Sharing Simplified: Consolidating Multiple File Sharing Technologies


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Sharing Simplified: Consolidating Multiple File Sharing Technologies

  1. 1. Sharing Simplified Consolidating Multiple File Sharing TechnologiesDow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  2. 2. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 2TABLE OF CONTENTSFile Sharing Technologies Proliferation and Pain.........5Characteristics of an Ideal File Sharing Technology....7File Sharing Technology Consolidation Case Study.....8Conclusions.......................................................................10Acknowledgements.........................................................11Endnotes............................................................................11Author: Larry Hawes, Principal Dow Brook Advisory ServicesPhoto: © Yunus Arakon 01/17/2011© 2011 Dow Brook Advisory Services – All Rights ReservedDow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  3. 3. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 3Sharing Simplified: Consolidating Multiple FileSharing TechnologiesEnterprise Content Management is a dirty word (OK, phrase). The term evokes negative responses from mostbusiness people.1A primary reason for this dissatisfaction is that traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologiesare purchased and deployed to control business content, while most workers need to share content. AIIMs 2010State of the ECM Industry report clearly shows that business objectives requiring content control drive ECMtechnology decision making in most organizations. Collaboration and content sharing are somewhat of anafterthought in most ECM project decisions.2 Figure 1: Business Drivers of Enterprise Content Management Projects and PrioritiesEmployees need to share content both with colleagues though-out the organization and, increasingly, with othersnot directly employed by their company. However, traditional ECM technologies make it hard to share contentwithin a single business and, in many cases, impossible to do so between organizations. This is partially bydesign and also a result of implementation decisions. In offerings from the largest ECM software vendors, theprocess of setting access rights to users, files, and folders (configuring Access Control Lists) is not intuitive orclear; it must be done by system administers, not business people. To make matters worse, while the need forgood usability of these technologies is "critical" or "high" for 87% of respondents in a recent survey, nearly two-thirds said that their current ECM solutionʼs usability is "poor" or "average", at best (see chart on next page). 3Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  4. 4. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 4 Figure 2: Usability of Existing Enterprise Content Management SystemsPoor usability limits adoption and use of traditional ECM technologies. Initial training and on-going support arenecessary for individuals to efficiently and effectively use them. There are, of course, financial and humanresource costs associated with those mandatory training and support activities.Microsoft SharePoint is often put forward as an alternative to traditional ECM technologies, in part, because it isperceived as being easier to use, as documented in this survey question. 4 Figure 3: Ratings of Microsoft SharePoint UsabilityNot only is SharePoint judged as more usable, many also feel that it enables content sharing better thantraditional ECM technologies. However, SharePoint was designed to support file sharing within closedworkgroups, not across or between enterprises. All too often, organizations using SharePoint find they must turnto another solution to enable broader sharing of content (see the case study beginning on Page 8 for anexample).Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  5. 5. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 5File Sharing Technologies Proliferation and PainTo overcome the limitations of traditional ECM technologies and SharePoint, many organizations supplement theirprimary content management system with other file sharing technologies (see table below for list.) Often, they relyon more than one of these to meet their content sharing requirements.Some of these file sharing technologies are deployed by the corporate IT department, but others are procured ordeveloped by employees who have had too many problems with the official corporate content sharing solutions,including traditional ECM systems. Most of the use of these employee-controlled resources, frequently referred toas Shadow IT, goes undetected by corporate IT staff. The following chart presents examples of sanctioned, aswell as common Shadow IT, solutions for several file sharing technologies. Technology Sanctioned IT Shadow IT Servers owned, deployed, and managed Servers acquired and run by individuals, Network File Servers by corporate IT workgroups, and departments Email Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail CD/DVD Nero, Roxio Creator Enterprise Native OS utilities, PowerISO, Roxio Toast File Transfer Protocol GlobalSCAPE, South River Technologies Core FTP, Cute FTP, FileZilla Managed File Transfer Ipswitch, Sterling (IBM), TIBCO Adobe SendNow, SendThisFile, YouSendIt Enterprise Social Software Jive SBS, Lotus Connections PBworks, Chatter,Yammer Web-based consumer services N/A BitTorrent, Dropbox, Facebook, Limewire Mobile carrier platforms Blackberry Enterprise Server AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Table 1: Examples of Sanctioned and Unsanctioned File Sharing TechnologiesMany problems may potentially arise when an organization uses multiple file sharing technologies. Some of theissues are specific to Shadow IT solutions lacking features required for enterprise use, but others apply to all thetechnologies listed above, including those deployed by corporate IT. Some of the potential problems and theirimpact on businesses are presented in the table on the next page.Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  6. 6. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 6 Issue Impact Limited and confusing Technologies that do not allow file sharing with colleagues, customers, and business accessibility partners – and/or with mobile devices – significantly slow business process execution, raising operating costs and delaying revenue recognition. Multiple systems, each having a unique login, trigger an increase in forgotten passwords, causing lower productivity and higher IT support costs. Information security Many file sharing technologies, especially consumer-oriented ones, lack needed security features such as multilevel password protection and encryption of files traveling across networks. Hacked and intercepted files containing sensitive business information cost businesses in terms of lost revenue and expenses related to damage control. No authoritative source Lack of version control and syncing capabilities in some technologies produce an inability to confidently access the latest, authoritative version of a file. This causes the spread of misinformation, potentially leading to loss of revenue and/or increased operating costs. File duplication The existence of the same file in multiple locations creates additional IT infrastructure costs related to increased storage needs and IT staff required to manage it. IT infrastructure growth Operating multiple file sharing technologies raises costs by increasing the necessary number of servers for applications, and content storage and backup, as well as the number of IT support staff. Loss of content Multiple technologies create a burden for individuals to remember where files are stored and often produce an inability find needed content. Unfindable files, and loss of content related to temporary (or permanent) technology or business failure of a solution provider, create costs related to recovering and recreating content. Need for alternatives Operating a file sharing technology with known problems often forces individuals and organizations to pay for an alternative technology or use a high-risk, free offering, so they may get their work done. Software licensing cost The aggregate cost of licensing multiple file sharing technologies is always higher than the discounted pricing available when licensing more individuals on a single offering. Business process delays Nearly all of the issues and their impacts presented here can negatively affect business process cycle times. The net result of these delays is higher costs and deferred revenues. Table 2: Impacts of Supporting Multiple File Sharing TechnologiesTo eliminate, or at least minimize, these potential problems, organizations should consider consolidating theirmultiple file sharing technologies into as few complementary solutions as possible.Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  7. 7. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 7Characteristics of an Ideal File Sharing TechnologyIdeally, multiple file sharing technologies would be consolidated into a single solution with the followingcharacteristics:IntuitiveThe technology should be so easy to use that individuals would need minimal training, if any, when starting with it.Intuitive user interfaces and experiences also reduce the need for on-going technical support. Training andsupport are expensive, but a well-designed application can minimize those costs. Intuitive technology fuels fasterand wider adoption, speeding benefit recognition as well.AccessibleFile sharing technology must be accessible to many different constituents, working in different locations, and froma wide variety of computing devices running on a range of operating systems. The technology must ensuresecure, but simple, access for employees from all parts of the enterprise, business partners, and customers. Itmust not exclude individuals because they are not in the same group or department, or because they areaccessing the technology from outside the firewall. It must also enable access from desktop, laptop, and tabletcomputers, as well as from mobile phones, no matter on which operating system they are based.ComprehensiveUseful file sharing technology includes a broad range of functionality that supports the deploying organizationʼsrequirements. A wide range of document formats beyond common office productivity files should be supported,including those associated with media, creative, and development applications. Core content managementservices must be present, including access control, versioning, check-in/out, search, logging of (and reporting on)system events, and user-configurable notifications of selected events. The technology must also generate links tofiles that can be emailed instead of file attachments. Collaboration functions, such as the ability to tag andcomment on a file or folder, or to co-create wiki-style documents, should also be available. Support for taskingrelated to content-centric processes and activities, such as reviews and approvals of draft content, is also highlydesirable.ConnectableAn enterprise file sharing technology must be easily integrated with other applications, both inside and outside ofthe corporate firewall. Open APIs and standards-based integration enable the file sharing technology to becomethe common content repository bridging previously siloed technologies. It should be relatively simple to integratethe file sharing technology with email, office productivity, and creative applications, as well as with enterpriseresource planning, customer relationship management, and other traditional enterprise systems.EmbeddableIt may even be desirable to go beyond simple integration of stand-alone technologies and embed file transferservices directly within other applications and enterprise systems. For example, an organization could make itpossible for individuals to upload, retrieve, edit, and share files without leaving a creative application or acustomer relationship management system. Embedding file sharing technology in heavily used computingresources increases worker productivity and lowers operating costs.SecureLike any other enterprise-grade technology, file sharing must be highly secure. User identity management andauthentication should be tied to existing enterprise directories, such as LDAP or Active Directory. Password-protection must be extended beyond system login to include access control to specific folders and files.Individuals should have the option to assign an expiration date for any content link when it is created. Files shouldDow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  8. 8. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 8be protected with 256-bit SSL encryption, whether they are being transfered across an internal network, VPN, orthe public Internet.ScaleableEnterprise file sharing technology must easily scale to rapidly accommodate new users, on-demand. Virtualizedapplications running in a private or public cloud are significantly more elastic than those requiring the addition ofphysical servers to scale. Administrators should only be required to register new users, assign them systempermissions, and migrate any existing content requested into the file sharing technology.ReliableIndividuals using enterprise file sharing technologies view them as a utility that should be available wheneverneeded. Therefore, the technology should guarantee at least 99.9% uptime for the primary instance and make aredundant instance immediately available in the rare case of primary system failure.AffordableIdeally, enterprise file sharing technology would be affordably priced. Hardware, software license, storage, initialdeployment and training, and on-going maintenance costs should be low enough to encourage enterprise-widedeployment and use. If the system price is not affordable, most of the other characteristics detailed here are moot.File Sharing Technology Consolidation Case StudyA brief case study will help illustrate the pains of supporting multiple file sharing technologies, as well as thebenefits of consolidating them.FLIR Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLIR) is a global manufacturer of infrared cameras, night vision, and thermalimaging systems, which it sells to government and commercial customers. The company has been in businesssince 1978 and is headquartered in Wilsonville, OR, with additional offices in the North and South America,Europe, Asia, and Australia.File Sharing Technologies and Practices at FLIRTwo years ago, the Marketing function within FLIRs Consumer Vision Systems division was not tightly integratedaround the world. Each region largely produced its own campaigns and collateral, following its own processes.While, there was little content or practice sharing between the regions, intra-regional offices did collaborate.Headquarters staff distributed digital marketing materials (image, video, some audio, and design files, as well asfinished PDF files) to other U.S. offices by loading large electronic files onto hard drives, which were shipped bycommon carrier. Smaller bundles of files were burned to CD or DVD and shipped or mailed. Even smallernumbers of, and individual, files were emailed between offices and individuals. Other regions used differenttechnologies to transfer marketing files between offices. Europe relied on three File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sitesand a Microsoft SharePoint installation. Asia primarily used a consumer-grade file sharing product calledYouSendIt.Each of the file sharing methods used had unique problems. Hard drives were usually ground-shipped, which costless, but delayed the time-to-review of draft marketing materials and dissemination of finalized marketingcollateral. In some situations, hard drives were shipped Second-Day or overnight, which reduced transit time, butraised cost. Marketing activity delays were frequently exacerbated by the physical failure of hard drives duringshipping or by human errors such as writing incorrect files to the units. Both required the return and subsequentreshipping of the hard drive. CD and DVDs were subject to the same issues. Email file transfer was hampered byfile size limitations and the frequent inability of employees to find an email with the attached marketing file theyneeded in their inbox.Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  9. 9. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 9In Europe, each of the three FTP sites in use had its own authentication system, and employees were frequentlyconfused as to which credentials were needed to access a specific site or they completely forgot their login and/orpassword. The SharePoint deployment had not been properly planned prior to implementation. Instead of using acommon repository for all files in the region, the system was siloed into individual sites for Marketing, ProductDevelopment, Sales, etc., each with its own content store. To make matters worse, a coherent folder structure hadnot been established for each site. As a result, content was highly disorganized, and employees had difficultyfinding the files they needed in the system.Taken as a whole, the multiple file sharing technologies and methods in use in FLIRs various geographic regionswere too expensive. The company was not able to take advantage of volume licensing discounts from the variousvendors involved. The existing technologies also caused delays in marketing collateral review and publishingprocesses that negatively impacted FLIRs revenue. Perhaps the most significant pain associated with usingmultiple file sharing technologies was that they reinforced the independence of each regions Marketing functionat a time that they needed to work more closely together. In sum, FLIR was paying too much for multiple contentsharing solutions that werent working well enough or enabling global Marketing integration.Business Changes Required Technology ConsolidationSeveral things occurred that prompted FLIR to seek a better way to share marketing files throughout itscommercial business units. FLIR responded to growing economic globalization by planning to better integrateoperations across geographic regions. For the Marketing function, that meant that nearly all creative work wouldbe done at headquarters, with minor localization of campaign execution occurring in the regional offices. FLIRalso acquired and integrated several smaller companies, each of which had its own content sharing technologiesand practices in place. Finally, in January 2010, the companys two commercial business units – CommercialVision Systems and Thermography – were merged into a single division called FLIR Commercial Systems. Theimpact of these changes on the Marketing staff at headquarters was that their creative workload more thandoubled, and they now needed to share content with colleagues across the world. They could not continue towork with the multiple file sharing technologies that were in place; they needed to get more done faster and at alower cost.FLIR Investigated Technology OptionsFLIRs Commercial Systems division started its evaluation of file sharing technologies by examining the variousones already in use within the global organization. Hard drives, CDs, and DVDs were rejected because of theaforementioned cost and productivity issues, which would only rise as use of these physical distribution mediaincreased. FTP was deemed to be too costly to scale as well; FLIR would be required to create more internalFTP sites, and buy and maintain more storage for them. Additionally, the cumbersome nature of the FTP systemwould create a costly training requirement for all employees new to it.Of all its existing file sharing technologies, FLIR gave the strongest consideration to SharePoint. The organizationfelt that it had the best chance of successfully scaling to meet their needs. However, they discovered that theupfront effort required to develop a content strategy, design and instantiate it in SharePoint, implement thetechnology, and train all employees before launch would require too much time and money. FLIR wanted acontent sharing solution that was "ready-to-go" with minimal set-up or training.While evaluating the potential expansion of its use of SharePoint worldwide, FLIR learned about a one-week test of Box, FLIR realized that Box met their requirements for an enterprise grade contentsharing solution (e.g. comprehensive, connectable, secure, reliable) with great usability and an affordable price.FLIRs Commercial Systems division decided to purchase licenses for 25 of its U.S. Marketing employees, whobegan to share files quickly, without any training. Soon after, accounts were established for the remainingDow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  10. 10. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 10Marketing staff in the U.S. and Asia. Today, there are 60 Marketing FLIRs Marketing function isemployees using Box, with some, but not all of the Europe-based tasked with creating and publishingmarketers on board as well. content related to new product launches. That content must beResults of File Sharing Technology Consolidation at FLIR translated for each of theConsolidation of multiple file sharing technologies has positively impacted companys localized websites. FLIR Marketing employees atthe marketing activities within FLIRs Commercial Systems division. Draft headquarters used to attachand final marketing content travels between office locations and across Microsoft Word files containing thetime zones at a significantly higher velocity (see the sidebar for an translated content to emails andexample of how the division has shaved time off of one collaborative send them to colleagues in othercontent creation activity in its Marketing function.) The company has not geographic regions. Employeescaptured before-and-after consolidation metrics for marketing activities frequently deleted those emails byinvolving file sharing. However, Jackie Way, Electronic Media Coordinator accident or could not find them later in their inbox. The emailwithin FLIR Commercial Systems Online Marketing Group, knows that recipient would have to requestMarketing employee productivity has increased, as has the efficiency of that the attachment be resent,the functions content creation and publishing processes. FLIR has not causing a delay in completing theformally quantified the costs savings directly attributable to the content review.consolidation of file sharing technologies either, but Way believes thatthey are significant. In addition, the improved time-to-launch for marketing Now those Word files are uploadedcampaigns has enabled FLIR to sell products and recognize revenue to a dedicated folder in Box. The better content organization andfaster. automatic notification of received files has made employees moreFLIR understood that consolidating file sharing technologies would help aware of new content and improvedtheir Marketing department become more highly-integrated, but that effort their ability to find and act on it.has also produced some broader, unanticipated benefits. FLIR FLIR employees can immediatelyCommercial Systems division Marketing employees began using Box to perform a thorough review of theshare finalized collateral with some members of the divisional Sales force, content, which allows them to find and resolve translation problemswhich put definitive versions of product and marketing campaign more quickly. FLIRs Jackie Wayinformation into their hands more quickly. Those Sales employees liked estimates that this better qualitythe solution so much that they requested licenses and began to share control and quicker problem solvingfiles within the department, as well as with distributors and customers. has contributed to their saving atMore recently, some divisional Business Development executives have least a day each time new productbegun using the new content sharing technology to collaborate on content has to be added to apresentation creation with Marketing. FLIR Commercial Systems now has localized website.about 150 Box users and is considering a further consolidation of itscontent sharing technologies, with Box potentially becoming the commonrepository for the entire division.ConclusionsThe story of FLIR Commercial Systems divisionʼs continuing consolidationof file sharing technologies – first touching internal Marketing employees,but rapidly expanding to other functions, and even to customers andbusiness partners – is a great example of the benefits that anyorganization may derive by undertaking that effort. Faster activity andprocess execution. Improved organizational integration across businessfunctions, units, and geographic locations. Better connections with, andDow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  11. 11. SHARING SIMPLIFIED: CONSOLIDATING MULTIPLE FILE SHARING TECHNOLOGIES 11service to, external constituents, including customers and business partners. Lower operating costs. Quickersales cycle and revenue recognition.The key to success in consolidating file sharing technologies is to pick an operational pain point against which todeploy a comprehensive solution that meets your organizationʼs requirements. Be sure to document that painbefore you consolidate technologies, so you can quantify the benefits afterwords. And be prepared to discoversome unanticipated benefits as well!AcknowledgementsDow Brook Advisory Services thanks for sponsoring this white paper and providing access to customerswho informed development of its content.Special thanks go to Jackie Way of FLIR Commercial Systems for speaking with the author about herorganizationʼs file sharing practices and supporting technologies. Many thanks to FLIR for allowing their story tobe told here.Endnotes1 Ina survey conducted by Forrester Research, only 37% of respondents said they were "satisfied" or "verysatisfied" with their organizations ECM system. Stephen Powers, Collaboration, Search, and Compliance Drive2010 ECM Investments, Forrester Research,,_search,_and_compliance_drive_2010_ecm/q/id/55706/t/2 (December 8, 2010).2 DougMiles, AIIM Industry Watch: State of the ECM Industry 2010, AIIM, (May 13, 2010)3 Generis, Inc., Content Management Plans for 2011: A Short Survey on CMS and CMIS, (November, 2010).4 Colligo Networks, Inc., SharePoint, CMS, and Cloud Storage Adoption: A Colligo Survey, (August, 2010).Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534
  12. 12. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Larry Hawes is the Principal and founder of Dow Brook Advisory Services. He is an internationally recognized expert on the application of information management technologies to drive high-value business transformation. His research and consulting work is focused on collaboration and knowledge management practices in the technology domains of enterprise social software, unified communication and collaboration, enterprise portals, document and content management, and business process management. Larrys thought leading opinions have been published in Wired, InformationWeek, ZD Net, C/Net, eWeek, Financial Times, Upside, CFO, and many other publications. He blogs at Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog. Larry also writes on his personal blog, Together, We Can!, and those posts are frequently syndicated to other sites. Larrys previous work experience included three and a half years as an analyst and consultant at Delphi Group and almost five years as an IBM consultant and program manager. Most recently, he was Lead Analyst, Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software at the Gilbane Group. Clients that have benefited from Larrys experience and insight include Accenture (Anderson Consulting), Acquia, American Express Travel,, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Broward County (FL) Public Schools, Citrix Systems, Defense Logistics Agency, Microsoft, NASA, NewsGator, and the United States Joint Forces Command. Larry holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a MA in Historical Musicology from the University of Michigan. He earned the MBA degree, with honors, at Babson College. He lives on a beautiful property abutting the Dow Brook Reservoir in Ipswich, MA with his wife, two sons, a dog, and a cat. ABOUT DOW BROOK ADVISORY SERVICES Dow Brook Advisory Services delivers Insight On-Demand to its clients. We provide the critical insight that key executives at enterprise software providers need, when they need it, so they can make better strategic and tactical decisions related to their companies business models, product and service offering roadmaps, and marketing and sales functions. Contrast our advisory services delivery model with that of the traditional analyst firms; we think you will agree that Dow Brook provides higher value at a lower cost.Dow Brook Advisory Services | 298 High Street | Ipswich, MA 01938 | 978-238-8534