Time to Rein in Cloud Storage

    The cloud wants your data, and it is resorting to increasingly creative methods to get it.

    The enterprise has long had a love/hate relationship with shadow IT, the practice where users create their own clouds to hold both personal and business data. But the practice is getting even more out of control because emerging storage automation systems are starting to push data onto third-party resources simply as matters of course. So increasingly, users are not even aware that their data may be heading to improperly secured resources.

    Google, for one, now provides automated backup and sync for devices, PCs and other data points, ostensibly giving users the ability to capture and share photos, music and other media. The intent is to preserve copies of data to make it easier to upgrade or replace devices and to forge links between various social media channels. But the service can also be launched on enterprise devices, although there is a maximum of 15 GB before charges kick in or service is upgraded to the enterprise-facing Google G Suite, which itself will soon have an automated backup facility called Drive File Stream.

    Meanwhile, Box is out with perhaps an even stealthier data storage mechanism called Box UI Elements. Rather than target user devices directly, Elements is an embeddable shortcut that app developers can use for sharing and storage functions. So rather than have users select their own storage cloud, Elements launches from within the app itself, ready to start pulling data from the device to Box. Ostensibly, enterprise users should get IT approval before migrating corporate data, but if that happened routinely, then there would be no such thing as shadow IT in the first place.

    And in all honesty, it seems that the enterprise is going to need all the help it can get when it comes to storage, even if that means full control is lacking. IDC recently reported that the world will need upwards of 19 zettabytes of storage by 2025, up from about 5.5 ZB today. And this is only for the data that is deemed storable. As connected devices start contributing to the IoT, the total worldwide load could top 160 ZB of mostly ephemeral, non-critical data. This will put increasing pressure on the enterprise to determine not only what to save to the cloud, but how and under what security and usage frameworks.

    And this is where we enter the exciting new world of mobile device management (MDM), which itself is starting to branch off into multiple sub-disciplines as data infrastructure becomes more complex. Computerworld’s Lucas Mearian notes that plain vanilla MDM has proven to be too restrictive for most users, essentially allowing companies to shut down phones and lock all data, work-related or not, in an emergency. This is leading to new approaches like mobile applications management (MAM), in which only enterprise apps and their data are locked down, and enterprise mobility management (EMM) or unified endpoint management (UEM) that strives to control all enterprise hardware under a single framework.

    Technology has always required users to make a deal with the devil. The ease and convenience that new technologies bring to daily life is invariably tied to greater risk and the loss of culturally valuable traditions as it works its way into the mainstream.

    The cloud is no different. The ease it brings to data operations is matched by the need to exert greater oversight over systems and architectures. Too little control and you expose sensitive data to misuse; too much control and you throttle the benefits that others are using to their advantage.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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