It's a little harder to be thankful this Thanksgiving

By Vineet Jain , written on November 28, 2013

From The News Desk

This is the time of year we take stock of the past year and catalog what we’re thankful for. For me personally, it’s been a wonderful year, and I have quite a bit to be grateful for. Professionally, however, it’s a different story. I’m the CEO and cofounder of a startup that delivers an enterprise file-sharing platform for companies of all sizes, and when I look at the issues our customers had to deal with in 2013, I have to admit that it has been a bumpy year. Between security hacks, government prying and major outages, I see businesses having to take a hard look at their business and IT policies as they head into 2014.

Here’s what tops my list of the events I’m not thankful for this year:

Telecommuting became a bad word 

As "bring your own device" (BYOD) and mobile initiatives take center stage across all industries -- from hospitals to construction sites -- many companies began to question the need for a flexible workplace and some, like HP and Yahoo, are actually banning telecommuting and firing remote workers.

I’m not thankful for this and cry foul on behalf of companies of all sizes and shapes. Mobile working is the new reality; it has been reported that remote working can add up to nine hours of productivity per employee per week. Forcing workers to jump through additional hoops in order to “prove” they can be trusted to work remotely or, worse, banning the practice completely is too extreme and ultimately hits the bottom line by reducing worker productivity and efficiency.

On a related note, I’m not thankful for the major public transportation disruptions such as the recent BART strike here in the Bay Area or power outages that occurred across the NYC subway system. Disruptions such as these made getting to work a nightmare to almost impossible, and for those with no telecommuting options in place, employees lost hours of productivity or even risked losing their jobs because they couldn’t get to work.

Outages took a bite out of productivity 

I’m not thankful for all of the outages from major companies this year. In September, Microsoft Skydrive left up to 250 million users without access to their data. Dropbox also had a 16-hour outage that left its customers without their files - and this happened not just once but twice this year! Let’s also not forget the Microsoft's Office 365 and outages, along with Twitter’s fail whale taking over our screens and the unfortunate Facebook downtime. All of these issues slowed down productivity and communication between colleagues, customers, partners - you name it.

Company and private data came under siege 

Thanks to Edward Snowden leaking government spying programs, including PRISM and Muscular, company data is no longer safe when it’s stored in the cloud. I’m not thankful for the government programs taking loopholes around the laws and invading our privacy. Sharing data is simple via the cloud, but business-critical data just can’t be stored there any longer. Businesses now need to triple check how data is shared inside and outside of the office walls.

The government shutdown stalled everything 

For just over half of October, the federal government shut down all non-essential services, which affected about 41 percent of the government workforce and crippled wide swaths of the IT sector in the process. The single biggest effect was on those two million or so people who operated under third-party government contracts, many of whom provided IT services, who were forced to stay home.

The shutdown also hit in unexpected ways: The closure of the passport office prevented workers looking for visa extensions and taking the SEC, FCC and FTC offline slowed or stopped everything from new equipment requests to IPOs. Not only did the shutdown impact individuals, it’s now widely believed that it has stalled a budding economic recovery. And the kicker? It was completely self-inflicted, utterly avoidable and totally futile.

This year has been a major turning point for companies when it comes to their IT policies. I’m not thankful for the messes made this year, making it difficult for employees to get their jobs done.

On the flip side, I am thankful for the conversations that are now taking place. Companies must cast a critical eye at how employees collaborate, share business-critical files and work day-to-day. These “misgivings” of the year are a wakeup call to revise policies to ensure that issues out of a company’s control don’t take them by surprise.

Because 2014 will be the year of empowerment and control of business data, combined with flexibility for workers. Now that's something for which we should all be grateful.