Yesterday I interviewed Chris Yeh, VP of platform for Box, about the big news that Google has entered the cloud storage market with Google Drive. I took notes on my iPad using the Penultimate handwriting app, and when I was done, I backed the file up to Dropbox, another cloud storage rival.
To let my far-flung colleagues know I was writing this column, I posted a message to our Google Groups message board, an online app which lets staff writers and our dedicated freelancers see what everyone's working on.
Did I mention that we're a Microsoft collaboration software shop? So when I wanted to know if my colleagues David Carr or Eric Zeman had filed their articles yet (they're much faster than I am), I IM'd another editor using Microsoft Messenger, and he sent me their stories using Microsoft Entourage email (I'm on a Mac). I wrote this column in Word. To post to InformationWeek.com, I pasted the text into a Web-based content management system, TeamSite.
Are we insane? To get these 700 words to you, I used two consumer cloud services, one enterprise cloud service, and two on-premises enterprise software packages.
If we're crazy, by all means tell me. But I don't think we are, at least not about our software. I think if you went and talked with groups of office workers at your company, you'd hear similar stories of people piecing together enterprise and consumer software, both cloud and on premises, to get their jobs done.
[ Want more on how IT is changing? Read 15 New Rules For IT To Live By . ]
Let's be clear--I'm not complaining. I felt incredibly efficient using all of these tools, like I had what I needed at every turn. This is just the world of work today, a world that's fast moving from "bring your own device" to "bring your own cloud."
BYOC pressure will force IT to deal with cloud storage, whether it's Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Box, or some other variation. All these services let people save files of different types online, and they can be accessed from different devices and shared with other people. All of them offer some level of free storage, with additional storage and in some cases administrative controls for IT to use in a business environment for a price.
Yeh, the Box exec, thinks one of the make-or-break factors for business adoption of cloud storage will be which services build healthy developer communities and close ties with other software makers.
Remember that backup I did of my notes to Dropbox? I used Dropbox mostly because the Penultimate app has an integration with Dropbox. Box has similar links with a note-taking app PaperPort Notes (I haven't tried that one).
Yeh previously worked at Yahoo building developer communities around Yahoo products. And he points to Microsoft SharePoint as a model for enterprise software success based on a huge developer community, which has added a wealth of features around the SharePoint collaboration platform.
Yeh says the Box team isn't fretting Google's market entry -- it's "validation" of the market, he says. He characterizes Drive as more of an extension of Google Apps and concedes that companies highly focused on Google productivity apps will find Drive appealing.
But it's more likely employees want to share files built using a huge range of apps, and Box is positioning itself as the neutral player that knows how to give business IT what it needs. Yeh notes that the mobile app market has led to massive fragmentation--people using QuickOffice to work in Office documents, PDF Expert to mark up PDFs, and so on. "In a fragmented world, it's really helpful for us to take a platform-agnostic approach," he says.
Of the cloud storage vendors, Box may be the most devoted to the business IT market, but all the players will offer some enterprise controls. IT organizations have a lot of experience sifting through features and finding an option that works for the company. The key thing for IT to remember is that employees aren't going to wait for that process before they start pouring files into cloud storage. BYOC has begun, whether IT's involved or not.