The BYOD movement in the enterprise is already taking some unusual twists. In addition to the variety of cell phones and smart devices IT must contend with, many users are utilizing personal cloud-based infrastructure. And that is leading to a host of integration, compatibility and security issues.
The personal cloud is nothing new. Consumers have been using on-line storage and synchronization for music, video and a range of other applications for several years now. According to ABI Research, the personal cloud market nearly doubled to $1 billion over the past year and is on pace to top $3.5 billion by 2018. In terms of raw capacity, personal clouds held about 685 petabytes in 2013 and will rise to 3,520 in 2018.
The primary appeal of the personal cloud is its ability to make data available to all devices at once, and then to share or sync that data to other users quickly and easily. The spreadsheet needed for the morning meeting is no longer locked away on the PC at home. As long as your mobile device has Web access, you’re good to go. Storage firms like Seagate and Western Digital, in fact, have made personal cloud devices a top priority going forward, with relatively low-cost systems (about $80) providing multiple terabytes of storage that can be accessed from numerous devices and operating platforms.
But as with most new technologies, the opportunity for the enterprise can also present danger. As Jonathan Feldman, CIO for the city of Asheville, NC, points out, the personal cloud is nothing short of a 21st Century PC, and is likely to be as disruptive as the 20th Century PC was three decades ago. In the first place, security is a question, and the enterprise will have to figure out how to make data on the personal cloud both secure and accessible to the people who need it. As well, questions of performance must be considered as an individual’s Web connections and sync/share capabilities may not be as robust as the enterprise’s. Then again, your employees may have superior infrastructure, putting pressure on IT to upgrade faster than the budget-minded elements of the organization are prepared for.
On the up side, personal cloud service providers are already working to make their offerings more enterprise-friendly. The Tonido Personal Cloud Network, created by Austin, Texas’ CodeLathe, has gathered more than 1 million devices to its service and is bringing in between 1,500 and 3,000 per day. The service features password-protected URLs and two-way file sync without relying on public services, email or social media platforms. At the same time, it features broad compatibility with leading data platforms including everything from Windows, Mac and Linux to iOS, Android and BlackBerry. The goal is to provide a highly flexible, self-provisioned cloud environment that can serve both consumers and the enterprise equally well.
Like the personal-device movement before it, personal clouds are heading the enterprise’s way whether they like it or not. And again, this leaves the CIO with a simple choice: Either fight it or embrace it. But if you choose to fight, be forewarned that personal clouds are only the tip of what is likely to be a substantial wave of bring your own service (BYOS) applications hitting the enterprise. It’s simple storage and sharing today, but maybe advanced data management and optimization tomorrow.
And for every organization that thinks it can resist change, there will be a dozen more that become leaner and meaner because they’ve learned to adapt.