Saturday, August 10, 2013

Nothing is scarier than a business user with a credit card - collaboration

Over the last couple of months there has been some interesting discussions about the ability of NSA to get access to all kinds of data that enterprises puts in the hands of US based IT firms. The discussion itself is not new as the same kinds of worries have been raised about data entrusted to entities in countries such as China. Most companies outside the sectors that work with technology or other information that is considered vital for national security are usually more concerned that the Chinese authorities will leak the information to Chinese competitors than about the fact that the Chinese authorities has the info.

Could the same thing happen in the US? I would say perhaps so perhaps it is time to consider alternatives to sending all your docs to a US based company if you yourself is non US based.

Back in the old days when IT actually was in control of IT systems it was possible to stop the business from utilizing useful services such as Dropbox to share documents. Today this is largely no longer true as any middle manager in the business who believes that the lack of a good document sharing solution is holding his team back can simply use his credit card to buy some space at Dropbox or Google Drive and then expense the cost just as he would expense a hotel room or a flight. This means that IT has to offer a collaboration platform that is as good, will be ready in days or worst case weeks rather than months and shouldn't cost much more than the SaaS option. If the business perceives that you can't deliver fast enough the credit card comes out and there is usually very little IT can do to stop them.

There are a number of pages such as Prism break that lists different open source alternatives but sometimes you have a specific need and not the time and resources to find, customize and implement an Open Source solution.

When it comes to collaboration the classical choices are Sharepoint or some of enterprise file share portal such as Axway with web and SFTP interfaces. Either of these options can be used to build very competent solutions but neither is really fast or cheap.There are some quite interesting new products in the market place that fits between the pure SaaS offerings and the traditional enterprise collaboration platforms. One such product is called Anchor and is marketed by Cloud Distribution in the Nordic and UK regions.

I have been playing around with an installation for a week and overall it looks like a very useful product for the SMB segement. Anchor gives you Dropbox/Google Drive like web file management capability as well as as an app that enables automated file system level synch on most platforms including smart phones (not on Chromebook, sigh). It also offers automated backups.

Anchor has a quite nice user interface that makes it easy to setup user accounts as well as guest accounts. There is also good out of the box reporting and lot of advanced features. There is even an AD synch option and remote wipe functions for the smartphones. The product has not got support for things like UMA, OAuth or OpenID Connect which may be useful for companies that likes to live close to the edge of what is technologically possible but for 98% of the SMB market that just isn't needed at this point.

If you don't have an agile collaboration solution in place and you are feeling that your business would benefit by one, or at least the business perceives that they need one, Anchor may be a good option.

1 comment:

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