Dropbox, a “freemium” file protection/sharing service, is catching a lot of flack over security issues. Even if there are ways to secure Dropbox, it is primarily a consumer tool that may not be the best solution for business users that are looking to share files and collaborate. Like other cloud solutions, the business user is often a bit ahead of IT organizations in grabbing easy to use technology without thinking hard about the management and security of the solution. IT staffs should use the current buzz about security to offer business users solutions more appropriate for corporate environments such as from Box.net or Oxygen Cloud.
While there is a whole industry around Enterprise Content Management, the “commoditization of IT” is hitting the collaboration space in that the technology that people use at home is surpassing expensive software systems at the office. Smartphone and tablet users can go to the app store and access the cloud easier than logging into VPN. This is why Amazon cloud services and services like Dropbox, where all you need is an email address and a credit card to get started, have grown so fast. A couple of months ago at EMC World, Dave Vellante of Wikibon and John Furrier of SiliconAngle interviewed Whitney Tidmarsh of Box.net. Whitney spoke about how Box.net not only allows the IT department to manage and secure file sharing and collaboration, but also integrates with popular tools such as Google Apps and Salesforce. While the company is strongest in SMB market and claims over 60,000 businesses use the technology, it is pushing into Fortune 500 and recently announced its largest win of 18,000 user pilot at P&G. Box.net not only has iPhone, iPad and Android apps, but has a partnership with HP that upgrades the standard 5GB of free storage to 50GB with purchase of the new TouchPad. Whitney shared that some call the “freemium” model the “gateway drug” to the cloud. Beyond the free usage, pricing for businesses starts at $15/user/month (enterprise pricing is not publicly available).
A relatively newcomer to the marketplace, Oxygen Cloud provides collaboration and cloud file sharing designed for businesses with a focus on teams. Similar to Box.net, what separates Oxygen Cloud from Dropbox are management tools and security functionality geared to support business needs. Since Oxygen Cloud is all software, one of the options that it offers to enterprises is the option to choose or even mix what storage. While today, most of its customers start for free and grow and are therefore on the default Amazon S3 storage, the company is seeing larger enterprises that have been choosing to use AT&T as a cloud provider with EMC Atmos as the underlying technology. Intel, EMC and Oxygen Cloud created a reference architecture for building clouds based on technologies from the 3 companies. Oxygen Cloud pricing starts with a free option of 7GB for up to 5 users and expands at $10/user or extra 50GB. Oxygen Cloud has full support for Mac, PC, and apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. One of the challenges with using cloud storage is managing what needs to be synced and where local copies should be. To help with this, Oxygen Cloud’s product allows the ability to selectively (un)sync files per device as well as browsing remote files in the cloud.
Action Item: Users must consider a balance between the freedom of using tablets and smartphones and the protection of using proper business tools. Solutions like Box.net and Oxygen Cloud give IT departments the tools to deliver mobile and cloud technologies that surpass functionality that users would have at home. CIOs should be building a portfolio of enterprise-approved apps, which will help curtail users using tools that could put sensitive information at risk. End-users are typically more concerned with simplicity than security, so IT organizations should act now while security is such a hot topic. Beyond simply putting storage in the cloud, the collaboration options of Oxygen Cloud and application integrations of Box.net allow businesses to utilize functionality from the cloud that previously required significant investment in ECM software.