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Why the standalone EFSS market isn't going away just yet

Enterprise file sync-and-share allows for simpler file access and sharing on the consumer and business level. Success stories like Box may indicate that EFSS is sticking around.

Many pundits have declared the standalone enterprise file sync-and share market dead, saying vendors are not making money and looking for different ways to monetize their offerings. Although the reasoning rings true, rumors of the market's death are quite premature.

The EFSS market has been in flux almost since it began. Early products focused on consumer use cases, such as sharing pictures and other files with family and friends. Most of these products were, and continue to be, freemium offerings. But once the free capacity threshold is reached, users need to pay for more storage space. The business plan was to capitalize on consumer's insatiable need for more capacity.

That business model didn't pan out. Few consumers wanted to pay for easy file sharing, and at the same time, many started using free offerings to start sharing and collaborating on business files. EFSS vendors recognized the shift.

Understanding the EFSS market

Around 2011, business-focused product offerings began to emerge from companies like Box, which had initially entered the consumer EFSS market with a freemium plan. Other companies like Accellion, Egnyte, ShareFile and Syncplicity also appeared with business-focused products. During the same timeframe, the most well-known consumer product on the market, Dropbox, announced Dropbox Business.

The ability of EFSS to sync, access, share and manage files from any device at any time makes it a valuable addition to larger platforms and applications.

But not enough companies wanted to adopt the seats needed to support the number of vendors in the EFSS market. Whether they were acquired for integration with larger platforms or folded their EFSS products -- like Barracuda Copy and Code42 SharePlan -- the lack of support resulted in a significant reduction in the number of competitors in the EFSS market over the past two years.

Box's quarterly earnings show steady growth and adoption, but it is the only publicly traded pure play, so there isn't much market visibility. Dropbox claims it has more than 150,000 businesses using Dropbox Business.

Where does EFSS fit?

The ability of EFSS to sync, access, share and manage files from any device at any time makes it a valuable addition to larger platforms and applications. However, consumers have a number of questions about EFSS logistics. Who will deliver these capabilities? Will EFSS be deployed application by application, with IT setting content security policies for each application? What about ensuring security is maintained throughout workflows that route files between applications?

One possibility is that security and control will be done centrally, with a core content repository that allows IT to set security and access policies, ensuring proper and consistent data governance across applications. This method of integrating with business applications to provide a central content repository has been critical to Box's success.

Application integrations will also be vital to the success of other vendors in the EFSS market, as sync functionality and mobile access "just happen" in the background, regardless of the applications used. As evidenced by Microsoft productivity applications and Salesforce, EFSS will likely become a feature of the applications we use.

Do we still need standalone EFSS products? Yes, because departments have different needs, from simple access and sharing to complex secure workflows. Some individuals, groups and departments will continue to use standalone EFSS products, while others will use EFSS as an integrated content core behind their applications. Either way, as an IT pro, you need to understand your vendor's ability to provide application integrations and to support the range of applications and use cases within your organization.

Next Steps

Should you adopt EFSS in your organization?

How to decide on an EFSS application

What to look for in an EFSS vendor

This was last published in June 2016

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Where does file sync-and-share fit in your enterprise?
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I think many of the current products are improving syncing and in-document group communication, which is often a pain point for users.

--
Sam Smith
Technology Evangelist and Aspiring Chef.
Large file transfers made easy.
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@Sam2045 I totally agree. Here at TechTarget the Editorial department just started using Box in the last year and I think it has significantly improved our ability to work together on articles and share those files quickly.
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