PanTerra Networks Inc. joined the crowded online file-sharing market this week when it introduced its SmartBox cloud collaboration product, which integrates hosted unified communications with sync-and-share file services for the midmarket.
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"There are about 90 file sync-and-share companies," said Artie Chang, CEO for PanTerra Networks. "What makes us different is [that] we integrate the telecommunications system into sync and share seamlessly. We offer both file services and phone systems that can now be delivered in the cloud. Our product is like Dropbox meets Skype. We can do Skype-like communication both internally and externally."
The private company's SmartBox service integrates voicemail, faxes, email, instant messaging, Web and video conferencing into one application with the ability to do online file sharing on desktops and mobile devices. This allows end users to communicate in real time with co-workers while working on files and documents.
Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said she expects others to follow PanTerra down this path.
"Most unified communications companies are looking into this," McClure said. "I've heard from a couple of companies, and now it seems to be the beginning of a trend. They are coming at it from a unified communications aspect, meaning they take all tools like instant message, video chat, phone calls and email, and they bring it all into one package."
PanTerra has client-based software and an administrative portal for centralized control and security features. SmartBox integrates PanTerra Networks' Admin 5.0 administration portal, which has built-in management tools such as authentication for devices, remote management and control for device access if a device is lost or stolen. The portal allows administrators to define a user or users within an account, as well as multiple administrator levels and group administration capabilities. In addition, administrators can restrict features on a per-user basis.
SmartBox has a two-phase authentication process, establishing a virtual VPN for all devices and providing remote monitoring and control through a Multiple Active Device Manager. It encrypts data at rest and in flight.
On the client side, employees can upload a file or document to SmartBox and automatically sync the content with mobile devices. A group can collaborate on a document while communicating via a live video chat or on the phone.
"I can click on a file and see changes," the firm's Chang said. "So with SmartBox, when I open a document, I instantly see who sent it to me and who he shared it with. I can see who is online, and with one click, I can call him or message him. I can call him like a Skype call, but I can also pick up a desk phone or smartphone to communicate with him."
SmartBox pricing starts at $15 per month for each enterprise seat plus $10 for every 100 GB of pooled storage per month. PanTerra Networks' WorldSmart unified communications customers can upgrade to SmartBox for $5 per month per seat.
ESG's McClure said there are hundreds of online file-sharing companies in the market addressing it from many angles.
"Everybody is coming at it from where the company is founded," she said. "Hightail used to be YouSendIt, and it was generally an FTP replacement for sharing large files. Now they are expanding into online file sharing. Code42 is a backup vendor, and they are doing backup with sync and share. PanTerra allows you to share because all the communication tools are at your fingertips. You virtually work as a team. You use file sharing to speed up the business process. This is especially attractive for midsize businesses."