Making Mobile Happen in Cloud-Based File Sharing

Mar 12, 2015

Smartphones are celebrated for empowering the people that use them. Smartphone users can access a wide range of applications, consume mountains of digital content, and allow users to digitally record and share their individual experiences. Additionally, smartphones are becoming powerful business tools.

In late 2014, Frost & Sullivan surveyed 501 US businesses about their enterprise communications practices. The resulting report, The Future of Enterprise Communications in the Workplace in North America: An End User Perspective, NE98-64, February 2015, shows exactly how pervasive smartphone use is in US businesses:

  • Fewer than half of all employees in US businesses are considered "traditional, in-office workers."
  • 27% of survey respondents stated that their employers provided smartphones to all of their employees. Another 47% employers provided smartphones based upon an employee's role.
  • 86% of all US businesses have a consumer facing social media strategy.
  • For companies that allow employees to use their smartphones for business, 78% of those employees use their smartphones for work daily; and another 19% use their smartphones at least once a week.

Driving this pervasiveness are the many contributions smartphones make to "getting business done." For example, time and GPS location-stamped photographs taken by insurance claims adjusters, safety inspectors, and government compliance agency officers out in the field are immediately uploaded to a centralized site for storage and further processing. The wait time for field workers to return to the office to "deposit" their photographs has vanished. Smartphone apps also contribute to field worker productivity through real-time access to forms, invoices, marketing materials, and other types of documents.

For the non-field but equally digitally-dependent workers, smartphones break the traditional constraints of business work hours and physical locations. Smartphone-enabled employees can complete work tasks and operations whenever and wherever they have connectivity; a boon in improved personal/professional balance.

One application that is especially problematic is cloud-based file sharing (CBFS). CBFS, sometimes referred to as "enterprise file sync & share" (EFSS), is a powerful platform that enables file management and collaboration. CBFS is especially effective in traditional work environments where Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Adobe PDFs are standard file formats. The shape, look, and portability of these file types is designed to feel and act like 8 ½" x 11" letter-sized papers. For CBFS to be effective on mobile devices, the application has to be designed for a Web-interface, and for the smaller screen sizes of smartphones and tablets. Interfaces need to be designed to account for tough navigation.

The saying is, "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," and when integrating mobile devices, a CBFS must have unique mobile applications. The following are key considerations for transforming CBFS into a strong collaborative and information gathering platform for mobile devices:

  • Content management applications. Directories, personal contacts, and email access should be designed to be viewed and edited on mobile. Content specific applications like Pages, which allows for seamless word processing between Mac and iOS devices and is Microsoft Word compatible, let an end user work in a mobile environment with minimal loss to productivity.
  • Native mobile apps. The CBFS should offer mobile apps that have been optimized for smartphones and tablets. Support for HTML5 is preferred because APIs are written for file uploads, drag-and-drop, and document editing.
  • Cross platform mobile development. If at all possible, any application that is designed for desktop PCs should be adaptable for mobile devices.
  • Auditing files and log management. Whether a CBFS platform is natively designed to recognize mobile devices, or an app is uploaded to a CBFS; knowing what mobile devices have been on your network is helpful. Analytics can be applied to file access to determine the efficacy of promotions and advertisements.
  • Search and preview tools. Part of the battle in mobile is that bandwidth available is not as great in wireless networks (generally) as in fiber networks. If a mobile user is trying to find files, search and preview tools help mitigate the frustration of having to upload whole files to find the right working file.

To interface with and expand ECM platforms, especially on cloud, an open-standards based API platform is vital in an integration strategy. IBM found that companies trying to expand proprietary ECM platforms spend five times the cost in licensing than ECM based on open platforms.

In conclusion, mobile approaches in CBFS do require special attention. However, the gains in productivity, and the knowledge gained from customer interaction with a company's network are too powerful to ignore.

Christopher Kissel


Chris Kissel offers eleven years of research and sales experience in the network security, cellular infrastructure, wireless, telecomm, PCs, semiconductor, and high-definition consumer device sectors. His current field of studies are in information and network security at Frost & Sullivan. More specifically, Mr. Kissel has expertise in knowledge-based network security technologies.: vulnerability management, SIEM, network forensics, network access control (NAC), and Internet of Things.

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