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Who will be the ‘Dropbox of the enterprise?’ The race is on

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Drew Houston, Dropbox - GigaOM RoadMap 2011It seems like every cloud storage company really, really, really  wants to be the Dropbox of the enterprise when it grows up.

It’s easy to see why. Dropbox, which now claims 50 million users, is the sweetheart of the cloud storage,  file sharing, and synchronization world. People laud it for its ease of use, it’s cross-platform capability. That success has prompted a ton of discussion about whether the San Francisco-based company, led by CEO Drew Houston, is a disruptor or a flash in the pan given that the major platform vendors — Microsoft,(s msft) Google(s goog), Apple(s aapl) — are doing their own cloud-based file-share-and-sync thing. VMware’s (s vmw) Project Octopus and Citrix'(s ctsx) acquisition of ShareFile are also seen as Dropbox-for-the-enterprise  moves.

But there are dozens of smaller, more nimble cloud storage providers that want to replicate the success Dropbox has had with consumers in the business world. Box is the most prominent of these contenders but the number also includes EgnyteAccellion, ownCloud, GroupLogic, SurDoc and others. And, Dropbox, itself is not standing still. It just bought Cove to help build up its infrastructure and services to webscale, as GigaOM’s Derrick Harris reported.

All of these vendors promise to let  users synchronize and share their files across all relevant desktops and devices, in a way that won’t give their company’s IT departments fits.

This trend was definitely not lost on The 451 Group analyst Kathleen Reidy who  suggests a whole new category  — mobile file sharing and sync platforms     — to reduce the confusion. In a recent blog post, Reidy wrote that this whole “Dropbox for the enterprise” theme started to crop up  last year …

… when Box started getting serious about the enterprise market and I began to get a lot of briefing requests from the likes of Accellion, Egnyte and others about their enterprise file sharing and sync offerings.  Things really started heating up later in 2011, as we saw VMWare announce its Dropbox-for-the-enterprise in August, Citrix acquire ShareFile in October; open source play ownCloud set sail in December and we recently initiated coverage on another startup, Germany-based TeamDrive.

Her argument is that the mobility bit is really what’s important — and disruptive — here. People want their stuff to be available wherever, whenever and on whatever device they have on hand. And she weighs in on classifying this as a platform as opposed to a feature since these new products will enable lots of customization and add-ons and an ecosystem of third parties that will provide all that.

One caveat: 50 million Dropbox users sounds great. Box claims 9 million users. But neither company is particularly forthcoming about how many of those users are actually paying as opposed to using the companies’ free or “freemium” services. That’s a big question for these Dropbox for the Enterprise wannabes to consider. Presumably, the beauty of an enterprise model is that companies will pay for business-grade services. But it’s difficult to get “freemium” users to move to a paid model — the conversion rate is typically thought to be 1 percent to 3 percent at the high end.

20 Responses to “Who will be the ‘Dropbox of the enterprise?’ The race is on”

  1. Although it is true that many storage companies are attempting to become the Enterprise Dropbox provider, I think that it will be the Managed File Transfer vendors that are actually able to meet the requirements for this difficult space. If it were easy for a simple storage company to do this, DropBox would already have been successful in the enterprise space. What DropBox and all typical storage companies lack is knowledge and experience in dealing with regulated industries and reporting, visibility, auditing, and everything else that comes with large enterprises. For this reason, I would keep an eye on Managed File Transfer vendors such as Thru who offer solutions that leverage their enterprise experience.

  2. Anand A. Kekre

    Interesting reading!

    Vaultize ( an enterprise-class cloud-backup, sync and sharing is a perfect solution for enterprises enbracing “Consumerization of IT” and BYOD!

    Built from the ground-up for cloud with enterprise-grade security, control and administration, it is the only solution that performs encryption and de-duplication together at source – making it the most secured cloud solution today. In addition to public cloud (hosted on Rackspace USA) it provides many flexible deployment options. Pricing is simple and transparent – flat fee “per GB” computed on the storage consumed in cloud – calculated after de-duplication and compression. And, there is no user/device/feature licensing.

    BTW, I am part of Vaultize team.

  3. DNA of enterprise leader will be very different than that of ‘Dropbox’ or google docs. I am confident that some start-up in some corner is getting ready to take on names mentioned in this blog post. Companies like etc are better positioned than others. @mathurabhay

  4. Jon Burke

    With over 30M end users, WorkStream by YouSendIt is clearly a player here as well. And unlike, they’re not trying to replace Microsoft Sharepoint…instead, they integrate with all your existing infrastructure to be your system of file exchange.

  5. Meeghn Hanson

    ShareFile is a great option for Enterprise-based file sharing, syncing and collaboration. It was specifically built for business, not adapted from a consumer model. Also, it has Citrix behind it and if you’re going to trust in the cloud, what company better to partner with?

  6. For Dropbox for the enterprise it would need
    2 new features.
    1: full encryption, Dropbox does not have a key. All they see is encrypted blobs
    2: Storage outside of the USA in a free country. Optionally, a dropbox server I can run myself.

  7. Umar Ruhi

    Great read! – Another decision criteria for enterprise adoption will be the ease of integration with other systems. For this, the cloud storage providers need to provide easily configurable/pluggable APIs to integrate the submission & retrieval of files through alternative interfaces such as website forms.

  8. Wayne Anderson

    For enerprise-grade cloud storage look to Netdocuments. Their service was designed for businesses from day 1. Founded more than a dozen years ago, they’ve been around longer than most and have a full suite of admin controls business demand. Yet, from a user’s perspective its easy to use.

  9. Great read. It’s interesting and exciting to see this market evolve!

    Our tool, UpSync should be considered for those looking for enterprise sharing system. It shares many of the same features and a few distinctive ones as well including the ability to include simple business apps (created with HTML5/CSS/Javascript). We’re really focused on sales and marketing organizations who need to control message, keep everyone in sync, make and share presentations, etc.

  10. What’s really interesting to me is the bit about how mobility is really the driver behind this market. People want to be able to access their content whenever, wherever, on whatever device. The problem with services like Box and DropBox (and most of the others for that matter) is that you have to move all of your content their first. As DropBox’s high-profile security breach last summer showed, that may not always be the safest way to go, whether you’re an individual user or an enterprise. The only solution that solves the access problem with secure access, rather than storage, is TappIn ( Well worth checking out before you start dragging and dropping.

  11. Nicki Escudero

    Thanks for the great article on cloud computing and the emergence of new companies. Another one to consider: CX, a safe and secure online cloud storage company with collaborative features, including the soon-to-be-released chat options! The best part? Your first 10GB are free, so you can try it out extensively before moving on to a bigger plan. Please check it out and let us know what you think!

  12. Box 9 million users are worth ten times much as Dropbox 50 million users. Because is a corporate product with administrative features and focussed on corporate needs. Dropbox offers a “Team” product since years (!) and no one seems to buy it.