. The companies that are helping move the enterprise into the future, the ones that will ultimately come out on top, are developing truly innovative mobile apps that allow these devices to function as full work platforms that take advantage of contextual elements like location, proximity and social feeds. Features like in-app document editing, simplified folder navigation optimized for the touch interface, and use of mobile-only contextual data such as location and proximity make for a dynamic and powerful user experience on mobile devices.
Breaking down information silos to create a streamlined way for users to interact with their files and get their work done when and where they want is the only way to allow productivity for the evolving workforce. And in the end, it all comes down to how we can be most productive in our work, in the office and everywhere else.
We asked dozens of people within the Syncplicity team to challenge themselves for 30 days to only take a mobile device to meetings and leave their laptop at the desk. Or at home! The challenge was to experience first-hand what it’s like to rely only on a mobile device for everything from content consumption to editing.
Truth be told, I got a head start. The idea was hatched over the holidays and I started doing it almost immediately, well before our new mobile apps were launched.
Some of you probably saw my earlier tweets. And probably also saw that after a few weeks I slowed down on my “Go Lite” tweets. It turns out, this was not because I lost interest in the challenge. Quite the contrary! “Going Lite” became so deeply ingrained in how I did my work that I completely forgot I was taking a challenge!
And, that’s why I said the challenge was “concluding”—for me and many of you I know it will now be business as usual. I have no intention of going back.
So what did I learn from my experience?
What I liked the most…
Of course, if mobile devices could replace laptops 100% then laptops would no longer exist.
Here are some things that challenged me…
The Go Lite challenge showed me first hand how so many “work streams” in our daily routine do can now be done entirely on mobile devices. But that doesn’t mean all of them can.
Some work streams require vendors to take a “mobile first” approach—where vendors need to understand that their user is now most often mobile, and accessing the app on a mobile device, so everything about the app and user experience needs to start with “mobile”.
A growing number of work streams require a “mobile only” approach—the end user is always mobile and requires capabilities that leverage features only available on mobile device (e.g., camera, microphone, location awareness, proximity awareness, touch screen, etc.)
For a growing minority of apps, it’s still acceptable to follow a “mobile also” approach when the primary use case requires the processing, screen, and user input characteristics of a desktop or laptop. But new mobile devices are starting to close those gaps. And, enterprise vendors that are still building “mobile also” apps for mobile users will need to wake up soon!
Thanks again to everyone inside Syncplicity, EMC, and many of our customers and friends that took the Go Lite challenge. This was as much about learning as it was to have fun. And we hope you did both!
Head of Marketing