Re-Thinking mail – Attachment storage in the cloud

2015-05-06_23-42-40This week Microsoft is hosting its big Ignite conference in Chicago and based on comments from some people in my network I was alerted to an intriguing announcement about Microsoft releasing a new integration between outlook and OneDrive by the end of 2015 that would allow attachments to reside in OneDrive and shared and co-authored across recipients both internal as well as external without the need to actually ‘attach’ the actual file in the mail itself.

“Why is this relevant?”

  • ¬†If attachments are stored and referenced from globally accessible cloud storage it saves on data being transfered across networks and cluttering our mail servers.
  • More importantly, it allows for central storage and versioning instead of people blindly sending each other copy upon copy with all the risks of lost changes and incorrect versions
  • Furthermore…. Single point of data means that other great options like online simultaneous co-authoring are possible!

It is in fact the basis of true collaboration and it is something many customers have asked for.

Most enterprise social networking tools and some mail providers already offer or are working on similar features but the main problem has always been “what to do with external recipients?”

This is where Microsoft is trying to make a difference apparently. The idea being that you don’t have to ask yourself whether someone has access to the central storage depository (OneDrive) or not. Based on the recipients email address the system will simply check whether the recipient is a known user, prompt the user to create an account so he or she can then authenticate and open and edit the file.

“Nice, but what if my org doesn’t use OneDrive?”

This is where I actually got a bit excited while watching the recorded session as they recognize this scenario and are actively working on including other cloud storage systems like Dropbox to work with this feature as well. So no vendor lock-in on OneDrive… nice!

I am curious though as to what the larger implications are going to be with this. The main one being data consistency….

Like how do I, as a recipient, ensure that the attachments I receive in this way remain unchanged and available? With attachments received in the old fashioned way the sender would not be able to change my copy of the mail/attachments as it would physically be located in my mail box. With this new way the attachment on the OneDrive location can easily be changed or even removed by the author and/or other recipients. This could cause questions in regards to legal implications and E-Discovery needs.

Overall I think Microsoft has just throw down a serious challenge to the other major players in this market and I look forward to seeing what they are going to do!

Tidbits about this feature from watching the session recording:

  • Automatically suggests to upload large attachments to OneDrive instead of sending as attachments
  • Easy ‘share from OneDrive’ options that will upload and set the correct accessibility settings
  • Previews without downloading (cloud only)
  • Support for non-Office files
  • Real time online co-authoring for MS Office files through O365
  • User can control whether attachments are send as a ‘cloud attachment’ or authentic attachment
  • Works both for on-prem as well as for O365 environments
  • Allows users to connect to multiple cloud storage platforms & accounts
  • Is planned to work with different cloud storage providers. Talks are already underway with DropBox

The session “Rethinking attachments: Collaborating in Outlook with OneDrive” is available online.Watch the session here yourself¬† (I’m not sure how long this will be up) or check out the sessions detail sheet.


Google Apps & advertising

Stumbled upon a blogs on Google Apps today that mentioned ads in Google Mail even for payed business accounts. Now this got me wondering as I always figured the adds would automatically be turned off once you bought a licensed account but apparently this is not the case. The domain admin can disable it but by default it is on, even for payed accounts.

Reading this help description on how to disable this I couldn’t help but notice the little text about Web Clips that won’t be disabled with that setting and that can apparently still contain sponsored links…

Ok, yes you can individually disable the Web Clips on a mailbox but I can’t seem to find anything about disabling this for a full domain so if that is the case Google Ads are sneaking their way into their corporate clients domains anyway.

Interesting! Especially as the (paying) customer doesn’t seem to get the revenue for the ads being shown in their corporate environment as far as I can see. Seems like Google is making money off their corporate accounts twice. Once for the licenses they sell them and once for the ads & sponsored links they show them…. smart cookies.

Or am I missing the point here?

LotusLive & Lotusphere

So today was D-day. The Lotusphere 2012 abstract acceptation/rejection messages were being send out which meant lot’s of people (including me) got disappointed. At the same time it means others that really deserved it got really happy so I’m not to bummed out about it. I know I’ll be seeing lots of great sessions and I’m really looking forward to that. It also means I have more time to concentrate on all the good stuff Lotusphere has to offer so I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it!

One of the session that I submitted with my co-worker Roland Driesen was on LotusLive. More specifically on how we, for the last year, have been actively using it at Silverside. Not just to collaborate internally but more importantly externally. Silverside really put the pedal to the metal by not just trying to get our customers to engage in LotusLive by using Guest accounts but by doing an experiment where we gave a large group of them (payed) accounts & training so they could fully collaborate with us in projects using activities, file sharing and IM. Not only did this allow for better project collaboration, it also allowed these customers to have the full LotusLive experience for themselves.

The results were mixed. Some really got the idea and used it actively, others looked at it and dismissed it more or less right away.  

The one thing that was really loved and turned out to have most ROI effect was the fact they now had Sametime access to us directly. The people we gave the accounts to in general were project owners, decision makers and IT managers. In stead of having to rely on mail or phone calls they could now easily and quickly connect to us….. and not just during office hours!
Yes, it may sound weird but most revenue was gotten from informal Sametime chats outside of office hours, sometimes late at night or in the weekend where an IT Manager needed to know something quickly and used LotusLive Sametime. In more then one case those informal chats resulted in concrete projects or opportunities.

So was it a successful project? Yes and No… It did help us connect better to our customers but there is still a lot to improve on LotusLive. For instance try explaining to a user that when he uses the search box in the right upper corner to search for a document he first has to switch to the Files section to actually find anything relevant…. If I get a search box, I expect it to be able to search through all of the content within my system (LotusLive), not just in the section I’m stuck in at that moment.
On the up side the project certainly helped us connect more to an important group of our customers, becoming a better integrated partner to their organization.

For now I’m just looking forward to announcements for LotusLive at Lotusphere. The one I really hope for is the addition of Sametime to the guest accounts as I really think IM/chats is what can open lot’s of organizations to the idea of Collaboration. So that could really be a big benefit when getting external partners on LotusLive….. and of course that search option, simply because it bugs the hell out of me!