Browsing Posts published in June, 2010

According to Forrester Research¹, 94% of us use email as our primary collaboration tool.  Whether it’s for sharing medical research information, financial records, or the latest marketing campaign creative layouts, email has become the ubiquitous vehicle for sharing today’s rapidly growing wealth of unstructured data (e.g. PDFs, PowerPoint charts, digital images, audio and video).

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Group Logic showed that 70% use email most often to share large files (read unstructured data).  So what’s the problem here?

As the amount and size of digital content grows over time, it has simply gotten to the point where it won’t fit through the email pipe anymore.  Take for example, marketing creative files.  A short television ad spot can take hundreds of megabytes of storage.  Sending this through traditional email systems simply won’t work.

Using email to send files is slow, inefficient, unreliable, and actually creates a great deal of potential for legal liability.  It’s an example of one of the ad-hoc business processes that smart companies are eliminating now in favor of more effective technologies like Managed File Transfer (MFT).  We see more and more companies extending their existing email tools with embedded MFT solutions that strip out attachments and transfer them in a more secure, efficient way.

And then there’s the security aspect.  Objects like medical images, or sensitive financial records needs a whole new level of security – not just to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, but also to comply with today’s strict regulatory compliance standards – standards like SOX, HIPAA, or GLBA.

In the survey referenced above, over half (51 percent) admitted at least one type of other email error while trying to collaborate with large digital files.  Perhaps most alarmingly, nearly 10 per cent admitted emailing a customer an attachment meant for a different customer altogether.

Despite email’s prevalence, it’s clear that once companies really begin to scale their collaboration efforts, company leaders quickly realize the importance of using solutions like MFT for secure and governed transfer of digital assets.  And while we view MFT as an critical means of bridging the gaps in today’s email and collaboration tools, it goes without saying that the adoption of known best practices is essential to ensuring effective control and compliance over how information is shared within the enterprise.

1 – “The State of Collaboration Software Adoption”, Forrester Research, April 2010

Digital content has an increasingly important role in business today.  Medical teams use X-Rays and MRIs to diagnose patients. Engineers share design files as they develop new products. And agency design teams collaborate on creative layouts for marketing campaigns.

The rapid growth in digital content is driving over 49% of today’s enterprise and SMB companies to adopt one of today’s enterprise content management or collaboration solutions.  That said, if you listen to the companies who have already made the jump to one or more of today’s ECM (enterprise content management) or collaboration tool suites, the move to these tools will be met with challenges and obstacles – largely because ECM and collaboration tools fail to meet many of today’s tough requirements for security, reliability, ease of use and performance in particular.

So, what are companies saying about the collaboration tool adoption process?  Many customers today look for leaner and more agile solutions according to Forrester Research.  In addition, companies are increasingly looking to integrate SharePoint with their existing ECM systems.  In fact, cross-product integration is probably the number one requirement we hear over and over again.  Vendors, are you listening?

The second biggest issue we hear about is performance.  Getting data into and out of today’s ECM systems can be a real headache – especially if the underlying data transfer technology is FTP.  We hear over and over again, that users simply throw their hands up in frustration because the time it takes to get data into and out of many of today’s systems is simply too onerous.

Because of these limitations, much digital content at the enterprise level remains unmanaged within either an ECM or collaboration tool.  And yet, according to Forrester Research, over 37% of enterprise and small to medium sized businesses will adopt an ECM (enterprise content management) or collaboration tool suite in 2010.  Go figure!

Have a collaboration tool war story to share?

  1. Email is a viable way to share digital content: Most IT organizations enforce a strict 5 MB file size limit on email attachments.  This in itself poses a serious limitation for sharing most digital content.  More importantly however, built-in security compliance in today’s email environment often falls short of what is required by information protection regulations such as SOX, HIPAA, and GLBA.  Check your email system’s inherent capability for securing digital content and ensure it meets today’s compliance and governance requirements.
    Conventional FTP tools are an ideal means by which you can securely transfer digital content: We’ve all used File Transfer Protocol (FTP) at one point or another to send files to our colleagues, other business units or partners.  But did you know that FTP is far from a secure means to share information (digital content or otherwise)?  FTP relies on a basic mechanism of authentication and authorization to grant access to file-based data.  Have you ever noticed however, that once you’ve been authenticated by the FTP system you can not only see your own files, but often any number of files from other users?  This is because, once you send a file via FTP, it remains on the FTP server until you or someone else deletes it.
    All Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems are created equal: Today’s Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems seem perfect for storing, cataloging, searching and otherwise managing digital content, right?  Well, maybe… you see, not all DAM’s are created equal.  Most of today’s DAM’s rely upon FTP to transfer information between users and the DAM (see number 2 above for why this is a bad idea from a security perspective).  But there’s something else to know about FTP as well.  FTP performance and reliability leaves much to be desired.  Imagine you are uploading a 500 MB file to your DAM.  You are about an hour into the process and a little over half of the file is sent.  Then, for no apparent reason, the FTP server stops.  What do you do then?  Basically, you have to start over from the beginning.  Lesson learned… stay away from FTP and any DAM that relies upon it.

Apple iPad sales hit 2 million last week – a milestone few companies or products have ever achieved… let alone in their first two months of sales.  And while iPads have yet to significantly impact the enterprise, it has become apparent to most global enterprises that the Mac has grown in both presence and relevance.  In fact, more and more companies today are offering their employees Mac and Windows options for their personal desktop environment.  This not only makes for happier users, it also helps to ensure that already productive Mac users remain that way.

Further, this trend has spread to include, not only the traditional media, broadcasting, and advertising verticals that one might expect, but also unfamiliar territories such as financial services and technology as well. News from Google this week reveals that, due to security concerns, they are moving away from Windows PCs enterprise-wide, in favor of Mac and Linux clients.

And yet, with today’s growing base of Mac users accessing a primarily Windows-based enterprise, fundamental differences between the Mac and Windows operating systems can make the integration between Macs and Windows a significant challenge.  Most fundamentally, Mac performance and file integrity can be compromised because of incompatibilities between Windows and Mac OS X operating systems – largely caused by the differences in the file sharing protocols they are designed to use.  In the Windows case, file sharing is conducted using the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, which lacks many of the capabilities included in the Mac’s default Apple Filing Protocol (AFP).

And, as Mac users encounter data integrity issues or become dissatisfied with system performance, they naturally turn to the Help Desk, which has seen a significant increase in inbound calls from Mac users who simply need a way to share data with Windows-based systems.

What’s needed is a solution that ensures transparency between Mac and Windows, in what is becoming less and less a Windows-centric world.