The inherent openness of the cloud carries with it the inevitable fears amongst users about security. But the corollary of that is a simple Law: service usability decreases as applied security procedures increase, the consequence of which is the only service with assured security is unusable.
This law, in the view of Dan Von Weihe, Chief Marketing Officer of SkyDox, can be increasingly seen in the cloud-enabled content management arena. Here, many of the big name vendors have created systems for use in the cloud that take security close to the point where they are impossible to use.
Such an approach not only negates the security provided, but also negates much of the reason for collaborating in the cloud in the first place.
It is Von Weihe’s opinion that, as one of the core purposes for content management systems is the collaborative use of content, making the process of collaboration a security minefield is a shortsighted approach. Therefore, the design objectives underpinning SkyDox collaboration tools are geared to working the way people actually use online documents to collaborate.
One fundamental reality here, and one for which the cloud is ideally suited, is that the tools must allow collaboration between remote workers, because online sharing of documents and files is the only option available. Within a single office, there is always the traditional, legacy option of face-to-face working.
But collaborating online also has to mean having the ability to work offline, in isolation, as well. That is the reality of working life for many – they may be on planes, or just in locations where there is no connectivity. To meet this need, the company has upgraded its tools to provide collaboration and cloud functionality to the user’s desktop without having to run a browser, or be online.
In effect the new tools have been designed to operate either as an intermediate entity managing collaboration requirements whether connected or not, or with later versions of some applications such as Microsoft Office 2010, providing the same capabilities actually embedded in the application. The tools have been specifically designed to work well with Microsoft SharePoint, and Von Weihe sees SkyDox as a complement to that system rather than a rival.
It also provides the ability for individual users to decouple from real time collaboration, carry on working as they were, and dynamically recouple as connectivity becomes available again. This, Von Weihe suggests, maps well onto the way that most collaboration processes operate, particularly with remote workers that are travelling a good deal.
It is also possible to build multiple levels of collaboration where different teams of workers are responsible for different parts of a project. For example, marketing managers would not need to know the detailed workings of an advertising design team: their interest would start once the three final options are ready for consideration. So SkyDox can be used to manage and integrate the separate tracks of responsibility within large projects.
When connected businesses get a wide range of choice over how it employed. For example, businesses content with users operating in the cloud can use SkyDox’s own Amazon-based datacentre as the infrastructure for collaboration, with SkyDox providing user authentication. At the other end of the scale it can be set up with the level of security the user specifies, running behind the firewall. In between, SkyDox can set up and manage private cloud infrastructures for European customers using Amazon’s Irish facilities.
In terms of operational flexibility the company has tried to give the tools the widest scope in terms of usability. For example, it can work with over 200 different file types, including audio, image and graphics formats. According to Von Weihe video formats are coming in a future version, and this is planned to allow such collaboration approaches such as tagging and commenting on individual video frames, and the shared editing of moving images.
This, coupled with its ability to work as a collaborating intermediary between the users’ core working applications, opens up wider possibilities for creating new, and more powerful collaborative environments beyond the current norm of written documents and PowerPoint presentations.
The cloud would then make the ideal foundation on which to build such global collaboration platforms, with SaaS-based delivery as just one option possible for use by small businesses or teams.