On the radar: Egnyte

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Egnyte provides a hybrid cloud/on-premise file sharing platform for businesses that enables files residing either in the cloud (its own, or third party) or in local storage, to be made available, controlled and administered through a central IT management platform.

Who?

Egnyte is based in Mountain View, CA. It maintains a small development office in Poland, and a London office for EMEA sales and marketing.

What does it do?

Egnyte provides a unified way of managing and sharing content that resides in the cloud and on premise. It pairs its Local Cloud local management layer (which integrates with on-premise storage) with its Cloud File Server (a SaaS layer) to provide a hybrid on-premise/cloud-based file sharing solution designed to enable enterprise IT to maintain centralised access control and administration over file and folder hierarchies across any local storage device and any cloud provider.

A ‘traffic light’ approach lies at the heart of the Egnyte concept. The company categorises files which customers are comfortable to have reside only in the cloud (typically sales and marketing collateral, and customer collaboration material etc.) as non-sensitive ‘green’ data; files they’re happy to sync and share through a cloud interface, but which exhibit heavy ‘data gravity’ characteristics (i.e. they’re very large and cumbersome, and so remote access to on-premise storage is impractical – perhaps because of connectivity issues) as ‘yellow’ data; and files which, because of their sensitivity, will never leave on-premise storage as ‘red’ data.

Another Egnyte characteristic is ‘pragmatism’: the solution does not seek to force customers to migrate data into the cloud to take advantage of its sync and share capabilities (some can remain on premise), and likewise partnerships with cloud providers as well as storage vendors mean that customers can deploy into a cloud of their own choosing too (not just Egnyte’s data centres). Essentially it’s not just sync and share to any device, anywhere, anytime; but also from any choice of storage too.

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Egnyte describes its offer in three parts (with the ability to enact and report on management policies across each scenario consistently, from common administration tools):

  • Cloud File Server provides an admin-managed repository locally (with permissions, audit trails, migration support, sync and share, mobile collaboration apps, and integration with some enterprise applications) that controls and administers access to ‘green’ files in the cloud – either at Egnyte’s own data centres (three US and one EU sites available) or at a third party of the customer’s choosing (such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft Azure).
  • Storage Sync is a hybrid solution, designed to integrate cloud with local storage, providing fast access to large on-premise ‘yellow’ files (such as CAD drawings) for remote use alongside those held in the cloud. This is typically deployed to facilitate mobile consumption of large files ‘in the field’, or for sharing such files between offices and partners.
  • Storage Connect is for on-premise only ‘red’ files (typically too large or too sensitive to migrate to the cloud). Here, no data is held in, or transited through, the cloud. Its separate control and data layers, all held locally, enable it to integrate with existing storage without having to move any data or metadata around at all (the control layer exposes local data through Storage Connect, without the need of a VPN).

Egnyte also provides apps to support mobile access and collaboration via Cloud File Server APIs. 

Who is it for?

Egnyte’s solution is designed to combine the speed and security (and file structures) customers come to rely on from their own local on-premise storage, with the accessibility offered by cloud-based storage – all centrally managed by IT. The hybrid solution is designed to play into a variety of typical enterprise use cases such as: synchronised online file sharing (access to data anywhere, anytime, on any device) – perhaps to combat proliferation of non-sanctioned file sync and share services; cross-office sync – perhaps between headquarters and branches, or amongst collaborators globally; and data exchange with customers.

It has found that the mix of services a customer takes is usually determined as a result of evolving use case discussions. These might concerning different data types (i.e. ‘green’, ‘yellow’, and ‘red’) and access scenarios (e.g. field teams, external collaborations, office teams, sales teams, etc.), plus connectivity considerations (where headquarters may have sufficient bandwidth to serve files directly, but branch offices may not have such good mobile connectivity to their own local storage, for example). Customers can start in any of Egnyte’s scenarios (i.e. cloud only, hybrid, on-premise only) and add users or add use cases (and hence possibly expand the types of services they take) over time. However, customers do tend to fit into one of three camps:

  • The first group (around 20% of Egnyte’s customers) are people dipping their toe into the cloud in a very conservative way. There’s typically limited cloud adoption in the company thus far; however, they’re prepared to start with some cloud-only storage for the ‘right sort of data’ to gain some experience of working that way (often where sales or client data-sharing use cases are well-defined) and see where they go from there.
  • The second group (around 40%) are totally bought into the cloud. They’re committed to moving information management use cases into the cloud and defining new business processes around those interactions – even moving entire infrastructures into the cloud over time, and moving from capex to opex spending on IT. Typically these customers, whilst sold on the concept, need some help in order to get there.
  • The third group (around 40%) are highly cloud-aware, and well-educated as to the suitability of different cloud use cases in different areas of their business. They will tend to have some cloud-only suitable data, some large files for hybrid on-premise/cloud sync, and some sensitive data which will remain on premise only. They tend to be bought into the cloud where appropriate, but they’re cognisant of its limitations (and develop, and enact, their strategies accordingly).

Egnyte’s model has always been to focus on serving business customers; there has never been a ‘consumer’ or free version. Its solution is available in three editions, depending on the number of seats, and priced (according to the company) to reflect the value-added capability being made available – rather than strictly on the basis of the amount of storage consumed:

  • Office edition is for companies of between 5 and 24 employees, and costs $8 per employee per month. Customers get 1 TB of cloud storage at Egnyte’s data centres with 2.5 GB maximum file size, 256-bit AES encryption, redundant storage and compliant hosting (US HIPAA, US FINRA, EU Safe Harbour), desktop sync (in addition to direct desktop access via mapped drives), FTP integration, and web-based support. More cloud storage is available for an additional fee, as is the Storage Sync option that integrates with existing on-premise storage to share files held there beyond the company firewall via Egnyte.
  • Business edition is for mid-sized companies of between 25 and 100 employees, and costs $15 per employee per month. Storage and maximum file size is doubled from the Office edition to 2 TB and 5 GB respectively. Additional features include integration with Microsoft Outlook and the ability to customer brand the Egnyte cloud domain site. On top of those available under the Office edition, optional extras now also include audit reports of all user login activity, file actions and permission changes, Salesforce integration and 24/7 telephone support.
  • Enterprise edition is for unlimited numbers of employees, with pricing on application (as the plan is heavily customisable). Storage is upwards of 3 TB, with maximum file size further doubled to 10 GB. The 24/7 telephone support, Storage Sync, Audit reports, and Salesforce integration change from optional extras to standard features. Active Directory and LDAP support is also now available as standard. Options here include Storage Connect for secure remote access to on-premise storage (without passing through the cloud or a VPN), advanced authentication (such as two-step login), device control (remote wipe, mobile password lock, offline access control, local encryption and trusted devices), sync with NetApp storage, the ability to manage files across multiple entities (i.e. teams, offices, brands, etc.) using a single account, access to Egnyte Professional Services, and priority response 24/7 support with a dedicated customer success manager.

Why is it interesting?

Egnyte’s take on the enterprise file sharing conundrum is an interesting one, because it overtly plays to a sense of ‘cloud pragmatism’ which it claims it’s seeing in legions of customers who aren’t willing or able to fully commit to migrating all their data from on-premise storage (and therefore welcome a hybrid model that provides consistent management across both local and cloud stores).

The company is banking on the findings of its own research (with over 300 companies surveyed in October 2013) which reported that less than 10% of enterprise files were then being held in the cloud, and that this figure would only rise to less than 40% by 2015, largely because of concerns about data privacy, latency, ‘data gravity’. Therefore, despite the attractiveness of cloud storage as the natural solution for expectations of ubiquitous file access, Egnyte is reckoning on many businesses still holding a significant proportion of their data locally for the time being – recognising that at the same time, however, that those same businesses need to meet increasing demands from their staff and partners for easy file sharing, and servicing anywhere, anytime, and any (BYO) device access. Egnyte sees its solution as covering those bases through its hybrid approach, and it’s invested heavily in storage integrations and developing granular file management controls so that it does this consistently and securely.

How established is it?

Egnyte was founded in 2007 by former Valdero executives Vineet Jain (now Egnyte’s CEO) and Rajesh Ram (its VP Product Management), and today has 40,000 customers globally across healthcare, finance, construction/engineering, education, legal, marketing, creative agencies, communications, non-profit, government, and business services sectors. Today 82% of customers are in North America, 13.5% EMEA, 4% Asia-Pacific, and around 0.5% Latin America.

The company describes its solution as being very horizontal, but it’s now starting to adopt more of a vertical approach to tailoring its offering. It reports a strong presence in heavily regulated industries like healthcare and financial (where data security concerns tend to mean an on-premise filestore remains a necessary component, and there are significant security, access and compliance issues) and also in the construction/engineering industry (where the issue of data gravity comes into play – e.g. large CAD files needing distribution to the field; remote offices with editing use cases, etc.). Beyond these top three, it also reports selling well into creative agencies, and with some traction in retail. Whilst it does have some presence in the remaining vertical markets, it’s not extensive – and the company’s strategy is currently to focus on those where it has already main significant inroads, before branching out into other vertical markets (so attention and growth there will likely take longer to develop).

Major clients for its Cloud File Server include Fender, Lexmark, and Lincoln Financial; and for Storage Sync (hybrid) and Storage Connect include Home Depot, Yamaha Motor Company, IKEA, Balfour Beatty Construction, and Christies.

The company manages 30 petabytes of data through its Cloud File Server, with 20,000 on-premise storage devices managed through its Storage Sync and Storage Connect solutions. It reports that over 1 billion files are shared daily through the combined solution.

Egnyte is a privately-held organisation funded by venture capital, having generated over $61 million in four funding rounds. The latest, in December 2013, raised $29.5 million from new investors Seagate, Northgate Capital, and CenturyLink, as well as prior investors Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Polaris Partners. The company doesn’t announce its revenues, but reports that it grew more than 2.5 times in 2013 and doubled in 2012. It claims it’s seeing growth across small, mid, and enterprise business segments, and that year on year it’s seeing larger and larger customers coming, with a requirement for more and more users per customer.

How open is it?

Whilst the company doesn’t see that there’s enough maturity to attract third parties to develop a vast ‘marketplace’ of apps in the way that solutions with a strong consumer strand have cultivated, it has nonetheless invested in a developer outreach program (through sponsored hackathons, financial incentives for developers, etc.) to grow the coverage specifically of apps addressing enterprise problems and supporting business workflows that access data in Egnyte. It’s also refining its APIs to reduce integration friction, with a target of 100 new enterprise apps by the end of 2014 (the company reports that it’s halfway there, as of early May).

The company has exposed public APIs for file and folder management, and developers can request access through a straightforward registration process. Egnyte is keen to achieve a balanced ecosystem (and so is choosing to have more of an explicit hand in influencing where the foci of third-party developments are heading – providing positive assistance where a developer’s plans are a particularly good strategic fit). Although so far Egnyte has allowed unrestricted access to its APIs, it concedes that concerns of competition and bad fit with company strategy may come into play as the ecosystem develops, forcing the company to be more discerning when it comes to who’s allowed in.

Who does it partner with?

Technology partners range from Developer Partners (who test their products with Egnyte and may obtain access to Egnyte APIs), through Alliance Partners (whose products complement Egnyte’s, and where the relationship permits cross-selling to a joint customer base), to Strategic Partners (a deeper still relationship, where partners’ products, experience and expertise complement Egnyte initiatives and where cross-selling and promotion is proven to a global customer base).

Egnyte’s technology partner ecosystem covers a variety of hardware and software vendors across industry specialisms with a bearing on its hybrid management approach. Partners include:

  • Productivity / Line of Business (i.e. collaboration, project management, CRM, eDiscovery) – Salesforce, Google Drive/Docs, DocuSign, Microsoft Outlook, Ricoh, and Kloudless. A partnership with Jive is due mid-2014.
  • Security (i.e. identity, privacy, key management, anti-virus, data loss prevention) – Sophos (scans incoming content for malware), Code Green (integrated with on-premise ECM system; scans on-premise file shares and cloud shares for DLP violations), SkyHigh Networks (redirects Egnyte traffic through a proxy network and scans for DLP violations in transit), Okta, OneLogin, Symplified, and Ping Identity.
  • Storage/services (i.e. on-premise, cloud, migration, backup) – NetApp, EMC2, NETGEAR, Seagate, Synology, Mover, ioSafe, NetApp, SkySync, and CloudHQ.
  • Mobility (i.e. encryption, mobile MS Office, content management, mobile data management) – apps for Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook, and Microsoft Windows Phone; integration with MobileIron (for enterprise class MDM, augmenting the lightweight features Egnyte has built-in), and MobileOPS; and apps including photo-tagging, office and presentation software, PDF viewers, fax and print, and CAD.

In addition, the company has a Managed Service Provider program for file sharing services, with partners including Quest, Cal Net and SolutionWorx. It also has a Partner Program for Value-Added Resellers (it claims membership “in the hundreds”) with three tiers of relationship: Referral, Select, and Elite that determine the level of commissions, sales support and marketing assistance provided – and a free Affiliate programme for sales and sales referrals.

Egnyte prides itself on having deep relationships with storage vendors, enabling it to deploy across many file systems in a heterogeneous enterprise environment. At the high end, Egnyte boasts native connectivity, which is especially useful where customers want to deploy it as a virtual appliance to manage local sync copies of files from cloud storage (say, in a design office with frequent edits required to large CAD files, so only the Egnyte local share syncs with the cloud version for workers in the field – effectively maintaining a ‘sync buffer’ where bandwidth would have been too throttled by unbridled direct access to the cloud). At the lower end, Egnyte has an app which deploys on a network-attached storage box, effectively to cloud-enable the device. This sort of use case can be seen in play where workers in a remote location have poor quality mobile connectivity but where files served from a sync’ed-up local NAS provide adequate timeliness (e.g. high-resolution photos submitted by real estate agents in the field).

To help its customers move from legacy file stores (file systems, plus storage in Google, SharePoint, BaseCamp, EverNote, etc.) to Egnyte, the company has partnered with SkySync and cloudHQ to provide secure network migration connections that also retain user permissions, etc.

Whilst Egnyte itself is primarily focused on storage (on-premise, cloud, and hybrid) and integrations most relevant to business users (such as Salesforce, Google Apps, DocuSign), it’s secured alliances with some key partners to provide additional technical capabilities that target many typical enterprise concerns. Some have generic appeal; others (such as specific security features around data loss prevention violations) are attractive particularly in regulated verticals like healthcare and financial. Egnyte’s customers themselves have also built connections using the product’s APIs for their own ends, but these do tend to stay with them and seldom see the light of day as commercial third-party products for others to exploit.

Are there areas for improvement?

Egnyte’s value proposition is firmly focused on the storage layer. However, the company acknowledges that an over-reliance on storage volume capability as sole differentiator would initiate a race-to-the-bottom, and so instead has sought to add value through the (storage-orientated) capabilities it’s brought in through partner integrations (particularly where they appeal to specific vertical markets), and price per seat accordingly. In places this does start to pitch it more in the arena of content collaboration platform vendors whose offerings make the right noises when it comes to doing something with your content (rather than just managing access to it), and whilst the company has some offering beyond storage and related security, its coverage for productivity and line of business apps, and mobile support, is less well-developed than some sync and share platforms. For example, tighter integration with what users do with their content further up the stack could weave Egnyte’s storage solution more firmly into the enterprise firmament, and bring rewards as its solution is seen more as a true ‘platform’.

The absence of enterprise hooks higher up the technology stack does risk Egnyte’s position becoming vulnerable to other (larger?) players eying up their relationships with cloud and on-premise storage vendors to construct a similar offer – especially if they’re able to offer something with visibility elsewhere on the IT department’s application radar. The company isn’t explicit about further moves in this area on its roadmap, but it is at least taking a more hands-on approach to steering the emphasis of app development within its partner ecosystem to focus on those enterprise areas it feels are the best strategic fit (which isn’t always the case with vendors in this space).

What’s next?

Egnyte is starting to build out its horizontal solution into vertically-focused offerings, and for the moment that means prioritising those industries where it already has significant traction (namely healthcare, financial, and construction/engineering, creative agencies, and retail). Thereafter though, its intention is to add further vertical flavours as they become commercially warranted.

It’s pursuing this strategy (and adding to its app coverage horizontally) through a more intensive investment in its developer program, with a commitment to grow the number of apps in its ecosystem – its target is 100 for 2014.

A lack of ambition to explicitly climb further up and deeper into the enterprise platform layer with more extensive integrations could be seen as missing an opportunity to compete where others are going, or it might signal that Egnyte is firmly committed to focusing on the storage layer – possibly an opportunity in itself for the company’s technology to be acquired by another vendor and integrated into an already well-developed platform offer.

There’s also now the matter of a significant commitment to European expansion (the company already sees 15% of its global earnings from Europe, and expects that climb to 20% for 2014). Egnyte already has a small development team commitment in Poland (with 25 staff now, and plans to double in the next year), and a data centre in the Netherlands (clearly with an eye on EU data sovereignty concerns). It’s also recently appointed a new Vice President and General Manager for Egnyte Europe, with a brief to expand operations with a 25 sales and marketing personnel by the end of 2014, rising to a 100-strong European arm within five years.

Should I consider it?

Whether or not Egnyte is right for your business depends to an extent on whether you’re looking up or down the stack for a match – in other words, are you after an enterprise content collaboration platform that has some storage capability that meets some of your particular requirements, or a storage-focused solution which nevertheless plays to some of your higher stack concerns? Plus, if you’re one of the (majority of, as Egnyte believes) businesses that has good reasons not to go all-or-nothing in the dash for cloud file storage – and yet are still seeing a demand from their staff and partners for anywhere, anytime, any device file access – then it’s likely you’ll be needing some sort of ‘hybrid’ solution that can service that need from data held either on premise or in the cloud (preferably through a single, secure, consistent management layer for IT to apply its business policies). Egnyte’s solution fits that scenario rather well.

What you might also be expecting to see nowadays, though, is such a storage layer also permeating quite far up your enterprise technology stack, with collaboration and productivity apps to ease adoption and integrate your hybrid file system firmly into business processes. Here Egnyte offers some capability, though its app marketplace isn’t mature or evenly targeted across all verticals. However, if you’re in a heavily regulated industry, or need to support workers (or even whole offices) with poor bandwidth direct to the cloud, then there are already specific attentions to detail in Egnyte’s offering which are likely to appeal.

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