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Cloud-Based File Sharing Services for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses - The Next Step

  • March 2014
  • -
  • Frost & Sullivan
  • -
  • 22 pages

Summary

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Vendors offering cloud-based file sharing services have attracted substantial interest from investors. Cloud-based file sharing service providers with a focus on products in the small and medium-sized business sector received $485.5 million in publicly disclosed funding in 2012 and 2013. Frost & Sullivan believes the actual funding is another $300-$400 million. It should also be noted that while the primary focus of cloud-service file share providers like Box, Dropbox for Businesses, Egnyte, Hightail, and others in this report has been small and medium-sized businesses, these companies can offer compelling products to enterprises, and are likely to compete with vendors that offer managed file sharing services.

The investors are seeing a highly effective technology that helps businesses in terms of productivity and security. File transfer is not limited to static word documents or spreadsheets: blueprints, photos, and video are files as well. What cloud-based service providers have been able to do is create better tools for collaboration, centralize administration protocols for file access, and build hierarchies for file relevancy and categorization.

The idea that cloud-based services enhance security reads like an oxymoron. It remains true that certain types of data will remain on-premises. However, cloud-based service providers directly address security concerns. For instance, two-factor authentication is used to place an end user onto a network. Two-factor authentication invites an end user onto a network, and then asks the end user to create a unique password. Once initial access onto a network is granted, the end user can use a single sign-on (SSO) to gain access to the network in the future. Device pinning works similarly in that a network identifies the IP address of a given device, and can associate rules of access and offer application specific tools for content editing and image-rendering. Lightweight mobile device management is an interesting feature offered in some file sharing services. If a mobile device is lost or stolen (or the employment status of an employee changes), access to specific files can be prohibited, and data stored on the phone can be erased—a practice known as mobile wiping.

There are several dynamics involved in winning business for cloud-based file share service providers. Downlink and uplink speeds, guaranteed bandwidth, the price of storage, and the price of user licenses remain important selection criteria. However, platform integration is important too. Companies often have legacy tools—customer relationship management (CRM), compliance reporting templates, and publication tools like Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF are examples of applications that can be integrated onto a file-sharing platform. Certainly, not everything can be integrated onto a cloud-based file sharing platform; therefore, there is value in building tools to encourage the developer community.

Lastly, the attraction to cloud-based file sharing service providers is not toward what they are doing; rather, the enthusiasm is directed toward what is yet to come. Unified communications and applied analytics are examples of features that can be added to cloud-based file sharing services.

Introduction

The Internet is now a ubiquitous platform across all businesses. Through online applications, companies create inventories, build portals for customer service, generate orders for their own business, and hold sensitive consumer data. This is evident even in remote office/branch office (ROBO) and medium-sized businesses.
The idea of creating a central repository for file storage and access is not new. However, a virtuous cycle in cloud communications has recently created opportunities for cloud-based file sharing service providers.

The cloud impacts all businesses, but has a heightened appeal to small and medium-sized businesses. Adopting cloud-based services is a much less intensive IT engagement than managing internal IT infrastructure. The cloud, at its core, is a service-delivery mechanism inclusive of security and bandwidth, and backed by service level agreements (SLAs) offered by the cloud services provider. Furthermore, for cloud services subscribers, their spending resembles recurring operational expenditures rather than upfront capital expenditures. Cloud service providers also provide value-added services such as computing or location-based services. Furthermore, the growth of cloud computing enhances the value of what file share service providers offer. For example, with globally-distributed data centers, file sharing service providers can piggyback off Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Cloud, IBM cloud services, and other companies (e.g., content delivery network (CDN) providers) to offer singularly or a mix of private and public cloud-based services. Additionally, with new data centers, there is more capacity, and data access speeds are increasing. For end users, this means that access to data has never been quicker or easier.

The recent improvements in cloud technology, and in applications written to leverage cloud technology, change the nature of file sharing. File sharing moves from being a passive activity into becoming a vibrant, fluid information workflow application. The ability for multiple users to easily collaborate on a single file heightens synergy. Purpose-built devices give workers freedom to apply applications in the field. A smart document strategy can be developed to make businesses more efficient.
The supported mobility of cloud-based services (i.e., accessible from anywhere and from most devices) raises concerns in information privacy and security. File sharing and collaboration can be extended to business partners, but inviting third parties into a private network has the potential to create vulnerabilities. File transfer and storage is subject to a variety of rules and regulations across vertical industries (e.g., financial services, healthcare, and retail) and geographies. In a data transfer environment, an end user may need pieces of information from different locations or different clouds. This too creates security concerns.

This report focuses on three important but interweaving aspects of file sharing and collaboration for the small and medium-sized business market. Cloud-based file sharing vendors have a minimum set of features that their platforms must provide. How quickly and securely files can be accessed and transferred is one of several key competitive differentiators, but there are others. Secondly, file sharing and collaboration vendors can win business by providing business-specific services. Lastly, perhaps most importantly, all aspects of file sharing must occur in a secure environment.

Competitive Environment

Competition among providers in the cloud-based file sharing services market for small and medium-sized businesses is intense. Incumbent players like Box, Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox for Business, Egnyte, and Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) have established market positions, and have received funding in hopes of gaining more market share in this growing field. Technology companies like Google, IBM, LogMeIn, Microsoft, Novell, Rackspace, and Salesforce.com also have offerings. Lastly, multiple service operators offer cloud-based file sharing services as a part of bundled subscriptions including wired and wireline services, broadband, and content services. The telco TeliaSonera offers a service called Telia SkyFiles; other telcos offer similar services.
The table below lists funding that has been invested with cloud-based file share service providers that focus on small and medium-sized businesses in 2012 and 2013.

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