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Data protection software for file sync-and-share unlocks opportunities

The popularity of file sync-and-share products like Dropbox and Google Drive has created opportunities for partners in the cloud-to-cloud backup space, say cloud-to-cloud backup companies.

Channel partners in the cloud-to-cloud backup space have an emerging market to consider: data protection software for the file sync-and-share services increasingly used in the enterprise.

File sync-and-share products have proliferated across many businesses as employees look for readily available, easy-to-use collaboration tools. Those services let users collaborate within and across organizations, with files synchronized across a range of devices. As a growing number of users turn to the likes of Box Inc., Dropbox, Egnyte, Google Drive and Microsoft's OneDrive, cloud-to-cloud backup providers such as Backupify, eFolder and Intronis see an opportunity to bolster those file services.

The market is potentially enormous. Dropbox earlier this year passed the 300-million-user milestone. Box says about 240,000 organizations use its service. Google reported in June that more than 190 million people use Google Drive.

With that potential in mind, cloud-to-cloud providers have launched or plan to debut sync-and-share backup services. Consider the following:

  • Backupify kicked off a Box backup beta service earlier this year and plans to launch general availability of the service in 2015. Additional backup services for other file sync-and-share offerings are scheduled to follow.
  • In September, eFolder took the wraps off Cloudfinder for Box, which it bills as a cloud-to-cloud backup, search and restore service.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2014, Intronis plans to unveil a product for protecting collaborative activities within sync-and-share environments. That product is in beta, and channel partners are already working with it.
We do see this as an opportunity for channel partners. We see it as an opportunity to protect the data no matter where it is located.
Neal Bradburyco-founder and vice president of channel development, Intronis

The cloud-to-cloud service providers sell through partners such as resellers, managed service providers (MSPs) and cloud consulting firms, making file sync-and-share protection a channel play. Rob May, CEO of Backupify, based in Cambridge, Mass., said the channel can find a niche role in this market as a trusted advisor, helping customers select and configure software as a service (SaaS) applications and recommending additional tools, such as archiving.

"I think you are going to see a lot of growth ... over the next couple of years," May said.

Customer interest

Indeed, channel companies report increased interest among their customers in protecting the data housed in file sync-and-share services. David Hoff, senior vice president of technology at Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta-based cloud advisory and technology services company, said he sees most of that interest among the company's larger customers.

"We tend to get a higher volume of questions and more sophisticated questions from our enterprise customers," he said.

Security is one line of inquiry. Hoff said enterprises tend to ask about encryption -- for data in transit versus at rest -- and multifactor authentication. Customers also inquire about data center management considerations, such as recovery time objective and recovery point objective targets and user policy settings, he added.

Some customer questions relate to the specifics of a particular vendor's platform. Hoff said customers are interested in Google's Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16 certification, for example. SSAE 16 is a standard for reporting a service provider's internal controls. Certification under this standard indicates to customers that a service provider has taken industry-accepted measures to protect their data. Google announced SSAE 16 compliance in 2011.

Cloud Sherpas builds enterprise collaboration and other cloud-based software solutions around Google Apps for Business and Google Cloud Platform, among other SaaS products. The company also works with Google Drive for Work, a file sync-and-share service for businesses that Google announced in June.

In such projects, Cloud Sherpas teams up with data protection software providers to incorporate cloud-to-cloud backup services as part of the package. "We have a strong partnership with Google ecosystem partners like Backupify, and we work with them directly on customer deployments," Hoff said.

Google Drive for Work offers such security features as SSAE 16 certification and encryption for files in transit and at rest. But Backupify provides an additional layer of data protection: the ability to recover from self-inflected data loss. The company's cloud-to-cloud backup lets organizations restore files that have been deleted or overwritten. "The solutions are very complementary in terms of the types of protection that they provide," Hoff said of Google Drive for Work and Backupify.

Backupify's history with Google Drive goes back to the initial launch of the file service two-and-a-half years ago. The company added support for Google Drive shortly after its release. Now the company aims to back up file sync-and-share services beyond the Google label.

May said his Backupify has a couple of beta customers for its Box backup service, which will become generally available in January. Next up: Microsoft's OneDrive. Backupify is eyeing a December 1 beta for its OneDrive backup offering, with general availability slated for April. Support for Egnyte will follow, May said.

As of now, Dropbox isn't on the list of priorities. May said he would like to support Dropbox but is waiting for broader deployment of the business version of Dropbox. He suggested the high number of individual Dropbox users at companies would hinder deployment of Backupify. "There's no way for an IT administrator to easily -- with a click of a button -- authenticate every Dropbox account and tie it to Backupify," he said.

Instead, the IT department would have to email users and ask them to authenticate the accounts, May noted. On the other hand, a more widespread deployment of the business-oriented Dropbox service would simplify Backupify deployment, because IT departments could centrally manage the authentication task, he said.

Add-on capabilities

In general, cloud-to-cloud backup companies see a role for themselves -- and their channel partners -- in supplementing the data protection features native to sync-and-share products.

Ted Hulsy, vice president of marketing at Atlanta-based eFolder, pointed to Box as an example. He said the enterprise version of Box has "very robust data retention capabilities," but added that Box for Business lacks sufficient backup and retention. More than half of Box installations, however, are Box for Business, according to Hulsy, who described the service as a product for small and medium-sized businesses and midsize enterprises. He said channel partners can offer Cloudfinder for Box to their Box for Business customers to bolster their data protection. He also noted that adding Cloudfinder for Box to the platform lets customers avoid the higher price of the enterprise version of Box, which is priced at $35 per user per month. Box for Business is priced at $15 per user per month.

Hulsy said pricing has yet to be set for Cloudfinder for Box, which the company is offering free of charge to qualified business through Jan. 1, 2015. Other Cloudfinder backup products for Google Apps, Office365 and Salesforce.com are priced at $3 per user per month.

Thus far, channel partners that have built a practice around Box are the companies expressing the most interest in eFolder's backup product, Hulsy said. He said those partners tend to be larger firms that focus on consulting and systems integration.

Intronis, meanwhile, also plans to target the channel with its forthcoming cloud backup product for file sync-and-share services. The product, called ECHOshare, will offer encryption as well as SSAE-16, HIPAA and PCI compliance. The company sells exclusively through managed service providers (MSPs).

Neal Bradbury, co-founder and vice president of channel development at Intronis, based in Chelmsford, Mass., said he views the backup product as a new business for MSPs and a way to extend data protection coverage. "We do see this as an opportunity for channel partners," Bradbury said. "We see it as an opportunity to protect the data no matter where it is located."

Next Steps

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Have your customers expressed interest in protecting the data housed in file sync-and-share services?