Briefing Update, CIO, Cloud

Cloudtenna Aims to Tame the Chaos of File Search Across Silos

Answer: Dropbox. Slack. Gmail. File servers. Google Drive. JIRA. Salesforce. And way too many more.

If your question was, “What are all of the possible locations for the single file I’m looking for and need this very minute?” then you win! Or, lose, as the case may be.  As companies continue their march toward an increasing number of applications, both SaaS and on-premises, the potential for insanity among employees increases.  Eventually, the problem will be so pervasive that one day, we’ll all be trucked away to padded rooms.

Seriously, though, there are so very many ways that people share files and communications these days.  It can be incredibly difficult to keep track of what files are located where.  This leads to a number of poor outcomes:

  • Loss of productivity, to which I can personally attest, as users spend an inordinate amount of time searching for things.
  • Security challenges as users struggle to make their lives easier in ways that may not always be the most secure.
  • The potential for organizational compliance issues as organizations are unable to produce access logs on individual files. This can be a critical issue after a data breach.

Of course, there are various mechanisms for searching local machines and, in some cases, even network drives, but many of these search services fail as soon as you add SaaS-based applications, such as Slack and Dropbox, into the mix.  A key problem is the need for users to visit each of their apps individually and search for the files they’re looking for.  First, the search email for it.  Next, they do a search of their local machine using the operating system.  This may or may not encompass Dropbox folders, depending on whether or not those folders have been locally synchronized.  Then, they move on to Slack to search there.  It’s clear why the status quo needs to go.

Beyond productivity, though, there are potentially devastating consequences for maintaining the status quo, and they revolve around security and compliance.  In the event of a breach, for example, understanding what files are where is key to determining the scope of the breach.  Moreover, an ability to determine which accounts accessed which files can go a long way toward reducing the impact of any resulting follow-up needs.  If you can prove, for example, that just a single file with no critical data was compromised, you’re in much better shape than having to assume that everything was compromised.

Introducing Cloudtenna DirectSearch

Recently, Cloudtenna introduced its DirectSearch platform, an enterprise-grade silo-smashing search tool intended to help organizations break down the application silos and bring sanity back to the file management equation.  DirectSearch is a machine learning-driven cross-silo enterprise search tool that brings the simplicity of tools like Apple’s Spotlight search to your enterprise.  Currently, via a web-based SaaS application, DirectSearch provides you with a Google-like interface that returns search results from all of your various file repositories.

This solves one of the key problems that I identified at the beginning of this article.  This type of search service has the potential to become an incredible productivity booster as users have a central location to search for files across all of the services they use at work.  No more hunting everywhere; just type in a few keywords and your files are at your fingertips.  The figure below provides a look at the DirectSearch interface and, as you can see, it’s very Google-esque.

Honestly, I wish I’d had this idea!  It’s a good one and it’s increasingly necessary.  During a recent conversation I had with the Cloudtenna folks, I suggested that they figure out a way to add a widget to the operating system rather than push users to use a web portal to search for files.  Their response was: “Stay tuned.”  I’m not sure whether or not the pun was intended.  That step, however, I believe cements a product like this.  Individual operating systems have their own search mechanisms, but they generally start and stop at the confines of that local machine.  Files that exist in SaaS environments and elsewhere in the cloud aren’t indexed, so, for all intents and purposes, they don’t exist.

Search is Just the Beginning

Search is the key pain point that Cloudtenna aims to solve first, but it’s not the end of the Cloudtenna story.  Over time, the company plans to implement features that address advanced file management, analytics, auditing, and e-governance, all of which remain critical enterprise IT challenges as well.

My View
The problem of difficult-to-find files is significant and costs companies a ton of money in lost productivity.  What Cloudtenna is doing is fascinating.  It’s deceptively simple, at least on the surface.  I’m captivated by services that mask serious underlying complexity, which DirectSearch appears to do very well.  There are serious guts underneath DirectSearch’s simple façade. As mentioned in the article, I believe that deeper integration into common operating systems – Windows and MacOS to start – is critical in order to allow users to remain in the context of the operating system rather than a browser.  Further, as Cloudtenna continues to mature, the company intends to tackle serious challenges around data compliance, analytics, and auditing.  With the metadata being captured as a part of the search functionality, it’s clear that Cloudtenna is well-poised to deliver on these next steps and I look very forward to watching their continued progress.