Enterprise File Collaboration Market Landscape

In order to be true enterprise-class products, file-collaboration solutions must offer scalability, security, control, usability and compliance.

August 02, 2013

By Taneja Group

Collaboration is a huge concept; even narrowing it down to enterprise file collaboration (EFC) is still a big undertaking. Many vendors are using “collaboration” in their marketing materials, yet they mean many different things by it, ranging from simple business interaction to sophisticated groupware to data sharing and syncing on a wide scale. The result is a good deal of market confusion.

Frankly, vendors selling file collaboration into the enterprise cannot afford massive customer confusion because selling file collaboration into the enterprise is already an uphill battle. First, customers—business end-users—are resistant to changing their Dropbox and Dropbox-like file share applications. As far as the users are concerned, their sharing is working just fine between their own devices and small teams.

IT is very concerned about this level of consumer-level file-sharing—and if they are not, they should be. But IT faces a battle when it attempts to wean thousands of end-users off Dropbox on the users’ personal devices. There must be a business advantage and clear usability for users who are required to adopt a corporate file-sharing application on their own device.

IT must also have good reasons to deploy corporate file-sharing using the cloud. From their perspective the Dropboxes of the world are fueling the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) phenomenon. They need to replace consumer-level file collaboration applications with an enterprise scale application and its robust management console. However, while IT may be anxious about BYOD and insecure file-sharing, it is not usually the most driving need on their full agenda. They need to understand how an EFC solution can solve a very large problem, and why they need to take advantage of the solution now.

What is the solution? Enterprise file collaboration (EFC) with: 1) high scalability, 2) security, 3) control, 4) usability and 5) compliance. In this landscape report, we will discuss these five factors and the main customer drivers for this level of enterprise file collaboration.

five characteristics

Finally, we will discuss the leading vendors that offer enterprise file collaboration products and see how they stack up against our definition.

Customer Confusion

Collaboration marketing easily confuses customers because of mixed definitions. Let’s clarify what file collaboration is not:

The Market and EFC

The basic business need for file collaboration is the ability to share files between a mobile workforce, external shareholders and endpoint devices. Consumer-grade collaboration tools exist to share files on an individual user basis, mostly consisting of uploading files to a central location and downloading from a mobile device. This is awkward in and of itself since it requires a user to remember to put the file into the central location before changing locations and using another endpoint device. It is certainly unworkable with large enterprise.

Strong business drivers are encouraging corporations to take the plunge into EFC.

  1. BYOD management. One of the main drivers for mobile management in general is BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. (Cynics refer to BYOD as “Buy Your Own Device.”) BYOD is a burden for IT. They are responsible for keeping information secure and available only to approved users and devices, yet the proliferation and uniqueness of each smartphone, laptop or tablet makes that job very difficult. Complexity, lack of scalability and lax security are all issues with managing BYOD. Additional issues include multiple carriers for wireless devices, user demand to support many types of files and the fact that these devices are personal property and have personal applications and data on them as well as corporate data. The BYOD phenomenon impacts several technology domains including Mobile Device Management (MDM) and < a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_application_management">Mobile Application Management(MAM), and has deep implications for EFC.
  2. Lack of IT control. IT knows that it should establish control over corporate data flying around the globe on unsecured personal devices. They need to be able to supervise data retention, versions, security, controlled access and policies to administer the management environment. Malware management is another serious problem when users are combining personal and corporate data and applications on a personal device. For example, it sounds efficient to give IT the ability to wipe a device’s memory in case of loss—except that if the device is the employee's personal property, IT must face the reality of a very upset employee. Granted it may be the employee’s fault, but this risk extends across many hundreds of users, all insisting that this is their property.
  3. Lack of security with consumer-grade services. Data security is a huge concern wherever it is stored. When files are stored in the cloud, IT’s security concerns ratchet up. And when business data is stored on thousands of mobile devices—you do the math. Consumer grade file-sharing services claim to be secure (and they are to a point), but they often lack strong encryption and user access control. They also lack the ability for IT to set and enforce security policies for shared files.
  4. Governance and compliance worries. Consumer-grade collaboration tools rarely automatically encrypt files sent from the user device, and few consumers will bother to encrypt on their own. This is risky with personal data and potentially disastrous with sensitive and/or regulated business data. Sharing data without encryption risks data exposure. (There is a very good reason that consumer file-sharing tools are not compliant with important governmental and industry regulations.) There is also no way that consumer-grade file-sharing applications can track specific physical storage locations when that level of compliance is required.

So why aren’t EFC products flying off virtual shelves?

Because while IT is aware of BYOD's risks, they frequently lack the time, urgency and budget to deal effectively with it. IT will admit that BYOD is a problem but may not have the money or the will to adopt an alternative solution. In these cases senior executives need to be on board.

The more regulated the industry, the more IT will be motivated to address BYOD. But many government agencies will be unwilling or unable to use any external clouds. In these cases the EFC vendor should offer a private cloud option only. We strongly suggest that EFC vendors build a strong case for the big risks implicit in not managing BYOD and file-sharing across the enterprise—and outside of it.

A True EFC Solution: The Five Factors

Consumer-grade file collaboration vendors usually start with low-cost and free solutions to build their customer base. Then they attempt to ride their business user coattails into the enterprise while simultaneously developing slightly more robust products. They are correct that the enterprise is where the real money is; they are wrong in believing that providing a cool free product for business users will result in large-scale enterprise adoption.

A ready-for-the-enterprise file collaboration product must contain five factors that define EFC: scalability, control, security, usability and compliance. Enterprise scalability is not just supporting a small remote workgroup in an enterprise; it is using the cloud to achieve high performance distributed file-sharing for thousands of users, devices, and tens of thousands of files. Control is centralized IT management using policies to efficiently manage file collaboration across the enterprise. Security is encryption, data protection and user access control. Usability is that all-important quality of simplicity for both end-users and for IT. Finally, compliance refers to monitoring, tracking and auditing file usage for compliance and governance. Let’s take a more detailed look at each factor.

Factor: Scalability

EFC requires service levels capable of protecting tens of thousands of files, hundreds to thousands of users and multiple devices per user. Licensing and purchasing must also be cost-effective as the number of users grows. Yet many collaboration vendors attempt to push into the enterprise market by claiming enterprise scalability when what they actually mean is that they sold a limited product to a small workgroup in a large company. Enterprise file collaboration must scale to support many users across large numbers of devices, while enabling IT to maintain central control.

A key part of scalability is the cloud, which enables large-scale distributed file-sharing without the expense and complexity of VPNs or FTP. Cloud architecture differs between EFC vendors and is a major defining difference between several of them. Note that although most of the vendors offer a public cloud option, many of them can deploy to a private cloud. This level of flexibility is important to the enterprise, where cloud might be acceptable for backup and other copied data sets but is unacceptable for active data.

Factor: Usability

It is not hard to understand the reasons for the success of consumer file-sharing products like Dropbox. Free is a big part of it, of course, but so are simplicity and usability. When IT deploys an enterprise file-sharing product for company employees, it needs to be simple to use and share even with layers of policies, admin, encryption and audits behind it. Usability also extends to user file-sharing; users need a simple and effective way to issue invitations and permissions to other users as well as being able to easily access their files on multiple devices.

Application integration is another major consideration for EFC. Users jump onto their mobile app stores at will. Replacing this ease of use with a complex login routine to approved corporate applications will quickly stymie user willingness to devote their personal device to the business cause. EFC usability drives towards easily adopted and upgradable corporate application suites including familiar interfaces to widely used applications, such as MS Outlook and Office.

Users aren’t the only ones that need simplicity; managing file collaboration needs to be straightforward for IT. Administrators are motivated to close BYOD security holes, but they do not need to replace one serious management issue with an equally difficult file collaboration management interface. The more usable the management interface, the better the choice will be for IT.

Factor: Security

EFC is by definition about files and devices rather than team interaction, so it must be able to protect file versions across devices and user files. Enterprise-scale enters into this ability since hundreds of people may potentially be using the same set of unstructured files. File synchronization is the basic required feature as files are shared between user devices, and potentially between multiple users. Versioning is necessary to provide simultaneous collaboration between users.

EFC vendors offer file syncing and control across mobile devices, including a central management console for admins. This lets IT set and enforce security policies, implement user and role-based access control, and audit device and user network access. Cloud security, access, authentication and encryption are all concerns for IT departments that are looking at enterprise file collaboration on a large scale. IT needs consoles that allow them to provide effective file and access oversight and control, while users need a platform that supports a wide variety of devices.

Factor: IT Control

Centralized control is a primary distinction between consumer and EFC products. Without central controls, users will do an end-run around IT in a phenomenon called shadow IT. Some consumer products have added rudimentary management capabilities but not on the scale of features that enterprise requires. At the very least user access control should support LDAP, and many collaboration products actively use MS Active Directory (AD) for access control. IT will be able to set permission and access control on shared data. Collaboration products that share files from their original storage locations can use existing network permissions for approved users, but products that store shared files in a separate repository will need to set permission access on folders and/or individual files.

IT will need to institute backup and archive for the file locations, whether the files are stored behind the firewall or on a public cloud. The collaboration console may or may not provide data protection functionality; collaboration products from a data protection vendor will provide backup while pure play collaboration vendors generally will not. In either case the shared file storage must be subject to backup and archive as needed.

Factor: Compliance

The management console should give IT the ability to set policies around security, information management and data retention requirements. IT also needs audit trails and activity logs for governance, including versioning records if the collaboration product provides file versioning for shared editing. This is the single largest issue with consumer grade file-sharing in the enterprise: the inability to protect files from accidental sharing, planned intrusion and non-compliance. The ability to safeguard files is critical in highly regulated industries like finance, healthcare, government and others. Consumer grade file-sharing products simply do not provide acceptable security levels.

Mobile Management

File collaboration is an enterprise-wide initiative. It is related to but not synonymous with Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile Application Management (MAM), or Mobile File Management (MFM).

Barriers To Aoption

Cloud security concerns. IT may accept the cloud for secondary storage, but an active file repository is different. File syncing, locking and versioning must be rock-solid; scalability must be enterprise level; and IT must be able to control user and device access. This level of collaboration requires deep trust on the part of both IT and end-users, which must trust that their data is freely available to them when they need it. Most EFC products support behind-the-firewall private clouds for this reason and some operate on private clouds exclusively.

Vendor trustworthiness. The vendors range from start-ups to established companies, some of them giants in the data storage and management fields. Start-ups in a field spur innovation and choice, and they often come to market with newly minted and modern code. Established companies are not going anywhere and may well acquire the start-ups, but they must also deal with integration points between legacy product and collaboration offerings.

Vendors and EFC

There are several well-known consumer-grade file-sharing products that business users adopt including Dropbox for consumers, YouSendIt and SugarSync. We do not include them as EFC vendors because they are used on an individual basis or at most by a small workgroup. Many of these vendors are developing larger group options, although they rarely scale up enough for us to term them an EFC product.

We have divided EFC vendors into three categories: Unified Communications (UC) vendors with SaaS conferencing, data protection vendors adding file-sharing products, and pure play file collaboration vendors.

Vendor Segment Definition Vendors Pure Play These startups were founded around core file collaboration technology and have achieved enterprise scalability without being acquired by a larger company. Some of them have also developed data protection offerings as secondary use cases for their flagship product. • Box Enterprise • Egnyte • Huddle • OxygenCloud • SkyDox Data Protection Data protection and storage companies are adding file collaboration capabilities as a natural development of their technology. Some have developed internally and others through acquisitions. • Acronis • CTERA • Druva • EMC Unified Communications Unified Communications (UC) usually refers to real-time communications technology such as video, telephony and chat. Several UC vendors have added file collaboration features to their platforms. Some use it as a value-added offering to the UC offerings, and some as an integrated but independent product. • Citrix • Cisco • IBM

EFC Vendors

Vendor Spotlights

The following vendors are leading exemplars of enterprise file collaboration: Acronis, Citrix, Druva, Egnyte, EMC and OxygenCloud. They come from different backgrounds—unified communications, backup and pure play collaboration—but they all have the Five Factors in common.

Acronis activEcho

Background.Mobile collaboration vendor GroupLogic developed mobilEcho in 2011. Soon after, they developed < ahref=" http://www.acronis.com/enterprise/products/activecho/">activeEcho, which serves as a highly secure file management and collaboration server that controls client devices including desktops, laptops and mobile. activeEcho became generally available in March 2012, and by September of that same year, Acronis acquired GroupLogic. Acronis has since made wide use of GroupLogic’s Apple OS and mobile technology throughout its portfolio. Under the Acronis banner, activEcho continues to support the enterprise and has made deep inroads into international businesses.

Technology. activEcho secures access, shares data and syncs data across networks and devices. Acronis’s data protection expertise provides comprehensive backup and restore and optimizes storage across cloud, physical and virtual environments. Approved users may access shared files from their desktops and laptops, mobile devices and from a Web browser. User files are synced from their original locations to the activEcho storage repository located on-premise or on S3. When the activEcho server receives a file-sharing request from an approved user, it first checks if the recipient of the sharing operation is also approved and then it grants access to the shared files in the repository.

Differentiator. Acronis is developing their solutions based on what their customers want to do with their file data and how they can best do it. The resulting message is information security, availability, accessibility and value across the enterprise data ecosystem.

Citrix ShareFile

Background. Citrix acquired ShareFile for file collaboration and Podio for team collaboration. Both products expand GoToMeeting’s collaboration capabilities but operate independently of it. Pre-acquisition ShareFile served small businesses who needed file collaboration with deep security. As a start-up ShareFile could only stretch its resources so far; Citrix is spending significant resources to develop ShareFile and Podio for enterprise IT.

Technology. ShareFile is a hybrid solution using cloud storage repositories and also allows customers to store data on-premises. ShareFile administrates the web app, brokering and reporting functions through a Citrix-managed cloud. For customers opting to store data in the cloud, ShareFile stores files in Citrix-managed StorageZones located on Amazon S3 or in private, on-premise, customer-managed clouds called StorageZones. ShareFile does not require other Citrix products to work but integrates with them. Podio with its team collaboration interface is closely related as is Citrix XenMobile.

Differentiator. Some enterprises are open to storing shared files on public networks for their economy and scale. However, regulated industries require on-premise file-sharing so they can securely distribute sensitive files using private cloud infrastructure. ShareFile serves both markets, which extends their marketing reach.

Druva inSync

Background. Druva was founded in 2008 and released inSyncthat same year. Since then, Druva has built inSync into an integrated platform for endpoint data protection and governance with backup, file-sharing, data loss prevention (DLP), and data analytics. inSync’s deduplication technology is application-aware, efficiently deduplicating within and across files at the object level to save storage and bandwidth, as well as improve file-sharing performance across devices of collaborating users.

Technology. Druva inSync offers file collaboration as part of an integrated suite of endpoint backup (desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones), file-sharing, data loss prevention, and analytics. Suite tools include application-aware deduplication, WAN optimization, and a centralized management console that administrates a single set of user permissions and policies across the entire suite. Customers have a choice between their own on-premise infrastructure, a massive private cloud, Amazon AWS, or hybrid combinations of on-premise and cloud deployments. Druva is careful to state that while it offers a managed service with public cloud storage from Amazon a public cloud component is not required for their solution. This enables them to serve customer segments that will not store data on the public cloud.

Differentiator. Druva’s integrated data protection technology differentiates its file-sharing solution from point products. Using a single solution for endpoint backup and file-sharing further saves businesses storage and bandwidth costs by reducing data duplication across the two. As an integrated platform that includes a well-defined file collaboration solution, Druva attracts IT departments who are frustrated with managing thousands of endpoints.

Egnyte Business File-sharing

Background.Startup Egnyte was founded in 2006 and launched Business File-sharing in 2008. We classify Egnyte as a file collaboration vendor who positions their offering with file-sharing and collaboration, backup and large file transfer capabilities.

Technology. Egnyte builds its Hybrid File-sharing solution with two components: Egnyte Cloud File Server and Egnyte Local Cloud. Egnyte Cloud File Server (CFS) as a service layer that enables file-sharing. IT can deploy several versions of Local Clouds according to need: Egnyte offers SMB, mid-sized and enterprise versions. The Enterprise Local Cloud is deployed on a VMware virtual appliance on a range of hardware including Windows and Linux servers, VMware platforms or storage systems. Office Local Cloud is integrated with Netgear ReadyNAS devices. File syncing is bi-directional between the Local Cloud and the Cloud File Server, and locally stored data remains accessible if the Internet connection should fail. Remote device users may access files directly from their devices.

Differentiator. Egnyte is the only file-sharing solution that integrates local storage devices and the cloud, as opposed to private cloud and/or public cloud infrastructure. This enables users to connect to local storage over fast LAN connections and the Egnyte cloud to synchronize files between the local storage devices. This combination of local storage plus cloud provides many use cases besides typical cloud file-sharing. Egnyte offers a balanced portfolio of personal, ROBO and enterprise levels that are attractive to enterprise users, workgroups and corporate IT. They are not the only file collaboration vendor to grow from a consumer grade offering, but they are one of the few who have successfully aligned their consumer-mid-sized-enterprise offerings with the enterprise structure of remote users/ROBO/data center.

EMC Syncplicity

Background. Startup Syncplicity offered file collaboration software using public clouds. EMC acquired Syncplicityin 2012 and quickly integrated its mobile features with EMC Documentum. EMC developed Syncplicity Enterprise Edition as an enterprise file collaboration product that is closely integrated with its own storage line.

Technology. EMC delivers the Syncplicity application as SaaS. Customers can use the public cloud for their Syncplicity Data Store repository or can choose on-premise deployment. Syncplicity is not technically limited to EMC storage but is closely integrated with EMC storage lines including Isilon for scale-out NAS and Atmos for object-based cloud storage. EMC has announced VNX integration for later in 2013. On-premise installations share and sync files directly between storage and devices, only using a cloud for Syncplicity orchestration and upgrades. Customers can choose to replicate files to specific data centers to improve performance for users closest to the data center.

Differentiator. EMC is fully aware that its strong brand is a big advantage in selling to the enterprise. However, EMC also knows that innovation is hot in the file collaboration market and that IT does not equate innovation with mature vendors like EMC. To change this mindset, EMC has invested in a host of post-acquisition innovations and a laundry list of developments in 2013. The short-term roadmap includes VNX integration, a policy-driven hybrid cloud to optimize data file storage locations, and integration with EMC ViPR’s software-defined storage.


Background. Huddle was founded in 2006 in the UK and today has offices in the UK and the US. Huddle’s advanced content management includes file-sharing and team collaboration in flexible workspaces. As a content management and collaboration platform, Huddle positions itself as a SharePoint value-add or replacement.

Technology. Huddle file syncing works within its content management and team collaboration platform. Huddle is built on the concept of close team collaboration working together within a secure cloud service. User access includes browsers, desktops and mobile devices. Huddle replaces document search technology with a recommendation engine that pushes relevant files to the team’s devices.

Huddle practices the central knowledge base model as opposed to sharing files from their original network locations. Huddle syncs files across team desktop, network and mobile content devices. The vendor supports pull features so users can specify files or folders for syncing across team devices but its push technology is a core feature: Huddle syncs files to users based on their user/group roles and device activity, and it notifies users when a new file is available.

Differentiator. Huddle actively markets its technology both as a complement to SharePoint and a replacement for the content management system. This allows them to enter SharePoint environments as a third-party value-add without customers having to decide on a forklift replacement, and it also positions them as a SharePoint replacement down the line. Huddle has benefited from intense sales activity and customer wins in the government sector, which also validates enterprise interest.

Oxygen Cloud

Background. Oxygen Cloud was founded in 2010 to offer security-conscious collaboration to the enterprise. Its founders knew the silo effect of location-centric file storage, and how difficult it was to manage and security share files in restricted storage environments. Oxygen developed Oxygen Cloud with users and IT in mind: usability and easy file access for users, and security and flexible control for IT.

Technology. Oxygen Cloud is built with three major components: Open Authentication Connector and Storage Connector virtual appliances, and Application Management Service. Authentication Connector integrates with AD or LDAP for user authentication. The Storage Connector builds private cloud features into on-premise file or object storage; Oxygen users may also use a variety of remote cloud architectures.

The Application Management Service provides synchronizing, sharing and versioning tools with centralized IT administration. Oxygen supports Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

Differentiator. Oxygen presents itself as a cloud drive, not a separate application or portal. Authorized users can access content from any device while IT retains control and governance. Unlike some other vendors who either push out files on a schedule or sync upon user access, Oxygen presents a reference to the file that appears as if it were the file to the user. The user chooses when to sync the file. Its audit feed technology is particularly valuable to enterprise governance.

Additional File Collaboration Vendors

Box. Box hosts the application and customer data in secure data centers. It offers file-sharing and syncing, and also integrates with SaaS offerings and major enterprise applications, including Salesforce.com and MS Office, as well as leading ECM systems. Box learned an expensive lesson early on: developing a product for users who work for large companies does not mean that IT will be forced to adopt the product. Box had to develop better scalability, security, application integration and mobile and AD support to get anywhere near enterprise IT. Their development dollars paid off in Box Enterprise.

Cisco. Cisco is expanding its WebEx service delivery platform to include social media support with WebEx Social. Cisco does not host user data but offers the transition point for sharing data. The file types they can share are limited and require the File Share tool so users can download documents. They do provide strong mobile device support and maintain a strong emphasis on security and mobility.

CTERA. CTERA Cloud Attached Storage is a hybrid data protection product that operates from on-premise or cloud-side delivery platform. It provides centrally administered backup from ROBO sites to a remote data center and/or to the cloud. They are best known in mid-market but have added enterprise support for file sync and share using private cloud infrastructure. The product provides large file transfers, secure access for mobile devices, and file syndication. CTERA integrates with AD/LDAP services for user access management. User files are automatically synchronized between user devices and user cloud folders.

IBM Connections. IBM Connections Suite is a UC platform with content management features. Its file-sharing capabilities are specific to Connections platform usage, similar to Cisco’s WebEx. IBM Connections Suite provides online meetings with IBM Connections and Connections Content Manager, IBM Sametime Advanced and an IBM telephony client. IBM Content Manager supports team collaboration by building document libraries for sharing communities. Members can access and check out files, assign “Likes” to them, and share or lock them against other changes. Connections Mobile supports mobile access.

SkyDox. SkyDox is an enterprise-level cloud file-sharing and collaboration vendor. SkyDox provides a secure collaboration workspace for teams including online storage, file access and sharing, and collaboration controls. It includes numerous file types and version control as well as file sync. User permission levels control who is allowed to comment on documents or to view them. IT uses a centralized account management console to manage user access and rights, file-sharing settings, and audits. SkyDox supports a broad range of mobile devices including iOS and Android along with Blackberry, Palm, and Windows and Nokia phones.

Taneja Group Opinion

EFC vendors must spend the resources to educate enterprise IT. BYOD issues and security concerns are the hooks; enterprise-scale file collaboration is the solution. Focus on the dangers of uncontrolled personal device proliferation for security, governance, and information management. Follow up with EFC product problem solving and value-added features such as enterprise search and expanded collaboration for business value.

Concentrate on meeting the five factors as the mark of an industry leader and differentiate your messaging in a crowded market. For example, some EFC products with robust private cloud support are optimized for financial services, while others are excellent at smoothly replacing consumer file-sharing products throughout a large mobile workforce. Know your differentiation and communicate it to an educated IT audience.

Understand how to sell into the enterprise. Startups in particular are hampering themselves by being unwilling to pay for the resources for long sales cycles. Vendors run by seasoned executives know this, but other vendors do not. The ones who don’t get it are some of the coolest new product companies around, and they can stay cool until they are summarily acquired or close their doors forever.

There is a huge amount of opportunity in this swiftly changing field. EFC vendors can relieve file-sharing pain, give users device freedom and grant IT real control. They can do this securely and with scalability. Vendors must remember that individual users may open the door to file-sharing products, but enterprise IT signs the deal. EFC vendors must be prepared for enterprise requirements for scalability, usability and governance, and for innovative technology within a highly secure environment. They must also be prepared for the length of the enterprise sales cycle and must invest in R&D and marketing accordingly. The more education and investment that vendors undertake at this stage the more their efforts will pay off.

NOTICE: The information and product recommendations made by Taneja Group are based upon public information and sources and may also include personal opinions both of Taneja Group and others, all of which we believe to be accurate and reliable. However, as market conditions change and not within our control, the information and recommendations are made without warranty of any kind. All product names used and mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners. Taneja Group, Inc. assumes no responsibility or liability for any damages whatsoever (including incidental, consequential or otherwise), caused by your use of, or reliance upon, the information and recommendations presented herein, nor for any inadvertent errors that may appear in this document.