There is much talk of consumerization in the enterprise software market. Workers are increasingly bringing their own mobile devices to work, and enterprises are granting access to a multitude of mobile and desktop-bound devices. File sharing and collaboration can be done from literally anywhere. A study by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) looked into the habits of enterprise users and offers a few words of advice to IT managers and CIOs.
"Consumerization is not going away," says Terri McClure and Kristine Kao in an ESG study that all but confirms what enterprise IT managers and users have known all along. With more and more end-users demanding access to enterprise resources from their mobile devices, corporate IT departments are scrambling to find solutions that are both enabling and secure.
The study involved vendors like Box, Dropbox, Citrix FileShare, Egnyte, Nomadesk, Sharefile, Syncplicity SugarSync and Yousendit.
Here are a few takeaways.
Employees want "data sharing, portability, and access from multiple intelligent endpoint devices," says ESG, while IT managers look to "balance business enablement, ease of access, and collaborative capacity with the need to maintain control and security of information assets."
Most companies surveyed already institute a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, and 54 percent say they even provide employee stipends to acquire their own gadgets. 27 percent of participants say they plan to have BYOD setups in the future.
Security, Privacy, Cost
Among companies surveyed, security, privacy and cost seem to be the major concerns when incorporating SaaS collaboration and file-sharing services. These applications give access to corporate data from a variety of devices, including notebooks, netbooks, tablets and smartphones. These are easily lost or stolen, which will include the data.
As such, features like remote lock, remote wipe and find-my-device are important to enterprise users. But even these can be abused by malicious hackers. The case of a Wired journalist's hacked Gmail, Apple and Twitter accounts prove just how vulnerable cloud services can be.
Privacy is another big concern. Enterprises are still wary about handing over data to a third-party, especially if the data will be stored on a remote server, or in a facility that the SaaS provider doesn't even own.
Meanwhile, existing investments may also be holding back enterprises from fully adopting SaaS as their collaboration and file-sharing solution. Firms that have heavily invested in server and network infrastructure may be reluctant to switch to the cloud just yet.
What Businesses -- and Users -- Want
When looking into cloud-based storage and collaboration apps, ESG says businesses should look into a few factors. For one, there are the features and infrastructure. Different providers will offer varying levels of administration. These also have different kinds of infrastructure, which will dictate how well the apps can integrate with existing enterprise applications.
Firms should also look for factors like data protection, redundancy and uptime guarantees. Service-level agreements are important if employees will be relying on the cloud service in everyday work.
The type of service offered will also vary per provider. ESG has found that the simpler, less-mature services tend to have the most users. More specialized apps with bigger enterprise capabilities tend to have a more targeted approach.
In the end, ESG recommends that enterprises should go for cloud-based storage and collaboration.
IT can’t continue demanding that everyone have a Windows-based laptop or PC, log into a VPN, and deal with the resulting latency and connectivity issues of remotely logging into a shared file system. This market will only get bigger."
Mobility and consumerization will continue to drive a growing need for these online services. As such, IT managers should be proactive, ESG says.