Document Management: Forrester Wave for File Sync and Share
Forrester's File Sync and Share Wave revealed tensions between the old guard and young disruptors in the field and offered clear guidelines for companies trying to make sense of the market.

This first Forrester Wave evaluating File Sync and Share Platforms followed up their vendor landscape report on the document collaboration market.

The Leaders

Box proves there’s no unwritten rule that those who appear for the first time in a Forrester Wave must pay dues and serve time in the scorned interior of the evaluation landscape. Forrester also apparently waived the respect-thy-elders requirement, as Box edged out IBM and EMC, the other two leaders in the evaluation.

The Strong Performers

Judging by the crowd in this category, it appears that almost all the other vendors evaluated in this report are performing with various levels of strength. Citrix, Egnyte, WatchDox, Accellion, Dropbox,, AirWatch, Google, Alfresco, Microsoft, Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) and Acronis all appear as strong performers. However, Forrester does acknowledge that Dropbox, with its 175 million users, shares a special place in this market with Box, calling the two companies “twin disruptors of cloud and mobile.”

The Contender

We’re not quite sure if we should sympathize with Novell’s loneliness in the contender category or respect them for cornering the market and possessing that designation as their very own. In any case, Forrester pays tribute to Novell in storybook fashion, stating that “once upon a time, document storage and Novell were synonymous.” Fairy tales aside, Forrester does take Novell’s offering seriously due to their large customer base and global partner ecosystem.

Three Sources of Tension

Forrester has referred to the document collaboration market as crowded and chaotic, and in this report they point to three customer dilemmas contributing to the turmoil.

1. On prem (or hybrid) vs. cloud only

We’ll call this the architectural tension. Forrester reports that companies looking at file share technologies are wrestling with tradeoffs between security and user experience. Should they store files in the vendor’s repository, their own systems or some combination? While Forrester doesn’t provide easy answers, they do acknowledge that document collaboration technology is “undergoing a seismic shift from simple to complex, from desktop to mobile, and from employees to partners,” all of which require a fresh look at assumptions.

Learning Opportunities

2. Agile pure play vs. strategic supplier

This is the platform selection tension. Forrester admits that the old guard (their words) is playing catch-up in this market and says Forrester clients are wondering if they should view pure-play offerings as a stopgap solution until their existing strategic partners close the functionality gap. Forrester admits that this is a tough question due to several market dynamics that will play out over the next few years:

  1. Smaller pure-play vendors will be driven out of the market, get acquired, or specialize; 2) large traditional vendors that are behind today will catch up and aggressively drive down price points; and 3) one or two upstarts could disrupt the document collaboration market and take strong market positions.

3. Lower cost vs. higher functionality

Let’s call this the value tension. Forrester warns against shallow comparisons based on price per user, partly because pricing models vary so widely. They note that “some of the pure-play vendors price their solutions at US$ 5 per user per month; some at more like US$ 80 per user per month (albeit with advanced functionality.” Cautioning that total cost of ownership can be very difficult to gauge at this stage, they point out a set of conflicting considerations worthy of a back-and-forth tennis match:

  • Bundled services look free, but marginal costs are hidden
  • Cloud services look simple, but expanded scenarios will add cost
  • Pure plays maintain their pricing but add functionality to justify it
  • Bring-your-own-storage solutions look cheaper but also shift cost to another budget

While the case certainly isn't closed regarding who will establish long-term leadership in the emerging file sync and share market, Forrester provides a solid foundation in this report for companies who need to make sense of vendor options, understand the unresolved issues and chart a course through the inevitable market shakeout.

Title image courtesy of Portadown (Shutterstock)