As anyone who reads CMSWire regularly already knows, the Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS) market is hotter than hot. The 100+ players within it introduce new features and new releases almost as often as soccer's Tim Howard saves goals.

So it’s no wonder that Gartner, in its newly released Magic Quadrant for EFSS, notes that the market is maturing and that vendors are working hard to differentiate themselves.

Maturing Market

This marks the first year Gartner has judged the EFSS market as developed enough to be evaluated using its Magic Quadrant methodology. Last year it made its assessment through a Marketscope lens, which is usually used to evaluate “emerging” providers.

While we know that you’re dying for us to tell you which vendor falls into which Magic Quadrant (Leaders, Challengers, Niche Players, Visionaries), Gartner has done a great job defining the marketplace and describing each vendor’s approach to delivering services.

Since we’re going to look at each quadrant closely over a series of articles, it’s well worth exploring the definitions and criteria used.

First, Gartner defines EFSS in much the same way we’d expect, a service that handles content (documents, images, videos, etc.) synchronization and sharing across a variety of devices such as tablets, smartphones, PC’s and so on. But the analyst’s definition doesn’t stop there, of course, because content owned by the Enterprise isn’t accessible and/or can’t be shared (at least without breaking rules) unless there are safeguards for security, compliance and collaboration built in.

3 Architectures

Though we’ll keep sharing tidbits from the study as we discuss the vendors in each quadrant, there’s one more thing that should be noted now. Gartner says that there are three architectures and two types of offerings that EFSS vendors use. The architectures consist of Cloud, On Premises (what we typically call “On-prem”) and Hybrid.

  • The Cloud option is generally initiated by individual workers who download a free app and use it to sync and collaborate while working on projects. The mobile app created by this class of vendor typically offers an awesome experience so adoption within the Enterprise is likely to be high, though not always authorized by IT. Sales are made when IT turns to the associated vendor for Enterprise-grade licenses and support.
  • The on-premises option is typically initiated by IT from the get-go. It provides workers and other authorized parties with remote access and synching on-premises. It integrates with corporate data repositories, without file replicas. Gartner notes that this option is typically used by Enterprises who need to comply with regulations for storage.
  • The Hybrid option, as the name suggests provides what some enterprises consider to be the best of both worlds. Here, things like user and device authentication happen in the provider’s cloud but the actual content is stored on-prem or a third party’s cloud. Copies of files never sit in public clouds.

Needless to say, different vendors evangelize as to why their set-up is best. Gartner’s EFSS report doesn’t endorse one over the other, it’s about what an Enterprise believes that it needs.

2 Types: Destination and Extension

A destination offering, through our understanding, is one that was created for the primary purpose of synching and sharing content. “Extension” offerings, as the label suggests, extend existing applications and/or solutions.

Evaluation Criteria

Vendors in Gartner’s Magic Quadrants are generally evaluated according to two main criteria: “Ability to Execute” on the vertical axis and “Completeness of Vision” on the horizontal axis.

Though Gartner doesn’t declare any specific vendor as a winner, it’s worth noting that “Leaders” have to have to rate high on both axis’s. Challengers fall short of Leaders when it comes to “Completeness of Vision,” but their Ability to Execute rates high. Niche Players fall beneath Leaders and Challengers when it comes to Vision and Ability to Execute. And Visionaries fall beneath Leaders in Ability to Execute.

When you consider that only 19 of over 100 EFSS vendors made it into the Magic Quadrant at all, they’re all quite notable. And mind you, the four in the leaders’ quadrant were built with different visions as well.

Please note that we’re introducing the vendors in each quadrant alphabetically, rather than high to low.

Leaders: Accellion, Box, Citrix and EMC Syncplicity

Accellion (via its kiteworks offering) takes the prize when it comes to keeping content on-premises, 80% of its clients store their content that way. It’s no wonder that the company sometimes bills itself as “the secure Dropbox alternative”. That being said, private cloud, hybrid and public cloud options are available.