At every level of government, there's an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Simultaneously, cloud computing has driven the continued consumerization of technology into the realm of personal storage and file sharing.
There's an obvious connection: Employees want to tap services they're used to outside the office — cloud-based backup and storage services — to facilitate collaboration on the job.
Like most people, government workers often work from home or need to perform their jobs on the go, juggling multiple devices and shuttling files between them. As easy-to-use cloud services penetrate personal computing, users expect to enjoy the same conveniences they have at home in the office.
Backing up or storing data in the cloud enables mobility and anytime, anywhere computing. It also provides reliable continuity of operations should staff need to access files remotely and a means of supplementing existing storage. But to safely take advantage of cloud-based backup, file transfer and storage technologies, the IT department must furnish secure options to users to prevent them from finding their own unsanctioned solutions.
Overall, 70 percent of IT professionals know or suspect rogue online file sharing in their organizations, according to Terri McClure, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group. That's a big problem because use of non-approved technology puts data at risk.
Consider this extreme scenario: A knowledge worker uploads state tax files that include income, Social Security numbers, work history and addresses to a consumer service and then accesses via a tablet. That person's child takes the tablet to school and loses it on the bus. The owner may not realize it's missing right away, and nobody is monitoring the account and data access patterns.
There's certainly a place for backup and storage servicesin state and local government. Enterprise-grade cloud options that address security and regulatory compliance are available from top-tier storage and security product manufacturers. These services typically encrypt files en route and at rest. In fact, some may offer better security than a small agency would be able to achieve on its own.
Taking an enterprise approach to end-user cloud file-sharing can provide an array of benefits, including speedy file synchronization between desktop and mobile systems as well as heightened productivity and collaboration. Cloud file sharing may also help organizations stamp out siloes and reduce storage and systems maintenance.
Whatever the approach, the IT and project leaders still need to drive these programs to avoid technology and management chaos. An abundance of options requires IT leaders to carefully consider which solutions best meet their organization's needs. Clearly, the team must find the delicate balance between ease-of-use and security. After all, IT departments must choose a cloud file-sharing service that employees will actually use.
"IT has to work in partnership with its knowledge worker groups to ensure that the solution they provide will meet their needs, otherwise employees will continue to go around IT," McClure advises.
As cloud computing models continue to gain popularity, IT departments will find that their work focuses less on providing tools and more on ensuring data governance and enhancing data security. Exploring cloud-based storage and file-sharing services is just another step in that transition.