“Build it, and they will come. And stay.” That statement sums up why Box, Dropbox, Amazon, Google and Apple are fighting to win the enterprise cloud storage space. These providers know that once users store their data in one cloud, they won’t want to move it elsewhere. While adding new features and service tiers might monetize some consumers, the enterprise, with its charge-by-the-user model, is far more lucrative.
Box continues to woo IT departments with its security features and consolidated file services. Dropbox is attempting to take its viral model into the enterprise. Google Apps, Amazon Web Services and even the recent Apple-IBM partnership represent further inroads. In the rush to seal deals, they’re overlooking the most important feature of all: making content easier to find, manipulate and work with.
Storage vs. Ease of Use
While it’s nice to easily access files, folders and documents on the cloud, what regular business users care about most is using the content within to be productive. One IDC study found that document-related activities -- such as searching for documents, giving feedback and waiting for approval -- cost the average company $19,000 per year per worker. As cloud storage for content increasingly becomes a normal part of daily business, the next big imperative is sharing and collaboration.
Large companies generally have more than one content repository. Their overall IT infrastructure is often made of the best product for each particular instance -- SharePoint, a homegrown intranet, WebCenter, Drupal, Alfresco, Lithium, Jive, etc. Without a streamlined, standardized way of repurposing and updating content, workers end up manually sending versions and updating content between applications.
Melting Away Silos
The next big enterprise cloud evolution will involve eliminating the need to log into multiple places to upload, share, collaborate and globalize content. All of the separate silos -- the company CMS, data storage, project management software, analytics and other apps -- will work together. We’re already seeing evidence of startups and established players alike making efforts to integrate cloud storage with other apps in in order to open up silos. Octonius, for example, puts Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote into one user interface, so that you can more easily access and use the content from those silos. Box announced a deep integration with Office 365.
The next layer of the cloud stack is emerging, and it’s high time. Rather than finding the best product for a particular instance, enterprise IT departments will start to prioritize those services that can best streamline workflows. This will be particularly true of global enterprises that struggle with different instances corresponding with different departments or countries. For enterprise cloud providers, a big selling point will be whether they enable global companies to quickly repurpose content in a streamlined way across languages and cultures.
At the end of the day, the point of the cloud is to make life easier. The next chapter of the cloud wars won’t be about storage, but about how quickly and easily users can work with stored data. The cloud, rather than being a repository, will finally optimize the way that we do business -- and it’s about time.