Government // Mobile & Wireless
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10/7/2012
05:44 PM
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Consumer Cloud Services Undergo 'Enterprisation'

EverNote, Box, SugarSync, and Amazon.com are springboarding off their success as consumer services to launch business-focused designs that appeal to enterprise IT.

Proven consumer technology companies have begun to leverage their influence by pitching their services to the enterprise. This "enterprisation" is the next logical step for services that employees are already bringing into the office. Many so-called consumer cloud services have begun offering business products. Evernote recently announced that in December it will launch Evernote Business, which will bring Evernote into the office with an admin console and integration with employees' existing Evernote accounts.

Evernote is late to the enterprisation game. In the cloud service business, Box, SugarSync, Amazon and many others offer a "for business" component. These services didn't start with the enterprise in mind. Their market was the consumer. But the consumer is only an employee in different clothes and the convenience of these services runs circles around the enterprise equivalents.

Evernote, for example, can automatically upload corporate email, documents, audio, video, software, and applications. The data is sorted, indexed, and made available in a single shared or unshared repository that is accessible from anywhere. Compare that to an employee storing documents in a content management solution like Worldox, emails in Exchange, and the company data in a Web silo. All of that is locked behind a firewall that needs multi-level authentications at a PC's browser.

Because these cloud services are now being pushed on the enterprise by individual employees, the CIO is happy to see a professional tier with a console to regain some management control over the data. A corporate console can enforce encryption, create a stricter password policy, and even require multi-level authentication.

It also can monitor what data is moving where, which is currently one of the biggest unknowns in IT.

Enterprisation is the next level of growth for consumer-based cloud businesses, creating revenue where there wasn't, because the average user doesn't typically pay for services such as Dropbox, Box, and SugarSync. For example, when the enterprise adopts Dropbox for Teams--which can integrate Active Directory--Dropbox annually earns $6,420 for a 50-user license.

So the battle for the enterprise is underway. And just as mass adoption of gadgets and services created big winners in the consumer market--such as the iPhone besting Blackberry--enterprisation will anoint other true winners because they will have the approval of the enterprise. Once that happens, the gadget or service won't be an outsider competing with enterprise software and hardware. It will be the enterprise software and hardware.

As Amazon senior executive Andy Jassy told the Financial Times last week, localized IT services will be as anachronistic as a company producing its own electricity.

There are a growing number of consumer brands that CIOs are becoming increasingly comfortable with, including:

  • Apple Configurator. With the Apple Configurator, network administrators can provision 30 iOS devices at a time with customized profiles, password policies, and other restrictions.
  • LastPass. Password managers such as LastPass can be upgraded to an enterprise tier for $24 a year per user. This gives administrators power to enforce a password policy beyond the local network without increasing the burden on the employee. LastPass for Enterprise can break employees of the notoriously unsafe practice of using the same password for different accounts. It also improves employee productivity because they are not losing, resetting, and calling the help desk to access their accounts.
  • Carbonite. Carbonite was launched in 2005 as a consumer-based online backup service. When its name became known--especially among tech professionals through strategic advertising--it introduced Carbonite Premier in 2011 for $599 a year. It will compete with Glacier, which was introduced by Amazon in August.
  • Google Chrome. While Firefox 15 is collecting stellar reviews, it's Google Chrome that's edged out Internet Explorer as the most-used browser in the world. The difference is partly that Chrome can be managed in the enterprise with a .MSI installer and group policy, while Firefox essentially says it isn't interested in the enterprise.

There will be multiple winners in the enterprisation game, where several products in the same category--Dropbox, SugarSync, and JustCloud, for instance--are all managed in the enterprise. Some day there might be a new job title--manager of cloud services--where an admin simply maintains user accounts and requests.

These consoles won't regain complete control of corporate data, but they will add another layer of data protection along with mobile device management (MDM) network monitoring, and a sound corporate policy.

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