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July 18, 2012

If IBM Doesn’t Allow Dropbox, Should Your SMB Allow It?

Recently on line file sharing vendor Dropbox announced that it was doubling the amount of space it offers to its paying customers. The reason they said they were doing this is that people are using more storage now. Others say it was to remain competitive in the face of competition from Microsoft, Google, Apple and others.

No matter the reason, having cloud based storage and file sharing is a great benefit for many people in companies and as consumers. You can store your files in the cloud and access them anytime, anywhere from a wide variety of devices. You can share them with designated friends and associates and some services even allow version control.

But if it is so good, why have companies like IBM banned their employees from using it? The answer is simple, security. Many companies who initially embraced the whole BYOD and cloud app concept are now realizing that there is a price to be paid for the ease of use.

Once you have employees with the ability to move and store files in and out of your network, you lose control over who can access them and where they go.  The fact is most employees were using their own Dropbox accounts with no control whatsoever from IBM. 

If IBM had no control over these accounts, how can you as an SMB have any control? The answer is you probably can’t.  The Dropbox case is an example of how BYOD (bring your own device) can impact your business. While giving employees freedom to use their own devices anywhere and anytime can be productive, it also introduces a whole new set of complications into the picture.

Managing these devices and services like Dropbox on your network is one consideration. Are you prepared to do so? Without a well thought out policy, having all of these devices on your network could become a disaster. 

Also, remember these devices and their users don’t have to be physically on your premises to access your network and assets. The flip side of BYOD is access from anywhere, anytime. Are you prepared to manage that?

I think you can quickly see some of the problems that led to a company like IBM saying that Dropbox, as well as Siri and other BYOD tools are not allowed on their network.  If IBM couldn’t put the policies, process and technologies in place to do this right, how can you?

So what are you doing regarding BYOD? It does make life easier in many cases, but there is a price to be paid. Have you thought it through? Am interested to hear your thoughts on this. Is Dropbox and similar BYOD apps OK for your SMB?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.




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