I am seriously concerned by the news about RIM. The company that brought us email in our pockets more than a decade ago is now on the verge of deep financial trouble, with a sellout or possible bankrupt protection. Also, their agreements with several foreign governments to host the messaging services in their countries -- to allow security and intelligence agencies to access the BlackBerry-encrypted communications -- cast serious doubts about the integrity of their servers.
It is hard to imagine how many cloud services we use everyday without our knowledge and control. Every time we use a BlackBerry phone -- still the preferred device for business users -- our messages (emails, texts, images) are delivered by the RIM servers, going out of our corporate control and being stored and encrypted, in the RIM cloud.
Similar issues arise when we use services such as Google Apps, Microsoft 365, Apple Me, etc.
Many companies are now allowing their employees to bring their own devices to work or to use them to access their email and other data from their homes. The BYOD revolution is here to stay. But what about bring-your-own-cloud (BYOC)? As mentioned, when a user fires up his BlackBerry, iPhone, or Android smartphone to send and receive email, most of the time the messages go through cloud servers outside their organization without IT control.
Another issue is temporary storage. Google Drive is now out there offering free cloud storage to anyone with a Google account, including Google Apps users. And then there are Amazon Cloud and Dropbox services, all offering an easy-to-use, instant cloud storage for the convenience of Internet users. For many corporate users, it is easy to sign up for one of those services and upload their work files to the cloud so they access them anywhere. The temptation to bypass IT and jump into the convenience of a popular service is too big to resist.
But some companies are beginning to react to this trend. Recently, IBM announced that it is banning employees from using some of the popular cloud services such as Dropbox, Apple's iCloud, and Google Drive. IBM's CIO Jeanette Horan told Technology Review that the BYOD policy is not saving IBM any money. Instead, "it has created new challenges, because employees' devices are full of software that IBM doesn't control."
"We found a tremendous lack of awareness as to what constitutes a risk," Horan said. So now, she says, "we're trying to make people aware."
For most organizations, BYOD is now to stay, and can be tolerated, but BYOC is another issue. If a provider such as RIM gets in real trouble, goes down, and leaves data exposed, it could bring a lot of damage to any organization using BlackBerrys, apart from the interruption of the service.
There is no such thing as being overly careful with the cloud, and IT should be aware of the cloud services that employees are using for any corporate data, establishing clear guidelines.