File, Sync and Share Storage Buying Guide

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File synch and share appears to have become pervasive, even in large companies. A 2014 study by Forrester Consulting found 70% of employees using file sync and share every day, while nearly 1 in 5 use it hourly.

Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, has also observed file sync and share growing in popularity over the past couple of months, a trend he expects to continue.

“Organizations are realizing that they need tools beyond basic FTP or using email for file sharing,” said Schulz. “Tie in the continued growth of unstructured little and big data, not to mention cloud and mobility, and it’s the perfect storm of opportunity.”

The problem with attempting a buying guide in this area, however, is the sheer number of tools involved. According to Gartner, there are more than 100 vendors in this space today, with Gartner analyst Monica Basso saying it was about half that level in the early part of 2013.

Far from being a comprehensive guide to every single vendor, then, let’s just call this a sampling of the various approaches. 

Dropbox for Business

Most users are familiar with the consumer version of Dropbox. This version is an attempt to conquer the organizational market with a tool that has the features the enterprise needs to secure and control content.

In 2014, the company released an all-new Dropbox for Business with the ability to access personal and business Dropboxes. Other features include remote wipe, which protects confidential information, and account transfer to help users maintain business continuity, as well as sharing audit logs that track how the information is being accessed. As before, it offers customers unlimited storage space, live phone and email support, and file recovery services.

Kitty Oestlien, Head of Marketing for Dropbox Pro and Dropbox for Business, said she has noticed file sync and share grow more mainstream over the past year. She cited Dropbox users increasing from 100 million to 300 million since November 2012.

“Collaboration continues to be a focus for Dropbox projects,” said Oestlien. “One new initiative we announced earlier this year, Project Harmony, will let users see who’s editing a file, have a conversation with other editors, and keep copies in sync — all within the apps employees already use.”

She added that security is a top priority of Dropbox for Business, impacting how the product is designed and implemented. All files stored are encrypted when they’re in transit or at rest, and while moving between the company’s data centers. Dropbox for Business is available for teams of 5 or more, starting at $15 per user, per month.

PanTerra Networks

Panterra aims to play in the mid-market space, which it defines as being between 50 and 2,000 employees with revenues between $50M and $1B. The Company’s WorldSmart service provides CloudUC – Unified Communications and SmartBox – File Sharing that Communicates, which are delivered from the cloud through a browser-based client as well as mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. The idea is to eliminate any on-premises hardware or software. 

SmartBox provides secure cloud storage, syncing and sharing with additional communications and collaboration features. Users can upload files, create folders and share content. Files and folders can be accessed and synchronized with desktops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones.

“It allows communication with other users through audio or video calling or conferencing, secure IM/SMS, or web meeting/deskshare,” said Arthur Chang, CEO, PanTerra Networks.  “Contact management with multi-source importing eliminates redundant contact management tasks when working with multiple cloud services.” 

Chang named Box, SharePoint and Dropbox Business as his main competitors, but claimed that his approach was better due to the built-in unified communications features that allow people to share content, communicate and collaborate about that content in real-time. Additionally, all communications content (voicemails, faxes and call recordings) are consolidated into a single folder simplifying access and sharing.

SmartBox provides a free guest user account that provides 2 GB of secure cloud storage and access to all unified communications features (on-net) as well as access to the SmartBox mobile app. SmartBox Enterprise users pay $15/user/month and have access to unlimited secure cloud storage, advanced file sharing features and all unified communications features (both on-net and off-net). SmartBox CloudUC users pay anywhere from $15 to $99/user/month. 


Box just made it into the Leaders category on the very first Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing. The company reports more than 25 million users (225,000 businesses) using Box. New customers include giants such as GE, Sony Music and Netflix. Further, it recently raised $150 million in equity investment, which comes prior to an impending IPO. The product contains a similar product set to other file sych and share tools, though each one has a slightly different slant.

“We are excited about the differentiated platform that Box has built which is focused on the needs of businesses, and we’re looking forward to helping them continue to grow”

Content on Box can be securely shared and accessed on the web, through iOS, Android and Windows Phone applications. It also has the capability to extend usage to applications such as Google Apps, NetSuite and Salesforce. Pricing ranges from a free personal version to $5 per user/month for Starter (up to 10 users), $15 for Business and 35 for Enterprise.


Microsoft promotes OneDrive as the one place to share everything in your life – photos, videos, documents, love (scratch that last one – it hasn’t been digitized yet). It has a consumer as well as a business version. And it already comes with a wealth of features, including desktop synch, mobile access, creating/editing online documents, automatic versioning and history, authentication, auditing and reporting, centralized administration and standards compliance. But the biggie is probably integration with Microsoft Office. This may be destined to propel OneDrive into contention as a major league file synch and share player.

Pricing is another area where Microsoft will be difficult to beat. The consumer version is free for 7 GB of online storage. Add another $25 a year for every 50 GB. A new business version, which is about to be released, is promising 1 TB at $2.50 per month per user. 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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