When Apple announced iCloud at its Worldwide Developers Conference last June, it set acolytes abuzz with anticipation. While many in enterprise IT will no doubt dismiss the broader relevance of consumer cloud services like iCloud to their work, they do so at their peril.
In his keynote, Steve Jobs described iCloud as a common data storage and synchronization backend. iCloud stores versions of every file the user creates on any device and then synchronizes these files across every device. These devices will all have access to the same data without having to email files or copy them to a memory stick. To quote Jobs, users can expect all of this magic to “just work.”It's a very appealing vision, and not just to consumers. Enterprise IT has been trying its best to deliver these kinds of services through a hodgepodge of technologies. Unfortunately, the results have typically been cumbersome to use and all too often break, much to the constant displeasure of an increasingly consumer-like corporate user.
IT naturally has very strong objections to enterprise use of these consumer cloud services. Data is not encrypted in the consumer cloud, so, if there is a breach like the one that occurred with Dropbox in June, sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. Likewise, there are no service-level agreements to guarantee data availability.Unfortunately, consumer cloud storage's revolutionary functionality and ease of use will lead many enterprise users to deploy these services, no matter what IT's policy may be. The folks in the IT department would be wise to take a hard look at how to deliver these new capabilities in an enterprise-grade fashion that magically “just works,” and manages to delight their constituency while maintaining the security and control over data.