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Open source enterprise content management (ECM) Alfresco has announced a new product, Alfresco Cloud. Although the company has traditionally focused on enterprise scenarios, the new cloud offering targets the consumer market and puts Alfresco in competition with Box.net, Drop Box, Microsoft and a long list of other vendors that offer cloud based storage.

A Contender in the Cloud

Last month, Alfresco released Alfresco Enterprise 4, which featured an HTML5 interface, better mobile support and hints to its cloud aspirations with an introduction of “cloud-connected content.”

Alfresco’s Chief Marketing Officer Todd Barr described cloud-connected content as a solution designed from the beginning to be cloud-based and accessible anywhere, but with the security and governance required by many companies. Alfresco positioned the release as the foundation for Alfresco’s three-step cloud strategy to launch:

  • Alfresco in the cloud
  • Dropbox integration
  • Alfresco cloud connector

As planned, the company has taken the next step in its path to the cloud by launching a public beta for Alfresco Cloud. The platform includes a number of features:

  • Drag and drop file uploads
  • File previews
  • Simple task and workflow management
  • Social features like following, likes and activity streams
  • Private company collaboration sites

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There is also an iPad and iPhone app that allows users to access Alfresco content wherever they are. Unlike other consumer cloud storage solutions, Alfresco Cloud is designed for teams. When users with the same email domain begin using Alfresco Cloud, they are added to a private company-based collaboration network that allows users to see sites created by others in their company. Companies also share storage. The free account created during the beta includes unlimited users per company, but only 10GB of storage.

Once Alfresco officially releases Alfresco Cloud, users can upgrade from a free account to a Team or Enterprise network. Team networks will require a minimum of 5 users and cost US$ 10.00 per user per month and will include:

  • support
  • more storage
  • larger file size limits
  • user and network administration features
  • custom branding

and some additional features. Pricing for enterprise networks was not published, but they will include 24x7 support and additional features like LDAP integration and sync with Alfresco Enterprise. Beta users do not have to upgrade once the beta period is complete.

Getting More Information

Alfresco Cloud is available now in beta. You can register for an invitation to participate in beta using your corporate email on Alfresco’s site. Alfresco is also offering a supported beta, targeted at larger enterprises. Supported beta participants will receive an Enterprise Edition Cloud account, on-boarding and setup, support team access and consultations with the Product Manager to provide feedback.

Alfresco has had significant success with its current enterprise focused freemium model, so it may be unclear to some why the company has elected to enter an arguably saturated consumer cloud storage market. The answer -- consumerization.

Users are increasingly introducing consumer devices and applications to the enterprise and organizations are struggling with how to keep pace. Alfresco’s decision to embrace the movement and provide the control enterprises need will put it one step ahead of its competition.