Why “Bring Your Own Cloud” Gives Tech Teams Headaches

If your users are ignoring the information technology systems created by your association, maybe the solution is to become more flexible to your employees' whims.

Does your organization have a “Bring Your Own Cloud” problem?

Users aren’t just bringing their own clouds. They’ve already been brought.

You probably have one without realizing it. One worker might use Gmail to send corporate emails. Others might organize themselves using personal/professional tools like Evernote. An entire team may store their information privately using Dropbox or — by the way, without telling you they’re doing so.

Users aren’t just bringing their own clouds. They’ve already been brought.

The result? Users are increasingly relying on their own personal storage mechanisms — while bypassing corporate-sanctioned systems. Instead of relying on IT to structure their workflow, some workers are slicing and dicing their productivity in so many ways that trying to wheel them in to authorized tools and structures may be an exercise in futility.

But that hasn’t stopped some companies. IBM, for example, outright banned the usage of Dropbox or iCloud on company devices. And some, such as IT consultant Brian Proffitt, argue that the simplicity created by such apps is a security risk.

So, the question is, what should your tech support staff do to keep up with these changes?

The root issue

Simply put, as networks have become increasingly mobile, the users have become less likely to follow IT protocol. It’s something a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Unisys touched upon a few weeks ago.

That study showed a clear schism between information workers and IT staff: More than half of end users felt that they needed the unauthorized tools they were using. IT executives, on the other hand, saw the tools as a matter of personal preference.

For many end users, there is no longer one right way to do the job. Their right way wins, no matter what IT might think.

It’s just data, right?

Maybe your employees are bypassing your networks. While security issues are likely to arise — ground rules are probably ideal — it may, at least in some cases, make sense to give users the freedom to use the tools they prefer.

Let’s put this in analog terms: If a worker is more efficient sorting their ideas using a file cabinet, while another worker would rather jot down ideas using a Moleskine, it shouldn’t matter as long as employees get the work done within your association’s structure.

Why shouldn’t it work the same way when they’re using an iPad they brought in from home? If they hate using Microsoft Word, but can save documents in PDF or Word formats, why force them to use Word?

This is the cloud’s potential, whether you use your cloud or your workers bring theirs.

Idea: Work with the flow

Perhaps the solution is not to force workers to plug into your system, but to plug into theirs. Fortunately, there are integration-focused web apps that can do this pretty easily, including the popular and free IFTTT, the business-oriented Zapier, and the file-transfer-oriented Wappwolf.

Is your worker writing in Evernote despite the fact that everyone else in the office uses Google Docs? Direct them to IFTTT. Need local redundancy for that Dropbox folder everyone’s using to save photos from your conference? Have Wappwolf upload that folder to a local FTP. Need to integrate a cloud-based spreadsheet into a legacy MySQL database? Zapier can do that.

Not secure enough for you? Then offer a secure option, Accellion CEO Yorgen Edholm argues on

These tools aren’t perfect yet, but they will evolve. And the more that organizations focus on making interoperability and security a long-term goal, the better these tools will get.

Is the solution to become more flexible, knowing that there are things you can’t control? Or should you clamp down? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

(Illustration by Ernie Smith)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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