ESG Evaluates OFS Services: One Size DOES NOT Fit All!

Business-oriented online file sharing and collaboration (OFS) services haven’t been around long, but they are gathering a lot of attention, as more users embrace them, and more vendors scramble to get a bigger slice of the growing pie, according to a series of reports from the Enterprise Strategy Group. Authored by ESG Senior Analyst Terri McClure and Research Analyst Kristine Kao, these reports detail the results of its independent testing and assessment of 13 business-oriented OFS services and are intended to serve as a buyer’s guide for organizations looking to manage ‘rogue employee’ app usage.

The Internet-based OFS solutions that enable users to store, access, share, and collaborate on documents and other files in the cloud have become popular as people look for ways to access their documents from multiple devices, including PCs, tablet computers, and smartphones. However, because knowledge workers won’t give up their devices, organizations must increasingly accommodate OFS services and grapple with access/productivity versus control/security issues.

Corporate buyers searching for a solution enabling that balance face a confusing assortment of OFS offerings, each with distinctive functionality, administrative, security, and usability characteristics. Vendors included in the ESG OFS Test Drive Program were Accellion, Box, Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox, Egnyte, EMC Syncplicity, GroupLogic, Huddle, Nomadesk, Soonr, SOS, SugarSync, and YouSendIt.

The research company asked organizations what OSF adoption looks like, and one third of them, just under 500, have established corporate OSF accounts, said Kao. “That’s a lot for a market that is relatively new.” When ESG began looking at this segment a year ago, there were around 8 vendors and now there are over 40. “We expect to see that number (of corporate OSF accounts) to grow to over 50%.”

The OFS market is red-hot because businesses are trying to support mobile workforces addicted to alternative endpoint devices, said McClure. IT teams need to rein in data sprawl and maintain file security while empowering those users, she added, and OFS vendors, knowing this, are aggressively building out business-focused services.

Almost half (40%) of organizations have policies saying you can’t use a personal account to store data, but and almost 40% of those with such a policy know people have personal accounts, said McClure. “We suspect that the actual numbers are up to 80%.”

OFS is taking off at a good pace, said Kao, but despite the emergence of corporate accounts, the usage is being rolled out in small groups or departments. “These are very small deployments, whether to test out before rolling out, or within corporate boundaries, so adoption is picking up significantly but in kind of a limited fashion.”

Corporate customers are looking to OFS services to achieve different objectives, said McClure. Some organizations are laser-focused on mobile workforce enablement., while others want to enhance collaboration workflows.

We asked why people were implementing OFS and one answer was to standardize on one platform, said Kao. “At ESG we know we have people working on 2 or 3 and that’s not unusual across the board. On a personal basis, IT has no idea what is being stored, or where. And with personal accounts, when a person leaves a company, the data goes with them.”

That’s a huge concern for industries with compliance regulations, she said. “Security is still a big concern for companies that have deployed or are considering OFS, and the number one inhibitor for companies not deploying OFS.”

In addition to security, another key factor is ease of use, said Kao. “It’s all about ease of use, and if people don’t like it, they’re not going to use it.”

ESG tested a lot of solutions and most of them don’t do Excel very well, or render PowerPoint very well, or do graphics. Most solutions have good read and access from mobile devices, but most can’t edit within the native device. Looking ahead, Kao said OFS needs to deliver good rendering of documents as well as the ability to edit from mobile devices.

Individual reports on each vendor’s service offering—along with a consolidated summary of results and supporting methodology documentation—are available online to ESG subscribers at



Author: Steve Wexler

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