Cloud-based File Sharing (CFS) services first become hugely popular in the consumer marketplace. Services like Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive provide a very simpler way to sync your pictures (and other files) and share them with your friends. This simplicity of functionality and ease of use were the key drivers behind rapid rise of these services.
Evolution of Enterprise CFS Services
Naturally, people started to use these services in their workplace, and so a new category of services — with similar functionality but relatively deeper enterprise focus — was born. Some of these services are Box, EMC Syncplicty, Accellion, Citrix ShareFile, Oxygen, and Workshare (We evaluate these in RSG's ECM & Cloud File Sharing Report).
But Consumer and Enterprise Worlds Are Very Different...
As these services started to get widely used in organizations, there was a demand for additional “enterprise-y” features: integration with internal systems, security and enterprise controls, compliance, and so on.
Now, once you start adding these capabilities, you increase the very complexity that these products successfully avoided. And if you have to deploy a complex product, why not use a another complex product that you already have?
So ECM vendors started to build or acquire these capabilities. EMC acquired Syncplicity, while Alfresco, OpenText, Nuxeo, SharePoint, HP, Oracle, and most other ECM and Document Management vendors provide some sort of cloud-based file sharing and sync service.
Box, a major stand-alone CFS service provider is trying hard to expand its offering and wants to do much more than sync and share (more about this soon in a separate advisory for our subscribers). IBM is the only major ECM vendor without a CFS offering (and no I'm not speculating they’ll buy Box).
What’s Next for These Services?
Going forward, I believe there are two possibilities in terms of how standalone, cloud-based file sharing and sync services will evolve.
1) They’ll become a part of cloud infrastructure
The way ECM tools have traditionally provided repository services for other enterprise applications, these services could provide file-sharing as a service to other (mostly cloud-based) services. In a cloud-connected enterprise, file-sharing platforms will become comparatively easier to integrate and potentially serve as a repository for a variety of other, SaaS-based tools. I wrote about this earlier here and here.
2) Cloud file sharing and sync will just become a feature instead of a service
This will happen either because stand-alone CFS services will start building additional capabilities (a' la Box) or customers will increasingly use their existing ECM/DM vendors for file-sharing and sync services as well.
We will of course keep watching. Meanwhile, subscribers look out for the next release of ECM & Cloud File Sharing Report, which will have updated reviews of several of these services.