In a move to compete with the Box.coms and Dropboxes of the world with an enterprise twist, Novell has launched a file sharing service that promises anywhere, any-device access to corporate files -- and gives IT complete control. Novell Filr is different from Dropbox, Skydrive and Google Drive, Novell said, because it's built specifically for the enterprise.
Here's how it works: Filr leverages an organization's existing on-premise infrastructure. That eliminates the need to manage third-party services, rebuild access controls, or regulate the use of unapproved file sharing applications. By integrating with existing file systems, Filr mobilizes the files users have already created right where they're already stored, without the security or compliance risks that come with storing files in a cloud controlled by a third party.
Bob Flynn, Novell president and general manager, pointed to the company's "30-year legacy in file and networking services" and Filr's competitive differentiation to meet "IT's need for enhanced security, compliance and the ability to leverage established policies and protocols."
According to a recent Gartner report, file synchronization and sharing are critical capabilities for organizations with a highly mobile workforce and the need to accommodate today's BYOD trends. In fact, Gartner Analysts Monica Basso and Jeffrey Mann said, "We expect IT organizations will face increasing demand for these capabilities, with deeper focus on security and compliance by regulated or security-conscious enterprises."
To be sure, the proliferation of mobile devices has created a need for both mobile device management and mobile content management. Filr aims to enable collaboration while keeping files on the corporate server with their access rights, quotas, backup systems, firewalls, disaster recovery protocols and existing policies intact.
"What sets Novell Filr apart from competitive offerings is that all files are stored on your internal network, making it a true enterprise-grade solution," said Jacques Sauve, president of Adaris Technologies. "While the security aspect alone has excited our customers, Filr's ability to expose any directory on existing network file systems to give users anywhere, anytime access is a key advantage as more organizations utilize a mobile workforce operating outside the four corporate walls."
Can IT Sell It?
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said there is an opportunity for a business-ready service that provides similar capabilities to Dropbox to find a home in the market.
"An enterprise-friendly solution could do significant damage to Dropbox, but you still have to sell the user and that's where the heavy lifting has to occur," Enderle told us. "The IT guys are out of the loop, which is why Dropbox is being used. Employees can use their own credit cards and do whatever they want, so you have to change user behavior and IT isn't set up to do that."
As Enderle sees it, the business user has to be convinced Filr is the best option. In some companies, employees caught using Dropbox are disciplined and in some industries, like pharmaceuticals, employees can get fired for using Dropbox-like services. That said, catching somebody using unsanctioned cloud-based storage is often very difficult.
"The IT guys will love Filr but they are not the ones dictating what service is being used," Enderle said. "They can certainly buy it and provide it but if the users won't use it because they already are used to using Dropbox, it won't go anywhere."