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Filesharing services for companies

Filesharing for business takes more than Dropbox – although this provider continues to be used in many companies, often unfortunately out of the line of sight of IT managers.

08 Jan. 2016

More than just Dropbox

Filesharing services for companies offer role-based rights management, SLAs and backup and recovery strategies. (Photo: Andrey VP /

Filesharing is a component of the Enterprise Content Management system where role-based rights management, SLAs and backup and recovery strategies have a higher priority than for personal use. The systems must be scalable, regardless of whether small or large files are stored, deleted, moved or shared. A suitable storage allotment for each user is a must. Dropbox has nonetheless done trailblazing work, points out Experton Analyst Heiko Henkes in his study: "How are Social Collaboration Filesharing providers positioned in Switzerland?" The results are equally interesting for companies outside Switzerland, the CeBIT 2015 Partner Country.

Most providers are busy carving out big slices of the company’s business, and are battling on many fronts against its clandestine proliferation at companies around the world. As Henkes sees it, these providers “differ widely in terms of functionality and automated management of infrastructure-related processes for implementation, maintenance and service .”

Dropbox: A service used in many companies, but generally as shadow IT. (Photo: Dropbox)

Experton put 14 filesharing providers to the test. Six of these landed at the head of the pack: IBM, Microsoft, Alfresco, Box, d.velop and HP. The field of providers is varied and includes both companies from the consumer market and well-known firms in the DMS/ECM segment.

Dropbox would certainly be the leader in the shadow IT filesharing field. However, Experton focused solely on officially recognized filesharing solutions conforming to compliance regulations.

Evaluation of providers

IBM filesharing: The Connections Files are deeply integrated into the Connections Suite and also support mobile platforms.(Photo: IBM)

Microsoft leads in competitive strength, IBM in portfolio appeal. IBM is in a very good position in the social filesharing market, says Henkes. The company has an excellent Enterprise Content Management portfolio, and as a multinational is well-placed to serve global customers with transactional content. IBM is also deeply rooted in three security-sensitive sectors: finance, insurance and the public sector.

IBM's Connections Files are deeply integrated into the Connections Suite and also form the bridge to the SaaS portfolio that IBM is gradually expanding from its SoftLayer platform. "Customers with Passport Advantage maintenance contracts and products such as Domino Messaging/Collaboration Express, Domino Messaging/Enterprise CAL and CEO Communication automatically have access to Connections Files and Profiles," points out Henkes. The mobile facet is available from version 4.5. And many innovative solutions for customers in the business environment can be expected from the cooperation with Apple.

IBM filesharing: The Connections Files are deeply integrated into the Connections Suite and also support mobile platforms.(Photo: IBM)

In the IBM universe, carefully crafted rights and role management for secure access is a central concern. In this area the lean solutions often used in shadow IT, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, are subject to scrutiny, says Experton. "Companies benefit with IBM from open-source know-how, back-end administration tools and their extensive expertise in middleware," according to the summary.

Microsoft has weaknesses – but no fatal flaws

At Microsoft – like at IBM – filesharing operates at many levels and with many tools. For its evaluation Experton looked at SharePoint (online) together with OneDrive for Business cloud storage and Office365. For companies working in the Microsoft universe and using Windows (server) and Office for production, there will likely be no deeply integrated and optimal solution in terms of return on investment (ROI) for content/file sharing, suggests Henkes.

However, Experton so far sees no truly killer arguments to switch to a competing provider – for any competitor. Microsoft's ace up the sleeve is the long-term connection of Azure via Cloud OS or Azure in a Box, as a converged system or Dell hardware appliance. "The Microsoft universe provides companies with the perfect platform for daily work," according to the Experton summary.

Only in the mobile offshoot are two things still left wanting: the file view and the connection of external services such as WebDAV. OneDrive for Business also has problems with its sync process, due to a few "small hurdles in cache management." But this is no fatal flaw, says Experton.

Technically the filesharing provider Box looks very good. The company guarantees high availability and offers Single Sign On compatibility, Active Directory and LDAP connection, continuous certifications and network checks. The US company Box has its European headquarters in London. This data storage outside national borders could be a fatal flaw for security-minded industries such as finance. Although Box invests heavily in security. Box targets business customers with offers that include project management, document administration and work process automation.

However, the study was completed before the European Court of Justice ruled on the Safe Harbor agreement. It is not yet clear whether the legal ruling will also have consequences for filesharing offers.

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