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Much to the probable chagrin of IT leaders the number of places that end users can store files has rapidly expanded. A new survey of 160 IT professionals conducted by Cloudtenna, a provider of enterprise search tools, finds that on average end users are using 6.3 “file silos” spanning email, network drives, cloud services, and hosted collaboration suites to store documents.

Only 38 percent of survey respondents say they rely on network drives and servers to store files. Most end users as employing email as a file repository, with 74 percent of respondents using Outlook and 40 percent using Gmail to access files. 

The most popular cloud file storage services are Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive used by 53 percent each, with Dropbox used by 45 percent, and then Box by 32 percent.

Among enterprise collaboration and sharing tools, Slack is currently the most used (22 percent), followed by Salesforce (18 percent), Jira (17 percent), and Confluence (16 percent).

Only 12 percent said their files are spread fairly equally across all repositories without relying on one more than another, which suggests each end user is picking a repository to store files based on either how that file first arrived or whatever fancy that struck them when that file was created.

Cloudtenna CEO Aaron Ganek notes it’s now become too easy for end users to lose track of where any version of a file now resides.

“There’s more usage of point products,” says Ganek.

Because of that issue Ganek says there’s a clear need of an enterprise search tool that leverages machine learning algorithms and natural language processing to make it simpler to track and find files by name, sender, date, file type, keyword, content, and other attributes regardless of where files are stored. The Cloudtenna approach to solving that problem, dubbed DirectSearch, is now available in beta.

Opportunities for MSPs

The fact that so many files are now distributed across an extended enterprise also shines a light on the extent of the data management challenge now faced by the average enterprise, which spans everything from compliance to backup and recovery. Naturally, that creates a major opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs), assuming they can first discover what repository any given end user has decided to favor on a particular day.

IT leaders, of course, would like to reduce the number of cloud services being employed to store files if no other reason that dealing with compliance mandates. The probability many of them will be able to achieve that goal, however, is slight. Most of them will need help from an MSP to meet compliance requirements that need to be met across any number on cloud services

In theory all these repositories are supposed to make individuals more productive. The reality of the situation leaves a lot of room for debate. The Cloudtenna survey notes 78 percent of end users now find it painful to some degree to find a file. In the meantime, MSPs should expect the number of places where end users decide to store files to increase. The number of options end users have to store files continues to increase as vendors continue to unfurl additional services. It’s unlikely any one of those services is likely to dominate all the rest any time soon. But with each new cloud service that gets adopted the odds an IT leader is going to conclude their organization needs the services of an MSPs substantially increase.

Photo:  Nirat.pix / Shutterstock.

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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