back to article You'd better get out before the sync 'n' share bubble POPS

Virtualisation guru Chad Sakac hit on something interesting in one of his recent blog posts: he wrote of how a product becomes a feature: in this case "sync 'n' share" functionality. We’ve seen products become features before: remember when deduplication has moved from being a product to becoming a feature of most storage arrays …

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Free to fail

> Have you ever tried to build a business case which competes with free?

Yes, thank you.

As the next line alludes, you invoke the fear of uncertainty, the downside of the lack of indemnity (yes, it's free: but who can you sue if it all goes wrong?), and the small matter that the exec who signs off isn't spending his/hers/its own money - so "free" isn't that big a deal and can make them look amateurish if they are proposing a merely "domestic" quality product.

In the past, you could also invoke the lack of standards, ISO-ness, SLAs and all the other foundations upon which an IT empire could be (shakily) built.

However, as of now one can look at the financials of the suppliers:

> Those valuations are going to plummet

and the impending shake-out in the industry as some major players disappear up their own internet connections. Who'd be the one to recommend a free/cheap/low-cost supplier that could easily be out of business in a year, or less?

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Hard to compete with "free"

It's even harder to provide "free" as a long-term business proposition.

What are Dropbox et al planning to do - paste adverts into your Word documents?

These services are doomed simply because insufficient numbers of people will make the transition from "free" to "paid".

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Re: Hard to compete with "free"

Free, but not for ever!

Once you can make the pain of moving high, you can extort as much as you like. Plenty of examples from many sectors. Would iTunes exist without MP3 ripping? and MP3 ripping is still out there.

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Re: Hard to compete with "free"

@ Warm Braw

"It's even harder to provide "free" as a long-term business proposition."

Bingo.

Had something very similar recently with LogMeIn cancelling its free service. I had a client who had previously declined a more robust remote-access solution in favour of just installing LMI on a half-dozen machines. ("I use it at home and it works fine . . . ")

Cue annoyed calls asking why it it's suddenly telling him he needs to needs to stump up for a bunch of licenses. One of his employees needs to connect in now!

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Black Helicopters

sync 'n' share...

With the NSA...

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dropbox way over-valued

I agree - I used to use dropbox and recommended it to many.

About a year ago though, they really pissed me off when they randomly stopped me from sharing large vm files with colleagues, when most needed! with a condescending message about using too much resource - which i had paid for by they way - pro business version with huge storage.

So I looked around and switched to Amazon's own version, more basic but way way cheaper, works faultlessly and no limits on downloads.

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Is going to become?

You mean like Skydrive/Onedrive already is and companies like WD already provide in their consumer products?

it's not a case of when it happens, it's already happening.

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WD Mycloud. How's that workin' out for ya?

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QNAP have it on their boxes too. A DNS Alias type arrangement and you connect to your own storage. Phone apps for various aspects including basic management, sharing etc.

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Turning a product into a feature?

How about turning a feature into a product?

Somehow that use case scenario, preparing a document on a desktop and presenting it on a tablet, seems familiar. Where have I seen it before??? Oh, yes, it's what we've been doing for thirty years AT LEAST with network shares.

The concept is not new. If IT departments have a problem, it is one of their own making. Users have been asking for years for their network shares to be bigger and reliably accessible. IT departments have stonewalled because it's too expensive. Now Dropbox and its ilk have given the lie to that. Drop box is better for users than a corporate network share in almost every way: You're likely to have a bigger quota on Dropbox than your corporate IT system gives you; Dropbox can be accessed securely from anywhere, over a WiFi or 3G/LTE network, not just corporate wired Ethernet; Dropbox gives you offline access that works, unlike the "feature" of Windows offline files; and it's free to use. If Microsoft had built its apps to work even vaguely acceptably with intermittent network connectivity, or IT departments had built out network shares that actually worked for users, Dropbox would be dead and buried, at least in the business world.

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Stop

Re: Turning a product into a feature?

So have you worked for Dropbox long?

Jokes aside, it's a tad disingenuous to compare Dropbox and a network file share on a corporate LAN, especially implying that IT departments could somehow build a comparable setup, 'because Dropbox can'. It also amounts to an apples and oranges scenario.

  • Will my Line of Business application that relies on network shares for files access work from Dropbox? No.
  • Will the sharing feature in Excel work from Dropbox? Can't see how.
  • Centralised backup to tape or other media? No - you've not forgotten that Dropbox is a sharing, not a backup solution, have you?. Admittedly there are cloud backup providers, for a price of course.
  • Centralised control of what, in the end, is the company's data, not the user's data? To some degree, but I'm not aware of any sign of file screening, although there are audit options.
Then there's the issue of security. I've seen firsthand this last month how effective phishing and spearphishing attacks are against the average user, the kind of attacks that would work well against a naïve Dropbox user, and could not in and of itself work against a user of a corporate file share. That's before you consider the presence of a representative of the world's biggest hacking gang in their boardroom.

There's a place for services like Dropbox in the enterprise, but not as some kind of replacement for a corporate file server, at least not as things stand now.

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Re: Turning a product into a feature?

You do realise that the primary reason (in our case at least) for limits on the amount users can store is not actually the cost of storage as such, but the cost of storing all the backups. We use a multi generation off site backup system, so are paying three or four times more than we would for backups. But we can guarantee that should something serious happen, users will not lose much work, if anything.

You also realise that Dropbox do not back up your data, and, IIRC, make no guarantees it will be available should they have a problem with their system? After all, if something happens to your data server side (maybe it's corrupted by a HDD failure) and your client logs in and syncs it's data, you may lose some or all of that data.

Dropbox is fine (I use it myself), but I cannot serious recommend it for important, enterprise level data.

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Windows

Re: Turning a product into a feature?

It seems like Dropbox has realized this and is trying to add more features like Google Docs.

Sync is a feature, not a product.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Turning a product into a feature?

The company I work for has pretty much every internal service provided over https so I can login from any device and get at my files.

It works and it still stored by them in one of their datacenters.

I don't see why more of this sort of working isn't used by companies.

We have to use two factor auth so its sort of secure, or as secure as DropBox et al. and there are apps for mobile devices to ease the use.

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Re: Turning a product into a feature?

Not an advert for Citrix - but the company I work for essentially got free Citrix ShareFile licenses as part of using the Citrix Mobile Device Management product. ShareFile can be set up as a DropBox style layer on top of corporate file servers (and building on corporate backup).

I completely agree that sync'n'share is becoming a feature rather than a product - as that is what got it over the line in our business case.

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FAIL

NAS vendors eh?

You mean like this?

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Something better

I used to have a lot of the same issues that are being raised by the readers here, but about six months ago we switched to this device called the CloudLocker which basically acts like a private cloud device. It's this hybrid of cloud and NAS. It has more functions than Dropbox or Amazon but will all the security of an NAS device (since all my files are on the device and not on an online server). In any case the CloudLocker has made our lives so much easier at work. I really believe the private cloud device is the future of this sort of technology,

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Something better

"I used to have a lot of the same issues that are being raised by the readers here, but about six months ago we switched to this device called the CloudLocker which basically acts like a private cloud device."

It must be a device you're very enthusiastic about given that you signed up to The Register just to post this! There might be another explanation of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Something better

Something like this?

http://www.sharefile.com/

We use it, and its great.

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