Enterprise file sync (synchronization) and sharing (EFSS) solutions weren't "must have" categories in corporate collaboration and productivity portfolios back in 2015. In fact some managers thought that providing workers with the ability to access to enterprise content from anywhere, at any time, on any device seemed dangerous. Consider what ESG analysts Terri McClure and Leah Matuson wrote in a brief that year, "Since security is top of mind for IT, leaving employees to their own devices is not an option. Companies cannot take the chance of losing control of business-critical and sensitive data by having it compromised, corrupted, deleted, or worse. So while organizations are taking steps to find ways to embrace the ubiquitous "anywhere, anytime, any device," mantra, cloud-based enterprise file sharing still has enterprises wary."
Just two- and-one-half years later the ability to access work content via a smart phone, or on any screen, seems practically like an unalienable right. Consider how Forrester analyst Cheryl McKinnon and Gene Leganza summarized EFSS in its Forrester Wave Enterprise File Sync and Share Platforms, Cloud Solutions in their latest report, "Enterprise file sync and share is firmly entrenched inside the enterprise, and technology management buyers no longer view it as a primarily consumer-driven technology. The broader market, however, is crowded with a multitude of vendors offering relatively comparable options.” Add to that, Gartner analysts Monica Basso, Karen A. Hobert, Michael Woodbridge recently wrote that “By 2020, 80 percent of large and midsize organizations in mature regions will have deployed one or more content collaboration platform (CCP) products to implement a content productivity and collaboration strategy.”
So as IT managers go to select an EFSS solution for their team or organization, they should understand that there are literally dozens of EFSS/CCP providers to choose from. Below is an overview of six that commonly make the shortlist. We chose these six based on market share and information gleaned through Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CCP, Forrester’s Waves for Cloud and Hybrid EFSS, as well as Constellation Research’s shortlist for Enterprise File Sharing. Both Cloud and hybrid vendors are within our selection.
Syncplicity is a nine-year-old hybrid EFSS service that has changed ownership three times. Founded in 2008, it was an independent highly rated startup when it was acquired by storage giant EMC. EMC then sold it to Skyview Capital in 2015, Skyview then sold it to Axway in 2017. Despite that, it has maintained its place as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant and Forrester’s Wave reports and continues to be used by organizations such as Dell EMC, Major League Baseball, and Siemens among others.
Its features include productivity and collaboration enablement from virtually any user endpoint while maintaining next-generation global content protection and compliance with maximum visibility and security control (including, according to Gartner “extensive security features, including native DRM with policies, customer key management and geofencing; and compliance certifications, such as FedRAMP, FERPA, FISMA, HIPAA and ITAR. Policy-driven hybrid storage options address complex data residency, sovereignty and geolocation requirements.”
Syncplicity's hybrid features allow businesses to choose where files are stored but also how and where collaboration occurs. Axway has also done well in positioning Syncplicity to appeal to small and mid-sized businesses as well, according to Gartner.
Decision makers who look at Syncplicity as an EFSS or content collaboration platform may also want to consider how it, together with Axway’s other products, might help facilitate digital transformation and customer experiences.
Box is the darling of analysts who review EFSS solutions. It is a cloud-only enterprise content and collaboration platform that offers “security, compliance and administrative capabilities, such as cloud data protection and governance capabilities, including encryption key management of customers' content stored in the cloud (Box KeySafe) and flexible content geolocation technology (Box Zones) for storage,” according to Gartner.
Box may be the oldest cloud-only EFSS solution but it typically introduces new capabilities, features and benefits before the competition. Analyst Forrester wrote “Box continues to push the boundaries of the EFSS market.” Gartner pointed to Box’s capabilities around “content transformation, streaming, real-time editing and machine learning, leveraging artificial intelligence technologies.”
It is worth noting that Box recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) readiness. The vendor has also worked hard to nurture its developer community by providing them with a large number of APIs and SDKs. Other interesting services include "Box Transform" which helps enterprises up for digital transformation initiatives via consulting services and industry specific solutions for construction, education, healthcare, life sciences, media and entertainment and many, many more. Box is also integrated with many other solution vendors such as DocuSign, IBM, Microsoft, Okta, and Salesforce to name a few.
It has no hybrid or on premises offering, the files it can work with can be no larger than 15GB and its pricing can be confusing according to analysts.
Citrix ShareFile is a hybrid EFSS solution which not only offers both on-premises and cloud options but also provides native connectors to other file shares, on-premises content services platforms and other cloud services. It is sold both as a single product and an entitlement to organizations using other Citrix products like Citrix, Citrix Workspace Suite, Citrix Workspace Cloud and more. What this means to Citrix clients is fewer silos and fast and simple productivity and collaboration.
Citrix's standout feature is its ability to offer flexibility, security, and choice at the same. Citrix's customers don't have to debate about a public cloud model, a hybrid architecture, and a private storage model. Citrix offers on-premises private data storage (Citrix's ShareFile StorageZones) or (supported) third-party cloud storage. Citrix does the aforementioned so well that it was chosen as a leader in both Forrester's Cloud and Hybrid EFSS Waves. Analysts noted that Citrix ShareFile's integration with Citrix XenDesktop (desktop virtualization), XenApp app virtualization, EMobile for Mobile Application Management (MAM), Citrix Podio (social collaboration and project management), NetScaler for mobile for and web application delivery control, make ShareFile an especially easy choice for Citrix customers.
Enterprises who aren't well invested in Citrix products may want to consider whether the user-productivity integrations with services like Slack, Google Docs and such are in place.
With 500 million users, Dropbox is undeniably the world’s largest independent file sync and share vendor. IT buyers do not have to worry about end user acceptance when they choose Dropbox for Business because Dropbox rewrote its entire product in 2014 to make the consumer and business users experience exactly the same. Like Box, Dropbox is a “cloud only” solution but it now stores most files on its own cloud instead of on AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. Bets are out as to whether enterprises will see this as more secure. Dropbox also has a feature called “Smart Sync” which makes the user experience the same whether the content they are working with is local or in the cloud.
Another feature Dropbox was early to market with is Dropbox Paper, a virtual workspace where teams can collaborate in real time, assign tasks, make to-do lists and more. Though Dropbox's API, developer and partner community are second to none in this space (more than 2 billion API calls per day), "Turnkey integration with corporate data infrastructure and applications is poor. For example, integration with Microsoft SharePoint, OpenText Documentum and Content Server, and IBM FileNet is missing. SharePoint integration for copying is based on third-party technology,"wrote Gartner in its MQ.
Google Drive is a cloud-based file sync and share solution that hasn’t made a consistent, strategy to win enterprise business until recently, when VMware co-founder Diane Greene took over leadership at Google Cloud. Needless to say, Google Drive is a cloud-only EFSS solution that comes with all of the advantages of being associated with a behemoth like Google. Take, for example, storing and serving large files (Google claims 5 terabytes at high speed vs Box’s 15 GB), its wealth of APIs to make integration with business applications easier, as well as the allure of the G Suite marketplace for developers. Enterprise software vendors like Salesforce have also, not so subtly, begun showing their customers welcoming on-ramps to G Suite which includes Google Drive.
Google Drive is pre-integrated with G Suite offerings including Gmail, Calendar, as well as other productivity applications. Analysts like the security Google offers its business customers including audits and alerts on document status changes, controls over external sharing, information rights management, search and e-discovery and more.
All of this being said, there are some gaps between what some enterprises need and what Google has to offer (at least for now), such as integration with other enterprise software solutions, geofencing, native connectors to ECM repositories and such.
With the wide scale success of Office 365, Microsoft’s One Drive for Business (ODB) has won easy entry into the enterprise. Gartner called it “a critical engine in Microsoft's integrated Office platform,” in its latest MQ for CCP. It can be used with Microsoft Office 365, as a stand-alone cloud service, an extension to Sharepoint Server and more. While it took some time for Microsoft to get the ODB end user and administrator experience right, that now seems to have happened according to analysts like Constellation Research's Alan Lepofsky.
In the last year Microsoft has updated the OneDrive desktop sync client, the OneDrive mobile app, enhanced the UX of the Office 365 productivity platform and more. There are also features that CIOs like, such as global data centers that support regionalized data residency and privacy regulations, client managed encryption keys and identity-centered security, among others.
While analysts noted that ODB has a number of open gaps in areas like to external collaboration, commenting, offline usage and sync performance and such, they may be filled by the time you read this. On important note, ODB is free to Office 365 business users.