Do Files Matter?

As Chief Customer Officer of Egnyte, I get to meet many of our customers and influencers. This is immensely invigorating for two reasons – it helps me get our POV out to the market in an old school, door to door sort of way but more importantly, keeps me on an arc of continuous learning to shape our approach to the market.  While this process has played out well over the last several years I have simply run out of time to meet everyone as Egnyte grows. To this end, I decided I should write more often to expand the scope and reach of my dialog.  

In this introductory post, I wanted to share my thoughts on the question:  Do files matter (to your business)?  

Why start with this topic?  Well, let’s just say that my interactions with thousands of companies in the last few years have revealed the entire gamut of perspectives on the importance of managing files.  They range from indifference to extreme care, tactical to strategic and purely cost-conscious to value-driven approaches. While you are the ultimate judge of this to your organization, we live in a changing world that requires us to revisit our perspectives on dearly held views from years past.  My goal is to foster this dialog.

This question, Do files matter? is therefore pivotal to how your organization thinks about managing files, the impact of files on your mission and ultimately the architectures and investments you choose in managing files better.  I invite you to contemplate this question with me over the next few minutes.

To best articulate my views on this topic, indulge me on an ostensibly different line of questioning first:

Are you breathing at this moment?  

I am sure the answer is Yes!  

(At least I haven’t said anything to make you hold your breath.)

Are you thinking about the fact that you are breathing?

I am sure the answer is No! 

(We rarely think about the act of breathing unless we are suffering from a bad cold or an ailment.  I don’t think you would dispute for one second the importance of breathing while acknowledging simultaneously that you rarely think about this simple and powerful act.)

My final question before I conclude this mind game…

Do you think of breathing as cool, interesting or sexy?

I am sure the answer is a resounding No! 

(If you could run a marathon, bench-press more than you ever had or push the next level on your Peloton, that would be cool, but not the act of breathing itself.  However, a good breathing rhythm is essential to these other demanding and fulfilling pursuits.) 

I think we can agree that breathing is foundational to our existence, yet it is subtle and subconscious in how it is enacted with profound implications to our energy and productivity. 

With some dramatic license, I’ll extend these ideas to the role of files within your company. 

First, every company is awash with files.  With all the applications and media at our disposal, we are producing more files than ever before.  Gartner estimated that between 2013 and 2020 enterprise data grew ten-fold from 4.4ZB to 44ZB (1ZB = 1 Billion TB).  80% of all enterprise data is unstructured – i.e. files.  

Takeaway: Files are an exponentially exploding asset in our corporate lives.

Second, Everyone in the company works on files, Everyone!  They produce it, consume it, send it around.  Alongside corporate email, file sharing represents the most ubiquitous vehicle through which the enterprise creates and moves information.  It encapsulates everything from the mundane to the strategies that an organization creates. 

Takeaway: Files are high value and impact every person in the organization. 

Put the two notions together and you realize that files are like the breath of the organization.  Everyone is impacted by it and we need more of it to conduct our organizational lives. Just imagine losing file access for a couple of hours.  I am sure a server (or service) going down or a ransomware attack has put you in this situation before. It’s like you were placed in a chokehold.

Let us be honest though – files are not cool.  No one wakes up and exults about working on files.  But then again, you don’t wake up and exult about taking your first deep breath either.  However, waking up with a bad cold ruins your day. The parallels to file infrastructure are amazing – as long as it works in the background, subtly, subconsciously, the organization will run smoothly.  If not, the organization will pay for it.  

This places a great burden on you,  the owner of file infrastructure at your company.  You have a supremely important yet thankless job. When (un-cool) file infrastructure runs smoothly, you shall hear from no one!  If not…(feel free to fill in the blank). This also makes your job challenging when you want to enhance that infrastructure and challenge the status quo. Most things that are un-cool don’t garner attention and investment.  We’d rather invest in going to Mars than in fixing potholes on the roads. Going to Mars is thrilling compared to the latter. But we don’t live on Mars every day, we live here and now. Fixing the here and now gets us to that thrilling future.

I could talk about this ad infinitum, but I think you get my views on why files matter.  I never doubted that you shared in this view. I was simply hoping to lend the idea metaphoric strength by drawing comparisons to the act of breathing.  

The goal of technology is to transform our companies to do great things.  That said, evaluating, and rolling out technology is an involved process. For one, change is hard and requires investment and leadership support.  As the owner of file infrastructure, you are the central actor in that endeavor. Your organization may be tasking itself to run a marathon or bench-press more than it ever has.  It is your job to prepare the organization by getting its breathing rhythm to a better place.

Until next time…dream big (and keep breathing)!

P.S: Over the coming days, I will expand this discussion into additional topics.  I will frame the file problem in an architectural way and speak to the business impact.  I expect to bring my colleagues into this discussion given how integral they are to what we put forth in the market.  Finally, I expect to share stories from other customers.

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