With the creation of cloud-based platforms, file sharing is becoming ubiquitous, and for companies, embracing mobile collaboration is crucial for survival.
Indeed, at many companies, these mobile platforms give employees the freedom to contribute to their firms anywhere, anytime, using any device. According to a report by independent information-technology research firm Neovise, which screened 822 IT leaders and decision-makers, a majority of U.S. businesses (54 percent) are using some form of public or private cloud technology.
But things were different 10 years ago.
Microsoft SharePoint, a web application that launched in 2001, was one of the first file-sharing collaborative platforms to enter the marketplace. But it was a hard sell, says James Gordon, vice president of IT at Needham Bank. Although IT managers at various companies tried to promote the software, employees saw little benefit to it, and it didn’t catch on, Gordon says. They were already in the office, so it was easier to hold a meeting on site than to upload their documents, data and ideas to a sharing platform. If they did want to share documents over the Internet, they could simply attach them to an email. But as mobility grew in popularity, so did SharePoint.
By 2010, approximately 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies were using the software. Employees tend to “gravitate toward what’s easiest,” says Gordon. At one time, that was emailing attachments back and forth, and now it is keeping documents in a centralized location with platforms like SharePoint, he says. Cloud-based platforms make companies more flexible by making it easier for employees to access their work anywhere.
Technology companies are taking notice, too. Last month, Oracle launched 10 new cloud services, including a documents cloud. IBM recently launched its social, mobile, mail and meeting functions in the IBM SmartCloud to help businesses drive productivity. Needham uses Accellion’s business software, which offers a secure workplace cloud to share, sync and send files while ensuring data security and compliance.
Gordon says this software helps the firm streamline workflow and disincentivizes the staff from seeking the free – and unsafer – consumer-driven solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. Public applications such as Dropbox are “dangerous for highly regarded institutions or any place that has secrets and wants to keep them safe,” he says. Instead of having employees seek out consumer-to-business programs on their own, executives and IT professionals should provide secure business-to-business cloud-based software, which offer more control and transparency about what data is being shared in the cloud, Gordon says.