Last month, one of the early entrants into personal file sharing segment, Box, inked a partnership with a company 80 times its value.
Previously known as Box.net, the company will see its technologies integrated with IBM’s, and its customers will have the ability to store their data in IBM’s cloud, which spans nearly 50 data centers around the world.
But this isn’t Box’s first major partnership at the enterprise level; it recently hooked up with Microsoft to integrate with the software giant’s technology, including its mobile Outlook app. This deal is even more notable given that Microsoft has its own file sharing service, OneDrive, which is at the heart of its cloud offerings. Smartphone users with Outlook now have the option of saving attachments right to their Box account.
But wait, there’s more: mobile Outlook also supports Dropbox and Google Drive, two other major file sharing services.
These types of relationships and integrations make these services more appealing for users and more likely to be adopted. It also means they are more likely to find their way into an enterprise whether IT realizes it or not.
Like many of the popular cloud sharing services, it has a freemium business model, providing a set amount free storage for personal account users. Launched in 2005, it was one of the earliest players in the segment. It is available on a wide range of mobile devices, and even prior its relationships with Microsoft and IBM had connections with a variety of online services, including Autodesk, Zoho, Google Apps and Twitter.
Until last year, Microsoft’s file sharing service was known as SkyDrive, and has a long history dating back to an independent peer-to-peer based service called FolderShare that the company acquired. Now available for both personal and business users, it’s well-integrated into the Windows operating system, mirroring the file storing structure that includes My Documents. It’s also available for Apple’s OS X, iOS and Android, and offers ample storage space.
OneDrive makes it easy to edit documents from OneDrive using Office Online, which has become just as robust as Google Drive, a cloud file sharing services that also encompasses Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Google file storage and synchronization service integrates into Windows in a similar fashion to OneDrive. Launched more than three years ago, it had more than 240 million users as of October 2014. Last summer, it announced Google Drive for Work and soon after, Google Drive for Education, which is free for all Google Apps for Education users with unlimited storage.
One of the pioneers in the file sharing space, its inception reportedly stems from one if founders always forgetting his USB flash drive while a student at MIT. Founded in 2007, it spans all of the major operating systems, including Linux, and its desktop client integrates with Windows in a manner similar to that of both OneDrive and Google Drive.
Dropbox has a freemium business model; free account have a set storage size with more capacity available with a paid account. It also offers a paid service. Dropbox for Business, targeted at organizations with admin tools and auditing for IT departments. Users are able to create separate cloud containers for their work and personal documents, and IT departments can place restrictions on sharing to limit the accidental disclosure of intellectual property.
You might call SugarSync the dark horse of cloud sharing as it runs a little differently than the aforementioned services. It offers clients for Windows and iOS, and rather than create its own set of folders on a computer, it syncs with existing folders such as My Documents and My Pictures. Users don’t have to place a document in a specific folder for it to be available online, as long it’s within the folder selected for syncing; any synced folder automatically backs up to the cloud. Furthermore, it can keep multiple computers in sync if they have the client installed.
SugarSync is also available on iOS and Android, but it has discontinued Linux support. And while it did announce an API back in 2010 that has led to some unofficial third-party apps, it does not have the ecosystem and integration that OneDrive and Google Drive offer.
Sync is notable for two reasons in that it falls somewhere between SugarSync and the others in terms of installation. It sits in the Windows taskbar and allows you select folders to sync with. However, you can’t select your Documents folder; instead, it prompts you to create a folder underneath. It also works on OS X with iOS and Android apps and allows users to access their files via the Web. It offers a freemium model with a Pro version that’s in beta.
The other reason it’s notable is that it keeps data in Canada, addressing privacy concerns raised by U.S. legislation. Sync describes itself as a “zero-knowledge storage platform guarantees your privacy by encrypting and decrypting your data locally (on your computer or device). And only you have access to the encryption keys.” It can’t read the files, and neither can the NSA.
This is by no means a complete list of cloud sharing services – Apple offers iCloud for seamless background synchronization of files, even with Windows devices – but given their visibility with individual users, as well as their business offerings, they are most likely the ones to show up in organization, whether IT decides to deploy or not. A number of hardware vendors, such as those that make NAS devices for home users, offer cloud backup and sharing services, but given their specificity, they’re aren’t likely to have an impact on the enterprise environment.
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