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Guess what? Your workforce is using Dropbox. Yawn.

Corporate storage company Nasuni is using the time-honored technique of white paper scare tactics to try to roll back the inexorable adoption of Dropbox in the enterprise. In a report entitled Shadow IT in the Enterprise, the company collates some interesting stats:

Barb Darrow, Guess what Mr. CIO? One in five of your employees uses Dropbox at work

One out of five of 1,300 business users surveyed said they use the consumer file-sync-and-share system [Dropbox] with work documents, according to new research by Nasuni, an enterprise storage management company. And, half of those Dropbox users do this even though they know it’s against the rules.

The most blatant offenders are near the top of the corporate heap — VPs and directors are most likely to use Dropbox despite the documented risks and despite corporate edicts. C-level and other execs are the people who brought their personal iPads and iPhones into the office in the first place and demanded they be supported.

These findings should not be news to anyone who’s been paying attention. Dropbox, the popular service that consumers use to store and share photos, files and other documents, has become the proxy for “shadow IT” — technology that comes inside a corporation but is beyond the control and tracking of corporate IT departments.

The fear mongering — this is insecure, what happens when people leave the firm, etc. — won’t work, and for a few simple reasons:

  1. Dropbox fills a fundamental gap that even modern operating systems like iOS and Android share, which is synchronization of files across a range of devices. Yes, corporate solutions can work the same way, but increasingly, the devices are owned by the workforce, and used for many purposes.
  2. Dropbox integrates with a wide range of other apps, such as work media and task management tools. Sharing files is not an end in itself, but generally is an aspect of a larger activity or business process.
  3. Perhaps the most important economic driver of Dropbox adoption: the proportion of freelance workers involved in today’s economy is growing, and has been projected to be the source of over 50% of all professional work performed. These ronin are not outfitted by corporate IT, but they are actively doing work that is critical to the business, and they can easily share the outputs of their efforts via Dropbox.

There are a large number of risks that business is confronted by today, and while some documents may contain information that is so sensitive that its disclosure could be significant, the great majority of files don’t fall into that category. The larger risks to business are issues like agility, time-to-market, and lowering costs: adaptations that increasingly lead to outsourcing work. As I wrote in the recently released Work Media Sector Roadmap:

More and more creative and professional work is being outsourced, and more workers now work remotely or from many locations at different times and with geographically dispersed teams. Looking at this from a sociological viewpoint, work is increasingly being performed by people cooperating in relatively short-term work relationships, contrasted with the longer-lived work relationships of earlier decades. The length of jobs, projects, and assignments seems to be shortening, and nearly all professionals will say that the basic tempo of work seems to be accelerating. This puts a premium on fast-twitch response, a heightened importance on being able to switch gears individually and organizationally, and the ability to keep a situational awareness of all the projects that make up our workscapes. Obviously, people will gravitate to software tools that help them deal with this world of work situations that are accelerated but looser, as well as tools that help them get up to speed on new projects as quickly as possible.

This is clearly a higher priority than the marginal issue of securing every marketing report, or sales deck.