Consumerization: The Driving Force Behind Online File Sharing and Collaboration Adoption

I can't believe how much the online file sharing and collaboration space is heating up. Since we published our market landscape report in December, which covered the top 8 vendors in this space, including Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, Syncplicity, and Sugarsync, we seem to be hearing from at least one new (to us) vendor a week. Some are just coming out of stealth and launching, like FileTrek, some are expanding into this space from either consumer-focused or data protection focused offerings, like SOS Backup. Certainly the $250 and $81 million funding rounds scored by Dropbox and Box (respectively) last year got a lot of people's attention.

So is this market and these valuations driven by hype or is there really something there? There is always some level of hype behind these levels of valuations. But there is certainly something to this market, driven by the business need for enterprises to support a mobile workforce and the growth in alternative endpoint device usage. Consumerization is here, and IT is struggling to find a way to control and manage data sprawl while empowering users. Consider this data, from our research brief Securing IT Consumerization published last August:

  • 55% of organizations surveyed by ESG report significant growth in the use of alternative endpoint computing devices by employees.
  • Smartphones top the list for 43% of respondent organizations, followed by tablet computers at 26%, netbooks at 17%, and other types of "thin client" devices at 15%.
  • Of companies that allow end-users to bring their own PC or equivalent device, 83% allow employees to use the device for both personal and business use.

I am one of the people that our IT department is enabling to be more productive by letting me use alternative endpoint devices. I've previously blogged about my gadget hoarding habits, and the ability to share a single file between devices without e-mailing it to myself, saving it to a USB stick, or using FTP is absolutely invaluable. The productivity gains alone are immeasurable. I can travel light, take my iPad to a meeting, take all my notes, head to my desk and use my laptop and the luxury of a real keyboard and access that exact note I just created to write a report, send a summary to my peers, answer press inquiries. In fact - I've gone pretty much paperless. When the press calls asking about any company I cover, I can pull up my notes from whichever device I have at my disposal - smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, for a quick refresher to ensure accuracy and reduce the need for follow up calls and e-mails. I can work smarter and faster. And for the first time in my life I know where all my notes are and I have backup copies. To net it out -I am pretty sure that I am not an anomaly: there is simply too much value and potential for workforce enablement and productivity gains from implementing these solutions for them not to take off.

The biggest IT concerns we hear regarding corporate use of these services are about security and control. I believe that any IT pro evaluating these solutions would be pleasantly surprised to find that many solutions, especially those that were designed from the ground up for business use, can more than adequately address user concerns. The vendors that compete in this space cover a a spectrum of functionality and capabilities when it comes to this topic. But overall they know that these are the concerns with adopting these solutions for corporate use and are aggressively building out their solutions to put users' minds at rest - some are further along than others and that is a topic for another blog.

I am speaking on this topic Monday, March 5 at the Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise (CITE) conference in San Francisco - hope to see you there!

You can read Terri's other blog entries at IT Depends.

Topics: IT Infrastructure