As an individual, you create, exchange, receive and generate a sea of digital information.
Think of your communications, documents, photos, blog posts and music. Add everything you're creating or working on at your job. Then add everything you've done on social networks like Facebook. Mix in account information, from your mobile phone company to your insurance company to online retailers such as Amazon. Layer on crucial personal information like your tax filings and your mortgage and it's overwhelming -- especially when you want to get access to this information from any of your growing collection of work and personal devices.
Managing all of this content is a growing problem for all of us. It's also a problem for CIOs and business technology (BT) organizations that must deal with individuals maintaining their own caches of digital content, including company content, using vendors such as Dropbox that the company hasn't selected and doesn't control. This will get even more complex as more new services spring up to help individuals manage their digital content.
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Basically, the complete collection of digital "stuff" that matters to individuals is their digital self. The digital self is not just your work and personal computer files. It includes all of the complex and varied digital information that you and the organizations you deal with generate. Already, 77% of U.S. online adults report using one or more personal cloud services to store or manage their communications or content, and this doesn't even count their ubiquitous Web-based email accounts. Forrester divides this wide variety of digital information into four categories of content that make up the digital self:
Created. Content that you author such as messages, contacts, photos and presentations.
Mutual. Content and information you purchase from, create with, or share with providers.
Received. Transaction and activity records sent to you by companies you do business with.
Recorded. Records and data about your behavior collected and analyzed by others.
Challenges And Opportunities In Managing The Digital Self
Here's the dynamic. As people use more mobile devices, they worry more about losing data on those devices. And they become frustrated that more of their "stuff" -- their digital self -- is not available when and how they need it on all their work and personal devices.
These factors drive people to put more of that content online in services like Google Drive, Evernote or Microsoft SkyDrive. Workers use these services for work content, whether approved by their companies or not. But once all this content is in cloud services, people have challenges managing it, collaborating around it, backing it up, linking it with data in other services, keeping it private and secure, and generally getting additional value out of it. That's because current personal cloud services are really just storage automation services that have little content awareness and insight into what the individual is trying to accomplish.