cloudy sky

With so many Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) providers vying to be the de facto repository for your content, it's no surprise Forrester decided to split its analysis in two.

The research firm made the wise decision to split the leading vendors into multiple Waves — one for pure-play cloud, the other for hybrid.

Forrester analyst Cheryl McKinnon, lead author of the just released cloud EFSS provider report (fee charged), didn’t specifically cite the overabundance of choices as the reason for creating two reports where there used to be one.

But she did note "the number of vendors and the quality of the offerings, coupled with increasing acceptance of cloud for content collaboration and file sharing services" make the cloud-native subset of the EFSS market is worthy of assessment.

Tapping an $8 Billion Market

EFSS, in some use cases, is stealing market share from on- premises enterprise content management and collaboration providers, McKinnon wrote in the report.

She characterized the latter as being “hard-to-use,” noting that they have both struggled to achieve user adoption and found difficulties in transforming into managed services.

That being said, there’s an $8 billion ECM market to bite into — a market that presents ample opportunity for both cloud-native and hybrid EFSS providers.

The key to winning in that space is “usability,” McKinnon said, because business users will default to consumer file-sharing solutions if they’re not delighted with what their employers provide.

What’s especially noteworthy here is that customer satisfaction trumps feature gaps in areas like advanced security and life-cycle management in this marketplace.

EFSS providers, almost by default, fill holes that many ECM vendors created when it comes to sharing files with external participants. McKinnon told CMSWIre that while some ECM vendors are beginning to offer EFSS services, they often only sync and share with themselves or have licensing models that are expensive and/or prohibitive.

It will be interesting to see if this remains the case when EMC debuts Project Horizon in May. Rohit Ghai, president of EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD), claims EMC’s platform will work with content, regardless of where it is stored.

The Measuring Stick

Forrester used forty criteria, grouped in three buckets, to rate the cloud-only EFSS vendors:

  1. Current Offering: Usability, security, support of primary content security services and such.
  2. Strategy: Technology direction, pricing, APIs.
  3. Market Presence: Size of EFSS, cloud revenue, current revenue, vertical focus, and number of inquiries from Forrester clients.

From there, the researchers selected nine vendors including Box, Dropbox, Google, Huddle, IBM, Intralinks, Microsoft, Thru and Workshare. Vendors had to have either $10 million in sales or at least 350 paying enterprise customers to be considered.

Six of nine vendors evaluated were named Leaders.

Box earned high marks as an EFSS cloud provider, but barely surpasses Google where strategy is concerned. “Market traction” is its only advantage. It would be interesting to see if Box outspends Google in winning customers, Box has been criticized for the latter (though the strategy seems to be working).

Google Drive stands out from the pack in terms of performance and its ability to deliver “high performing EFSS services,” even for very large formats such as video, that cross into the hundreds of gigabytes” wrote McKinnon. She also added that Google is actively working on filling gaps that keep it from ranking higher on the vertical, “current offering” axis. It’s worth noting too that Google outranks Box in EFSS revenue.

Dropbox’s biggest weaknesses, as compared to other vendors, lie in security and pricing. But the company has some interesting news since publication of this Wave. Just this week , it announced that it has built its own cloud and is no longer storing files in AWS. It has yet to be seen if there will be any impact. McKinnon told CMSWire that it is an area she will be watching.

“On one hand, enterprises have learned to trust public cloud services with the scale and reputation of Amazon, and their security teams know how to ask the right questions,” she said.

“But Dropbox has achieved a high level of scale in terms of number of users and volume of content uploaded even on a daily basis — where they might be in a position to shape their own destiny in a new way,” she added. “As they invest in their API strategy for enterprises, this may give them more flexibility to become the content platform they could be.”

It's also worth noting that Dropbox recently hired enterprise sales veterans Yamini Rangan and Eddie O’Brien into its executive ranks. O’Brien spent more than 15 years at Microsoft in vice president and general management roles while Rangan worked at companies like Workday and Appirio, where she helped on premise customers move content into the cloud.

Microsoft offers something that the aforementioned vendors do not: global data centers to meet requirements for data sovereignty. In addition, it is aggressively addressing shortcomings in areas like data loss prevention (DLP), cross-platform support and low level platform capabilities.

IBM, despite it enterprise pedigree is the weakest of the Leaders when it comes to strategy. While Forrester applauds its analytics and social capabilities, the fact that external users have to use the web to access shared documents appears to be a bit of a hassle.

Intralinks, which scores the lowest among the leaders in the Wave also has the smallest market presence. While Forrester applauded its governance and rights management prowess (it ranks highest among all of the vendors when it comes to security), its market traction and lack of partners seems to drag it down.

Huddle, Thru and Workshare are all listed as Strong Performers. Like the aforementioned, they each have their own specific strengths and weaknesses which may or may not be applicable to your needs, said McKinnon. She also noted that EFSS buyers might want to consider hybrid solutions which also offer cloud capabilities.

Title image by Kevin Morris