What separates the Leaders from the rest of the pack in Gartner's highly competitive Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS) Magic Quadrant?

Two things: Their “Ability to Execute” and “Completeness of Vision.”

Winning the top slot is not a popularity contest or a question of who has the highest top line but how each vendor rates according to Gartner’s criteria.

Flawless Execution

Gartner analysts judge Ability to Execute not only according to whether the vendor can deliver on the products/services sold, but also on factors like its overall health, both in financial terms and the resources it has to invest in its product; the means to sell it efficiently, effectively and competitively; the capability to respond to market changes and its ability to deliver a good user experience.

But here's a caveat: Some of the information used to develop these MQs is accepted as a matter of faith. Analysts develop their rankings with information supplied by the vendors. And in the case of privately held companies, that information, especially financial data, can be difficult to independently verify.

We’re not talking about Gartner specifically, but it is something that’s worth taking into account.

What brought this up? An analyst who told me he feels he might have been deceived during a recent ratings process.

Strategic Vision

When it comes to Completeness of Vision, understanding the wants and needs of customers and translating them into products and services is only one criterion, according to Gartner.

Others include marketing strategy, which includes the consistency in its delivery; sales strategy, both direct and across networks; geographic strategy and more.

When you look at these closely on a vendor-by-vendor basis it becomes increasingly clear why the Niche Players are where they are and why they may be perfectly good options, depending on a company's needs.

The same, and even more, can be said for the three Challengers — mega-players who have a shot at capturing a larger share of the market because of either their popularity among consumers and/or strong and broad presence throughout the Enterprise.

Here’s how some of the other vendors rated.

How Bad Does Google Want It?

If Google can broaden its vision just a bit by next year, we’re likely to find Google Drive for Work in the Leaders Quadrant. It’s already executing well enough to make the grade. Gartner likes its integration with the Google Apps for Work Suite, its extensibility into Google’s marketplace and much more.

What could be better? Native integration with Microsoft SharePoint and other on-premises Enterprise Content Management platforms. Certain data sovereignty features and integration with network drives might need to be addressed as well.

Though Gartner doesn’t say so, Google has the power and the smarts to patch these shortcomings quickly and catch up to the Leaders. The big question is-whether Google will commit the resources to do that.

Crowd Pleaser Dropbox

If rate of adoption were the sole differentiator in the EFSS space, Dropbox would be a winner. Gartner quotes Dropbox’s claim of 400 million users in 8 million businesses. Not all of them are paying for the service though.

That beings said, Gartner wrote that Dropbox’s “reference clients have given great feedback on its ease of deployment, user experience and support, and they consider Dropbox for Business to be the benchmark for best-in-class ease of use.”

Some of Dropbox for Businesses’ other strengths include its native integration with Microsoft Office 365 and fast and reliable sync.

Dropbox still needs to extend its vision, though it’s highly unlikely that it will add on-premises or hybrid services anytime soon, if ever. Dropbox for Business still needs to grow its channel program as well.

Microsoft: Your File Cabinet in the Sky?

If you’re a big user of SharePoint, Office 365, Yammer ...  then OneDrive for Business may seem like a natural fit.

Gartner champions Microsoft’s EFSS offering in this regard. Analysts also likes its security setup such as its regional isolation of data centers, IRM for internal and external users based on Microsoft Azure Active Directory and much, much more.

Only Citrix and Syncplicity beat Microsoft when it comes to Ability to Execute. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems in that area.

First and foremost among them, according to Gartner are “performance and reliability issues with the current OneDrive for Business sync client.”

If it can’t work this one out, and they expect to before the end of the year, the rest are less consequential because they’re less fundamental, through our eyes.

What’s Your Niche?

Not every vendor in this MQ aims to offer all of — or only — the features that define a Leader. This, almost by definition, mitigates its ability to shine according to Gartner EFSS MQ selected criteria.

Take AirWatch by VMWare as an example. It’s part of a larger Business Mobility play. Does that mean that it should forget about its shortcomings? Not hardly. Citrix and Microsoft are into mobility too.

Intralinks might be a prime choice for companies in Investment Banking, Life Sciences and other firms that are hell-bent on steel-casing data. Its architecture, according to Gartner, provides customers with data sovereignty and geolocation capabilities. These are “particularly valuable in regions/countries with regulations protecting data privacy.”

Huddle made its way into Gartner’s MQ for EFSS, but you won’t hear them bragging about that. EFSS is now commoditized, its co-founder Alastair Mitchell told us. Enterprise Content Collaboration is what his company wants to be known for,

Acronis’s specialty is backup and recovery software. “It’s is a viable option for organizations that invest in EFSS to raise mobile employees' productivity, and that want to keep data on-premises for security and control” wrote the analyst.

Varonis’ specialty is Data Governance and it’s here that it shines. It is a viable option for enterprises looking for tightly controlled access to on-premises network storage. Among other things mobile access on large data stores (petabytes) makes it stand out from the crowd.

It’s worth noting that Ctera, WatchDox by Blackberry and Thru were also mentioned in this MQ.

If there’s one thing that’s nice about an MQ with this many players, is that you’re likely to find one that can provide for most of your needs. What’s tough is that it’s a crowded field.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Stewart Black.