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An Interview with Simon Bain

Simon Bain of SearchYourCloud

For a growing number of computing device users, the digital data are just “there.” In 1982, the user’s information was either on a floppy disc or stored on a heat belching storage device protected by guys like me wearing a pocket protector.

No longer. Some information is on the user’s local device. But more and more information is in a service like Dropbox, tucked into the fat tummy of Mother Google, or sitting in an organization’s virtual server operated by Rackspace, Amazon, or some other cloud operator.

The question then becomes, “How do I search my information?” The answer, not surprisingly, not with desktop search systems. Many vendors of enterprise search will argue that their systems can search content regardless of its location. Other vendors offer what I call a “search lazy Susan.” The user can pick from one of many search systems and then build a do-it-yourself search solution.

I learned that an alternative is available. SearchYourCloud offers a secure, competitively priced system for information access. In mid-October 2013, I spoke with Simon Bain, founder of SearchYourCloud. The full text of the interview appears below.

What's the history of Search Your Cloud?

SearchYourCloud is a progression from Simplexo, and its federated search technology. With the advent of unsecured cloud storage it became apparent that a solution was required, which not only secured the files held in the repositories, but also enabled the users to carry out a secure full-text search on the deposited files.

What’s Simplexo?

Ah, right. Let me explain.

Simplexo is a UK based technology company focused on next generation unified search and secure access software. Simplexo technology provides secure universal access to electronic content - whether in the form of documents, emails, corporate systems, databases or web content. Developed wholly in-house, the technology is based on a methodology which has been successfully deployed in bespoke business solutions and thus proven in the field over the last 10 years. Unlike traditional internet or enterprise search engines, Simplexo harnesses "federated search" technology to simultaneously search multiple online databases or content sources.

When did you become interested in text and content processing?

As an individual and founder of Simplexo and SearchYourCloud, my interest in content intelligence and text analyses started many years ago when I worked with SoftQuad software on SGML authoring projects, and then on XML syntaxes back in 1997.

Many vendors argue that mash ups are and data fusion are "the way information retrieval will work" going forward? I am referring to structured and unstructured information. How does Search Your Cloud perceive this blend of search and user-accessible outputs?

Consumerization is very much opening the door to new technologies within the search arena. Mainly because consumers will not use over-priced and over-complicated applications. The onset of BYOD and consumerization within the workplace means that software developers and vendors have to find new ways to work with new data sources within this model. Just taking a mash up or blend of the new data will not work, if you are expecting the users to carry on using the same over complicated enterprise tools.

Without divulging your firm's methods or clients, would you characterize a typical use case for your firm's content intelligence capabilities?

A typical use case for us is an enterprise that has a large number of users connected to cloud file stores, such as Dropbox, Gdrive or Box. However hard the IT and compliance departments try, these users will carry on using these tools. Because: They do what they say they do on the label, i.e. allow easy access and sharing of documents. This scenario is a nightmare for enterprises as data is leaked and lost and users are un controlled. SearchYourCloud fixes this. Users can stay using these services and the IT and compliance departments can have security, logging and control.

Would you explain how your approach addresses a customer’s security concerns?

The security concerns are addressed in a number of ways. However the salient points are:

  • All content that is stored into a cloud file store is encrypted to AES256
  • All encryption/decryption is carried out locally on the device
  • All files have a unique key to each other and for the user/group
  • Our index is 100% cipher end and one way
  • All transmissions are encrypted on top of SSL again to the users key/s
  • The IT departments are able to audit, wipe and manage search devices

What are the benefits to a commercial organization or a government agency when working with your firm? What are the payoffs your technology suite delivers?

The benefits are that an organization can allow users to do what they are already doing. But this time knowing that enterprise controls and security are in place. SearchYourCloud is more about securely accessing content from a number of active sources, such as Email, Cloud Stores, Salesforce and the like.

What’s your approach to client engagement?

Our engagement is a simple one of user and server license costs, together with support and where required training from ourselves.

One challenge to those involved with squeezing useful elements from large volumes of content is the volume of content AND the rate of change in existing content objects. What does your firm provide to customers to help them deal with the volume problem?

Our document indexes are in real time, so when a document changes so does the index. All other sources are federated against. Meaning that again we are acting on real time data. This in itself can cause issues, but we have developed very effective fast and secure federation software over the past x years. 19 years

We have an annual server and an annual user pricing model

There has been a surge in interest in putting "everything" in a repository and then manipulating the indexes to the information in the repository. On the surface, this seems to be gaining traction because network resident information can "disappear" or become unavailable. What's your view of the repository versus non repository approach to content processing?

Repository versus non repository approaches are interesting. My own views are that where possible you should look for non repository processing. The reasons for this are quite large, but mainly due to content updates, real time information access and also with the inherent security risks of creating one large repository with all data in. Time and time again, this approach has been shown to be cumbersome and insecure. Yes, there can be problems with network connections, data becoming unavailable. But when data becomes unavailable it could be for good reasons! We have hooks in to a number of data warehouses, content repositories and CMS systems. These can make up part of a user’s federated view.

Visualization has been a great addition to briefings. What's your firm's approach to presenting visual "outputs" for end user reuse or for mobile access?

We use SAP HANA for our one data requirements and indexes. This allows us to create complex visualizations of the data in a fast and very efficient manner.

I am on the fence about the merging of retrieval within other applications. What's your take on the "new" method which some people describe as "search enabled applications"?

We believe that merging with work flow and also with large enterprise applications is vital to enable users to have a 'full view ' of all of their data. This enables them to make better informed decisions and act in a more responsive way to their customers. We have integrations in to a number of Enterprise applications. Including SAP.

There seems to be a popular perception that the world will be doing computing via iPad devices and mobile phones. My concern is that serious computing infrastructures are needed and that users are "cut off" from access to more robust systems? How does your firm see the computing world over the next 12 to 18 months?

We see that users will start to ask for more enabled methods of using mobile devices. This means that enterprises will have to start looking at BYOD management systems and that manufacturers of these devices will have to start looking at making them more robust and powerful enough to do more than just email and web browsing.

What’s the pricing model for your firm’s services?

We have an annual server and an annual user pricing model.

Put on your wizard hat. What are the three most significant technologies that you see afffecting your content processing system?

That’s a difficult question because change is happening quickly. I would say the “bring your own device” trend. Also, the traditional information technology manager may be ignored. Perhaps this is better described as “user power” or more users ignoring the enterprise. What’s more, I think the cloud file sharing sites are significant. By enhancing them and creating applications that not only secure them, but also give the users a better experience in return.

Where does a reader get more information about your firm?

ArnoldIT Comment

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2013

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