Last time, we toured the various types of cloud storage services and their differences. This time we'll be looking at specific companies in each cloud storage category.
File Sharing and Collaboration Services
Offering simple and easy cloud file sharing and collaboration, Dropbox has about 45 million users as I write this. Its popular service supports file versioning and simple user access for collaboration
Similar to DropBox, Box (also known as Box.net) has about 7 million users. Recently, they have gained a bit more traction than Dropbox, simply because of their powerful APIs, which let them integrate into many applications and websites. This makes it easy to upload, share, and view the files from LinkedIn, Outlook, Salesforce.com and many other applications
Most enterprises have implemented Microsoft's Sharepoint as an effective intranet portal for advanced collaboration. Sharepoint hosting has made it even easier and more affordable to provide enterprise grade collaboration capabilities to small businesses. In some ways, Sharepoint can offer too much functionality, making it cumbersome for non-technical users to get started.
But the sophistication in Sharepoint is in its flexibility for creating new sites, advanced controls on user and role access, and the creation of shared calendars, task lists, and workflows. The one drawback to Sharepoint compared to the other solutions listed here is its lack of encrypted file storage.
Egnyte has some similarities to Dropbox and Box.net, but it is not a consumer or very small business solution, since there is no free version. On the other hand, you can get started for as little as $25 per month for 150 GB with sophisticated access control, local synchronization, and FTP access. If you have an existing FTP service, or applications that rely on FTP, Egnyte is a good solution where many others do not support. Egnyte is also available as a physical or virtual appliance to run inside your existing network.
The swiss army knife of cloud storage and collaboration is SugarSync. It can act as a collaboration and file sharing service, backup, and synchronization. For consumer usage, it supports streaming of music to mobile devices, and has decent photo album support
Rackspace provides JungleDisk, a collaboration and backup service that can be powered by either Rackspace storage or Amazon’s S3 service. While the collaboration features are fairly basic, they cover the gamut of features that most companies would look for in collaboration and file sharing with network drive mapping support
CloudLayer Storage from SoftLayer is primarily targeted toward larger businesses and enterprises with sync, backup and sharing features.
Before looking at cloud backup solutions, it is easy to ask why there is a separate category, when some solutions mentioned in file sharing and collaboration could be considered backup. Most of the file sharing solutions using synchronization can make for decent backup, but there are significant limitations. Typically, your files are not encrypted before transmission, even though they are encrypted at the provider.
Synchronization is also commonly limited to a predefined folder, like ‘My Dropbox’, where you cannot select the folders and conditions for backing up. And since file sharing solutions are not meant to be a pure backup solution, you may find individual or whole system file recovery to be tricky. For these reasons, you should consider the following services for pure backup purposes
When it comes to your small business, the big question is whether you are a small office with consumer-like needs or if you have a bit more of a sophisticated environment with servers and IT admins.
Carbonite tends to be a better solution for the small office and home users with simple needs, and who require simple setup. MozyPro is a bit more sophisticated with central management, better support for servers and multiple drive backups. MozyPro is also backed by EMC, which has a long history in enterprise-grade storage
Backblaze is a relative newcomer in backup and has a similar price plan and features to Carbonite and MozyPro. The key difference is that Backblaze does not have the sophisticated IT management and controls that MozyPro offers.
I have purposely chosen not to categorize any cloud solutions solely in the Synchronization category. The reason being is that almost all file sharing and collaboration cloud services offer some form of synchronization
Collaboration synchronization serves the purpose of having a local, offline copy of a file that merges changes back when you are online. Also, collaboration synchronization is meant for multiple users or devices making changes, and having these changes merged back to the cloud provider for central management.
Most of the more sophisticated collaboration services, such as Sharepoint, can support synchronization, but it requires additional tools like SyncToy to achieve this functionality
File archive is a bit different from cloud backup. With many cloud backup services, the backup agent will remove a file from your backup if you delete the file locally.. If you are looking for longer-term or permanent file storage, you want an archive service.
Most of the file sharing solutions can be used as an archive, but this can be pricey as the length of time and amount of storage grows. A desireable solution for archive would be one where the provider has a combination of active hard drives and other media such as tape for backup. This drops the cost of storage to much less than $0.25/GB, which is the common rate for most file sharing solutions.
Cloud archive is a new area, and is typically dominated by managed service providers. But there are several solutions that have come to market recently, such as Infinidisc, Nasuni, and Presilient. I only mention the names here as a reference, but look to a future article which will elaborate more on this area
Disclosure - Russell Wurth is Vice President of Product Management at Verecloud, a reseller of MozyPro, SoftLayer, and Microsoft Sharepoint.