Users Bypass IT to Share Content

End-users are increasingly turning to public cloud-based services to share content despite the concerns of IT and records managers about governance and control. According to the “Content in the Cloud” report by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 45 percent of companies have official policies regarding the use of “consumer-grade” cloud file-shares and collaboration systems and 12 percent admit that these policies are being circumvented.

Survey respondents admit that the need to share content with project groups outside of the company firewall is most likely driving employees to services such as Googledocs, Dropbox, EverNote and YouSendIt. End-users find these cloud-based tools more convenient and simpler to use than on-premises content systems, and better adapted to mobile devices.

Keeping documents up-to-date and distributing the right copy has always been a challenge. Online file sharing improves collaboration because the Internet never closes — users can quickly refer back to a document when an idea appears. With an online file sharing solution, knowledge workers and their colleagues are always on the same page (literally) and can focus on the work of business planning, strategy and brainstorming.

However, concern over potential security vulnerabilities — such as data loss, theft or risk of regulatory compliance violations — is the top reason organizations resist the use of free cloud storage sites. This resistance is not necessarily based on experience. Only 4 percent of existing cloud users report any serious issues such as data loss, security intrusion or long-term unavailability, with 70 percent having a completely trouble-free experience. In fact, 37 percent do not see data in the cloud as being any more vulnerable than on-premises data, including 10 percent who feel it is safer. This is particularly true among users from smaller organizations.

But security is not the only risk associated with online file sharing. Organizations should be concerned about losing control over their valuable information assets. Sensitive information can easily be exposed to the wrong individuals and employees may have access to company documents long after they’ve left the organization.

Two-thirds of respondents to the AIIM survey agree that online file sharing sites are creating a new Wild West, with corporate content scattered across any number of unlogged and uncontrolled cloud repositories. Nonetheless, most respondents feel the cloud will become the de-facto deployment for general IT applications over the next five years, and that document and content management applications will be at the forefront of this move.

The best way for organizations to circumvent the use of consumer-grade online file sharing is to provide employees with an alternative. Cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service solutions give workers access to company applications and data from anywhere. And if workers need to share documents with individuals outside the organization, enterprise-class online file-sharing solutions can provide that convenience and flexibility while ensuring that IT retains the necessary controls.