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.

Gartner points out that kiteworks’ EFSS was built mobile first, putting an emphasis on the end user experience on smartphones and tablets and a “touch” UI. Accellion also complies with several certifications making it ideal for highly regulated Enterprises as well European firms who have privacy rules to uphold. It has other advantages as well, such as no limit on file size. You can read more from the company’s site.

Accellion’s downside, according to Gartner, revolves around things like the company’s limited presence outside the US and some issues around mobile capability which the company seems to have made provisions for until they are built.

Box: “Cloud-Only” Winner

If Dropbox is the leading cloud-based file sharing vendor on the consumer side, Box takes the “cloud only” prize in the Enterprise. The company has gained a good portion of its 25,000 users by offering it free of charge to individuals who then share it with their colleagues. When IT gets wind that is happening without their blessing, they take a closer look and find that the Enterprise edition meets most, if not all, of their security, regulatory and collaboration requirements.

The idea being that if IT buys Box everyone’s happy.

Gartner also champions Box’s UI, its API’s, rich ecosystem of partners and so on. You can access the report from the company’s site.

When it comes to cautions around Box, there’s what some conceive to be Box’s spending habit. We’ve written both about why it’s a problem and why it might be necessary.

Gartner raised another notable concern as well, namely how will IT manage workers who move from the freemium model to the Enterprise model. Dropbox (we’ll write about their quadrant position tomorrow) solved that problem earlier this year; it’s difficult to believe that Box didn’t solve it long ago. 

We’re all ears on that one, and any other issue raised about any vendor for that matter.

Citrix via ShareFile Wins High Honors

Of the EFSS vendors in the Leaders quadrant, we hear the least about Citrix. Perhaps it’s because it acquired ShareFile a few years ago or because, despite its being a destination solution (and therefor able to stand alone), it’s integrated or provided as an entitlement with other Citrix Solutions.

Regardless, Gartner rates it higher than any other vendor in its ability to deliver.

The analyst sees Citrix’s ShareFile benefitting from the way it plays with other Citrix products, especially around virtualization. Its other strengths include regulatory compliance, mobile editing and so on. You can download a report directly from Gartner if you want to know more because after winning high honors, as of this writing, there’s no evidence of the news or an easily discoverable link on the front page of their site.

Citrix, according to Gartner, falls short in areas like editing via the web interface, supporting data repositories outside of Sharepoint and so on.

EMC Syncplicity Takes the Top Prize

When it comes to the combination of vision and ability to execute, the trophy goes to EMC Syncplicity. General Manager Jeetu Patel and his team have come a long way quickly, especially when you consider that they ranked a “positive” versus “strong positive” that Accellion, Box and Citrix held in last year’s Gartner Marketscope.

Though some will point to EMC’s pocketbook and reach for the gains, Patel and his group deserve a great deal of credit as well. This is a team that believes that they must provide a better user experience than any of those found on the consumer market, never mind their EFSS competitors.

And when it comes to balancing Enterprise requirements and ease of use, no sacrifices are made; instead Syncplicity innovates around and delivers to meet needs.

Gartner says that EMC Syncplicity is a strong option for companies with on-premise hybrid environments and/or those who work with EMC products like Isilon, ViPR, and Documentum, to name a few. They don’t say whether it would make a suitable Cloud-only solution, we’re open to input on that.

When it comes to Gartner’s concerns around limited market share and CMIS support for ECM integration being missing, we see it as less of an issue. Because of all the reporting we’ve done on Syncplicity, we have no doubts that Patel and his team will fill the gaps if customers or even potential customers see them as issues.

EFSS Comes of Age

Box boss Aaron Levie (we’ll have breaking news on Box shortly) who has been in the EFSS game for almost a decade says that this market is only now coming into its own. We plan to track it and the vendors within it as it takes off.

In the next article we’ll look at the Challengers.