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December 2, 2015

From Dropbox to Box: Cutting out shadow IT at Faber & Faber

Analysis: How the Lord of the Flies publisher moved 8 terrabytes of data to the cloud.

By Alexander Sword

Publishing is a collaborative process, despite the fact that it is only the author’s name that appears on the front of the end product.

When employees at independent publisher Faber & Faber needed a way to share documents both with colleagues and to enable remote working, they gravitated towards the consumer-friendly Dropbox.

"Like many companies, people had become a little frustrated with the inability of the IT department to provide access to data when they needed it and particularly when out of the office," says Jim Lindsay, Integration Specialist for Faber & Faber and the man responsible for its move to the Box platform.

"There was a general feeling that the company was not providing the data storage and access that staff wanted."

If IT hadn’t provided the tools, why was the use of Dropbox a problem? As Lindsay explains, it is all about control of data.

"They weren’t using Faber accounts; they had set up their own private Dropbox accounts. So if someone was to leave the company then they might forget to hand over their details or transfer their stuff from Dropbox.

"You could have quite a lot of data sitting there that is Faber data and you have no clue where it is or even that it exists, until we come to look for it."

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"It’s a matter of data ownership really. I wouldn’t say that Dropbox’s security is poor but it’s more a matter of traceability."

Security is a good reason to move to a cloud provider, though; Lindsay asks the question to enterprises:

"How much have you spent on security in the last five years and how much do you think Box has spent? That usually wins the day."

The publisher drew up a plan and found that there were about 8 terrabytes of data that could be moved to the cloud, with every department having some processes that would fit a cloud platform.

Lindsay explains that his first move was to try and facilitate the employees’ existing habits in a more enterprise-friendly manner.

"They had started to use Dropbox. That was my first port of call. Dropbox for Business was available, so I had a look at that. I didn’t really like what I saw.

"We did test Dropbox for Business but I just didn’t think it was up to the job," says Lindsay, although he concedes that it may have improved in the last two years.

"In terms of the administrative side, as far as a system admin goes, it was a bit of a handful."

In the end Lindsay opted for Box, with every department at the publisher now using it for some if not all of their functions. It is used to manage incoming manuscripts from draft to final approval, track comments made by approved contributors and empower the company’s mobile workforce.

Box has caught on at Faber, but this did not mean that the project happened completely without resistance.

"For the really hardcore Dropbox users there was quite an issue with persuading them to do so. We had to take a fairly firm line and say that it does not fit in terms of what we want in terms of security and management so you can’t use it.

"For new joins it’s the standard, so when they arrive they get their Mac or PC, they get their login and they get their Box account."

If there is resistance, how do you know whether you have really solved the shadow IT problem? Perhaps people are just paying lip service to the new platform.

"One of the great things about Box is that you can look at the user statistics in quite a lot of detail. We can see what people’s usage is. It did turn out that we had a couple of rogues in there who weren’t using it but claimed that they were.

"In a very gentle manner we basically pointed them the way we wanted them to go."

As Faber & Faber’s story shows, when an IT project is about the end-user and their habits it is not simply a matter of flicking a switch.


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