With information management reaching a crisis point in many enterprises as more and more channels pump data into disparate silos, an unlikely champion for breaking down content silos has arisen in the shape of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) strategies.

From the point of view of enterprises that are considering the implementation of BYOD strategies, breaking down at least some silos might seem like an obvious requirement as mobile workers attempt to access all kinds of data.

BYOD, Content Silos

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not happening, although the degree to which this is causing problems has been difficult to ascertain. To find out, enterprise collaboration technology vendor Huddle has just published new research entitled "File Sharing: The Fragmentation of the Enterprise Brain," which gives considerable insight into the problem.

The research is the result of interviews carried out across 2,000 adults aged 18-65 who worked in an office across the US from its online panel of respondents during the month of April this year.

The problem, as Huddle outlines in the research, is that enterprises have been unable to react quickly enough to the explosion of data at an enterprise policy level and have turned a blind eye to the daily reality of employees using consumer file-sharing tools to access enterprise content.

Current estimates from IDC, suggests that the size of the digital universe will expand from the 130 exabytes of data in 2005 to 40,000 exabyte’s by 2020 (1 exabyte is 1018 bytes), with most enterprises, as we saw last week, struggling desperately to keep a lid on it all.

The result of using unsecured, consumer file-sharing tools is damage to brand, data loss and ultimately, revenue loss. In a neat turn of phrase that might be good to remember for the future, Huddle describes the content chaos as the “fracturing of the enterprise brain.”

Content Fragmentation

Simply put, the fracturing of the enterprise brain refers to the process where so many employees are using so many personal devices that they are fragmenting enterprise data and content and creating what are, in effect, personal content silos.

Enterprise content is landing on personal laptops, tablets and smartphones and with platforms like Gmail, Dropbox, Google Drive or Amazon Web Services, it is easy to store that critical business content in the cloud and out of reach of other workers.

Huddle cloud file sharing in the workplace.jpg

Cloud file sharing in the workplace

The amount of content involved here and the number of employees squirreling away enterprise data in private cloud accounts is extraordinary. The figures show:

  • 38% of US office workers store work documents on personal cloud tools and services
  • 16% use Dropbox to store work documents
  • 15% use Google Drive
  • 12% use Apple cloud

Apart from demonstrating how stiff competition in the cloud storage space is, it also demonstrates what cloud storage providers are really making the cut. On top of this, the way employees are accessing this data has the potential to create major security problems.

Personal Devices

According to the research, 91% of workers in both the US and the UK store, access share and working on enterprise documents on unapproved personal devices. In terms of the type of device it breaks down as follows:

  • 64% of office workers in US organizations use external hard drives
  • 46% of both US and UK firms use USB drives
  • 34% of US and 33% of UK organizations also admit to using USBs to share documentation with others.

Ultimately, the result of all this is that no one in the enterprise has a single view of enterprise content and where that content is located. The result is that there is no way of tracking it, keeping audit trails, monitoring versions or implementing version controls, which in turn creates problems with records management and compliance.

There is also a problem with where the information goes once the employee leaves the organization and especially if her, or she, ends up working for a competitor.

Sharing Content

But why does this happen in the first place? The simple answer is that as the use of mobile devices becomes more widespread, more and more workers want and expect to be able to work from anywhere.

In fact this research shows that 49% want to be able to access their work documents everywhere while 20% looking to access those documents on their own devices, be they personal smartphones, laptops, or tablets.

Where enterprises have not established policies around this, or where no guidelines have been drawn up on where this content can be accessed or used, staff work inside and outside the firewall pushing information in and out of silos. The result is information overload for employees and "lost" information.

By this, we mean not that the information has disappeared, but that people who need to find it can’t. Currently, the majority of enterprise data is keep in legacy system silos designed to keep the data safe.

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Huddle cloud storage workers frustrations

Unfortunately, as this information is saved and resaved by different users, it ends up in silos that are restricted to many workers.

Email also gets a bashing here. While many enterprise users are still using emails with attachments when they need to share documents, many are frustrated by the file size limitations in emails and 28% feel that they waste too much time searching for documents in inboxes.

SharePoint, BYOD

File sharing apps create their own problems though. Most were designed for personal storage and not for the large-scale file exchanges needed to ensure successful and secure file exchange in enterprises.

For efficient content sharing, the research says, content needs to be produced with input and commentary between teams on desktops and mobile devices. The end results also need to be shared quickly with the people who need it most.

Many enterprise IT departments would argue that, where it has been deployed, SharePoint should be able to cater for all these collaboration needs. However, according to the results of this survey, many users are frustrated by SharePoint. They include:

  • Mobility: Not easy to use SharePoint on touch screens
  • Cost of ownership: High cost of SharePoint deployments
  • Collaboration across the firewall: SharePoint is designed to keep content locked inside the enterprise side of the firewall.

The solution, Huddle says, is to give users easy-to-use that can be offered with secure mobile and cloud access. It should replace the need for an enterprise shared-drive and consolidate content in a central place.

It will also deliver relevant content that a team is working on directly to their devices without having to search through masses of fragmented data stores and drives.

This, the report concludes, will place content and the control of content on either side of the firewall back in control of IT without compromising usability for employees. 

Huddle Byod Infographic.jpg