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Can Using Cloud Storage Offer Business Insights?

“Storage is where the stickiness is,” said Jeffrey Mann, vice president for research at Gartner. “It’s how they hold a customer. If they store your stuff, they get to know you better.”

It’s an interesting concept. Many of us are now used to the idea of corporations like Google or Microsoft learning more about us as individuals from our browsing habits – what we search for on their engines, what websites we visit. This data is collected, analysed and used in many ways; one of which, slightly controversially, is tailor advertisements specifically to your needs.

However, the idea of the data we store in the cloud undergoing similar analysis would be unwise. Personal, private data can be stored in the cloud and we expect it to stay secure and unseen. But cloud storage providers are increasingly looking to push past the personal, single user. Although there’s still money there, the real dollar lies in enterprise users. Perhaps the analysing can be better served there?

At a recent annual developer event, Google spoke about a number of changes they are making to their cloud offerings. Companies will be able to audit who is reading specific documents, easily encrypt data and be able to work with data stored in old formats.

“Cloud storage is a temporary market,” said Scott Johnston, director for product management for Drive. “In the future it will be about elevating productivity: How do we look for patterns? What does it mean if a document is read by 10 percent of the company? What does it mean if you haven’t read it yet?”

The key word that will stand out to those in charge of enterprises here is ‘productivity’. If a document is sent to the cloud and it’s shown that a certain number of users haven’t read it, perhaps there’s a way to flag it up on their systems and make it more prominent? That’s an example, and a simple one at that, but it’s the kind of idea that Johnston is getting at.

It isn’t just Google who are looking to use their cloud service to offer business insights, though. Microsoft announced a service this year called Oslo (that’s a code-name) that generates an “office graph”. Using signals from emails, social conversations, documents, websites, instant messages, meetings, and more, a map can be generated that shows the relationships between the people in a business. It can show who’s currently working with whom on a project, or perhaps who has shown someone else a presentation.

Box, another big player in the cloud industry, is also working along similar lines with machine learning, a data-centred analysis and prediction tool. Microsoft and Google are also planning to implement a similar system in their infrastructure.

“Google used to have the moral authority on where the cloud is going, but Microsoft has caught up with Google. Companies don’t want to deal with Google’s changing strategies,” said Aaron Levie, co-founder and chief executive of Box. “The more attention [these innovations get], the more demand we’ll see from customers. For now, it’s still good for us.”

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