Every time Google or Microsoft makes an announcement about lowering the price of storage, someone asks us why anyone would pay more for a service like Dropbox, Box, Syncplicity, Egnyte, Accellion … you get the picture.

So yesterday, at its I/O Conference, when Google announced Google Drive for Work (a combination of Google apps and Google Drive with added security and reporting features that comes with unlimited storage for $10 per user per month), we were slammed with inquiries. Has Google had just entered — and, all at once, won — the file sync and share market in the Enterprise?

We Get It

The last time we wrote about a price drop for storing files in the cloud, Microsoft was the protagonist. In response to our tweet about the announcement at that time, Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain “reminded” us via Twitter that EFFS (Enterprise File Sync and Share) vendors aren’t in the file storage business. What they do instead, he insisted, is provide Enterprise-grade services around storing, syncing and sharing files.

Got that, Vineet. In fact, we had it when we wrote the article. That being said, it’s a good reminder, because this market is gung-ho and it changes quickly.

So quickly, in fact, that you might think that you’re comparing apples to apples when what you’re actually doing is comparing apples to apple seeds.

Consider that in the last month alone, OpenText and SAP got together on Tempo Box. Salesforce and Microsoft announced interoperability with Office 365, which includes OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online as integrated storage options for Salesforce.

Dropbox bought Droptalk and Mobilespan. Egnyte announced it would leverage Google’s Cloud for Storage. Box purchased Streem. Box announced Box Notes for the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft announced that certain Office 365 subscribers could store I TB in its cloud free of charge.

And now there’s Google’s Drive for Work announcement. 

Burning Up

“It’s an incredibly hot, incredibly competitive market,” said Jeetu Patel, general manager of EMC’s Syncplicity, which is widely recognized as a leader in Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS).

All of this activity and constant one-upmanship should be great for enterprises, but it can also lead to a good deal of confusion about who offers what and whether it’s actually a meaningful differentiator.

Cheap storage, for example, may be the flashing light that a vendor uses to catch your attention, but it shouldn’t be what convinces you to run in the door.

Aaron Levie, CEO of market-leading Box, said that his company hasn’t had a storage cap for most of its Enterprise customers for more than four years. “It changes your thinking,” he explained. “Imagine a world in which storage is unlimited, what can you do with your content?”

That’s a question that Box has been answering for several years. “We’ve been asking ‘how do you bring value on top of file storage into the Enterprise,” said Levie. 

Complex Question

There’s probably at least a three- or four-pronged answer to that question, even after we put basics like storage, syncing, collaboration and anywhere, anytime access via any device aside.

There’s the end user interface that, according to Patel, has to be even better than what the information worker finds in his/her personal life. 

“Beautiful, brainy, impenetrable,” are words he uses to describe the new mobile interface that Syncplicity rolled out in January. It was built versus rebuilt from the ground up because he understands that to win an Enterprise user you have to be as cool as anything that can be found in an app store.