On the Radar: Redbooth

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Redbooth provides a team-focused content collaboration and task management suite, and an on-premise peer-to-peer file sync and share platform. Its combined offering is born of the merger of AeroFS with Redbooth (and the amalgamation of some of the former’s Amium product capabilities into the Redbooth suite).

Who?

Previously a standalone collaboration / project management vendor, in September 2017 Redbooth merged with EFSS / collaboration vendor AeroFS (which MWD Advisors covered in a 2016 On the radar report). The combined company is led by AeroFS CEO, Yuri Sagalov, and is headquartered in the former AeroFS offices in Palo Alto, CA.

What does it do?

AeroFS spent its first few years focusing solely on the on-premise file sync and share market with the product that shared its name. In 2016, the company expanded to cover more of an integrated EFSS / collaboration / team messaging footprint with the cloud-based Amium offering. During this period Redbooth (formerly Teambox) was also providing team collaboration and communication tools (for task and project management, etc.). In September 2017, Redbooth and Aero FS announced that they were merging, under the Redbooth banner, and would consolidate the two companies’ offerings to provide a unified file-centric collaboration and project management experience. The combined former product set will initially go forward as follows, although Redbooth has stated that it’s working towards the development of a consolidated collaboration platform.

Redbooth

Redbooth’s simple project management tools provide template based task management for teams. It supports workspaces to separate projects by client, department, project, etc.; file sharing; built-in Zoom HD Meetings video conferencing; commenting and @mention notifications; productivity reports; visual timelines; and organisation by hashtag to group work according to themes.

Redbooth’s tools are cloud-based and hosted on AWS (data-at-rest is stored in Amazon S3 and AWS RDS MySQL database inside a Virtual Private Cloud), leveraging AWS’ security and compliance features such as ISO 27001 compliance, PCI DSS Level 1 certification and multiple SAS70 Type II audits.

The Amium content collaboration / file sync and share tool (built the on AeroFS platform) shared many functional and aspirational similarities with the core Redbooth product, and so the new combined company has taken the decision to close Amium as a standalone service on 15 December 2017, merging and integrating key functionality into Redbooth, and offering existing Amium customers migration support.

Amium boasted offline file synchronisation, in-context discussions and alerts around files; version history tied to the conversation around each file (so collaborating users can easily look through a thread to see what changes were made, by whom, and what the discussion was that led up to the change); and the ability for editing tools to open up a file from within a conversation thread. Although Redbooth (the company) hasn’t confirmed the features that will be ported over to augment Redbooth tools’ functionality, it’s indicated that file collaboration features are “likely to come first”.

AeroFS

Redbooth will continue to develop, support, and maintain the AeroFS on-premise EFSS offering, consisting of:

  • AeroFS desktop clients – which sync-and-share files amongst devices on a network without the need for a dedicated storage server (although AeroFS Storage Agent – see below – does provide additional capabilities if deployed). Users can select which folders to sync / not to sync – in the latter case, files are nonetheless still available on-demand when the user is online. AeroFS clients communicate securely amongst themselves through TLS atop a variety of other transports (and a relay server when network connectivity unavailable). Data is encrypted in transit with AES256 and 2048-bit RSA and at rest using 256-bit AES.
  • AeroFS Appliance – Customers can deploy the AeroFS Private Cloud behind their corporate firewall to provide private web administration, private registration and authentication (LDAP, AD, OpenID), and private Certificate Authority (the AeroFS Appliance acts as the root Certificate Authority) to manage the AeroFS Public Key Infrastructure.
  • AeroFS Storage Agent (optional) –a dedicated lightweight client which acts as an ‘always on’ central client node in an AreoFS deployment – i.e. it’s always available to share the latest file updates with any user who connects using their desktop client. It can also provide a centralised backup location, subject to a customer’s own backup and disaster recovery procedures (data can also be stored in blocks on Amazon S3 for backup, if required).
  • AeroFS Attachment Manager (plugin for MS Exchange Server, available in Business edition) – which can remove attachments from emails and replace them with revocable and traceable links to the same file in a secure AeroFS folder.

The AeroFS Appliance on-premise never stores files that are shared through the service, amongst peer-to-peer clients on the same LAN segment; it only stores file metadata. However if customers deploy an AeroFS Storage Agent on that network, it will store content– acting like an end-user client for the purposes of synchronising content with users on the network. AeroFS creates secure links to files and folders (which IT can revoke, for security, if necessary). AeroFS’ administration dashboard allows administrators to manage users, permissions and devices from a web UI, allowing them to see which folders are shared and with whom.

Pricing

Redbooth’s two products are aimed at very different customer bases, and have different pricing structures:

  • AeroFS buyers tend to be IT teams. It has a free-to-use Teams edition for up to 30 users (limited to 10Gb storage), and a Business edition for 30+ users (gated on usage and storage – 100Gb per team member) at $15 / user / month. Both editions offer on-premise deployment, Windows, Mac and Linux desktop clients, iOS and Android mobile clients, role-based permissions (LDAP, Active Directory, and OpenID integrations), version history, auditing, conflict management, desktop device authorisation, mobile device management (through the company’s partnership with MobileIron), remote unlink / erase, two-factor authentication, shared folder control, support for any virtual environment, OpenStack integration, API access, and white labelling.
  • Redbooth buyers are usually business teams (unless the IT team is buying for itself to use). It is available in a Free edition (for up to 10 users) that supports up to two workspaces, 2Gb of storage, and provides tasks / subtasks and unlimited comments / conversation functionality, with Gantt charts, project templates and email support. Free integrations are available for Google Drive, Slack and Dropbox. Its Pro edition, for an unlimited number of users, ($9 per user per month if billed annually) adds unlimited workspaces, increases file storage to 5Gb, bundles in HD video conferencing with Zoom, supports guest / external users, and private tasks / workspaces, time tracking and pro reporting. It also adds integrations with Evernote, Cisco Spark and Box. Redbooth’s Business edition ($15 per user per month if billed annually) is aimed at large organisations. As well as the Pro features, it comes with 50Gb of storage, priority support, business reporting and assignable subtasks. Business edition integrations include MS OneDrive for Business, Okta and OneLogin.

Who is it for?

The AeroFS (as was) rationale for developing the Amium product as a companion to ‘classic’ AeroFS was to “bring conversation to the files”. Its combination of workflow, commentary threads and embedded access to files through links to copies held in AeroFS (clearly showing versions in situ) made for a very intuitive interface for people involved in content development iterations. It’s a principle the new combined Redbooth company has continued to apply in pairing content-based collaboration for teams with Redbooth (the product)’s simple project management tools. This extends productivity support around content from threaded collaboration and sharing, to team task management and communication.

Target customers for Redbooth are organisations where the prevailing culture is one of files being shared for collaborative editing as large email attachments (even if they’re ultimately stored in a cloud content service), and where productivity support has tended to be done by spreadsheet. The company is offering a solution that can keep the data on-premise (with AeroFS) as well as offer sharing and collaborative workflow in the cloud. Target markets include education, financial services, insurance, government, healthcare, and energy sectors (with public cloud concerns); and the engineering and media sectors (where typically file sizes are very large).

The company’s main focus is “workstream collaboration” – i.e. file sharing, collaborative editing, and task / project management across internal teams (within the ‘traditional’ rather than ‘extended’ enterprise). That’s not to say that the cloud and mobile components can’t extend the Redbooth tools’ reach and make it more attractive in use cases involving partners, customers, however; and what’s more, the on-premise product does support ‘restricted accounts’ for partners, providing they’re granted access through the firewall.

However it’s really designed for situations where organisations have large, heavy files that may not be practical to store only in the cloud (or there are regulatory / data sovereignty concerns), and where teams / departments require a lightweight solution to content-based tasks and workflows that don’t warrant an over-engineered BPM or case management approach.

Although AeroFS is able to back up files on Amazon S3 storage (and sports mobile interfaces), the company’s emphasis is on-premise content sharing. AeroFS uses load-balanced peer-to-peer communication amongst its desktop clients (and Storage Agent) to replicate files across a network to provide “file sharing without file servers”; the AeroFS Appliance acts as a single API endpoint for access to the stored data.

Why is it interesting?

Redbooth’s tools marry up conversations about how content is created and edited with the task path it takes in order to help teams get work done, and the content itself (in context), in a very intuitive way. There are other EFSS products that will let you share files, other productivity applications that support content workflow, and other messaging tools that support team collaboration – but when these capabilities come together there’s often some awkwardness either in how point solutions are integrated, or how native capabilities are presented seamlessly. Redbooth’s tools manage to present a flow that brings users, tasks, and subject-matter together, but in a way fits around practical workstyles.

An AeroFS deployment is interesting because of the way it provides on-premise file sharing in a peer-to-peer way, with a private cloud option. It operates on the customer’s own infrastructure, so data stays within the enterprise (though that does also mean that back-up and disaster recovery are the customer’s own responsibility).

How established is it?

AeroFS was founded 2010, and Redbooth (as “Teambox”) was founded in 2008. The combined company now has 30 employees.

The company is funded by venture capital (by the time of the merger, AeroFS had secured $15.5m over four rounds, and Redbooth $17.5m over six rounds). Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, NHN Investment, Webb Investment Network, SV Angel, Y Combinator, Avalon Ventures (in AeroFS); and FJME, Kibo Ventures, Altpoint Ventures (in Redbooth). Being privately held, the company doesn’t disclose its revenues.

Redbooth doesn’t make public its total number of customers. However it does list examples across education, non-profit and healthcare – such as the University of Arizona, El Tiempo (Colombia’s largest daily newspaper), Tulane University Medical Group, Historic Richmond Town living museum, Grain Creative (a UK-based branding and design agency), and the US Society for Information Management. The company does state that it has “tens of thousands” of paying users, and also that over 620,000 teams have signed up for Redbooth, with the platform managing over 1.8m projects and over 28m tasks.

How open is it?

Currently the AeroFS file APIs enable apps only to make requests to access synchronised content via the AeroFS Appliance (which then selects an AeroFS endpoint to provide the file based on the app’s consistency policy). The AeroFS SDK is available in C#, Python, JavaScript, and Go. The Redbooth productivity suite’s APIs are used by the company itself to serve its web and mobile products. APIs are available that show user information, their productivity activities, tasks, conversations, notes, notifications, and files; manage group invitations / membership and project / organization association; and access the search and comments functionality.

Who does it partner with?

As AeroFS, the company partnered with various channel and technology partners, including: MobileIron (for identity management), Jira (issue tracking product), Stripe, New Relic, MailChimp, Pagerduty (collects alerts from monitoring tools), Hellosign, BitBucket (source code listing), Bonusly (instant microbonus reward site), Giphy, Crashlytics (crash reporting system) and MS Office online (providing real-time collaborative editing for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).

Redbooth partners with a number of companies for integrations, such as Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive (for storage), Slack (for chat), Evernote (for idea collection), Okta (for identity management), Zapier (for task automation), and TestLodge (an online test case management tool).

Are there areas for improvement?

Whilst Redbooth’s productivity suite has long had a strong mobile presence (on Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and even Apple TV), AeroFS mobile apps currently lack the full functionality of the desktop clients. That said, the company does very much promote AeroFS’ sync-and-share as an on-premise, desktop client orientated solution – but as a consolidated platform starts to emerge, it will need to consider the breadth of capabilities available to mobile workers, regardless as to which product suite stable the tools originated from. Support for mobile workstyles and mobile workers (especially those inhabiting an ‘extended enterprise’ of partners, etc.) needs to go beyond a development exercise that seeks to replicate desktop capabilities in an app. Users on mobile devices work differently, and have different use case roles in a content collaboration scenario.

Although its price plans include options for large enterprise deployments, Redbooth is focusing its efforts on teams and departmental groups within enterprises, rather than attempting cross-enterprise penetration. To that end, its focus for integrations out-of-the-box doesn’t dent the realms of enterprise BPM, CRM and ECM applications – instead sporting the likes of Office Online, Slack, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, Okta, Zapier, and TestLodge. However, team collaboration and productivity is a crowded space, and though Redbooth’s offerings have the potential to support enterprise workstyles that put content to work in workspace contexts, to thrive as a serious enterprise contender the company will need to swell the numbers of integrations with commonplace business applications it’s able to offer out-of-the-box. Customers can always develop connectors for themselves using Redbooth’s APIs, but many will look for solutions where the heavy lifting’s already been done for them.

What’s next?

The biggest change to the fabric of the new combined Redbooth will come in early 2018, as the company finalises the initial consolidation of relevant Amium features into the Redbooth suite (following Amium’s closure as a standalone service in December 2017). Although it’s running AeroFS and Redbooth as separate products (at least in the short term), the company has promised that a unified collaboration platform is on its roadmap – so expect announcements that cement the merger and show the intended direction of travel early in 2018.

Redbooth is working on the first industry-specific packaging of its product, targeting marketing agency use cases around billing, and document collaboration (the company reports that product is already well-used in freelancer / agency scenarios, where there are multiple clients involved in task workflows).

Should I consider it?

Although Redbooth’s simple task management suite is, on its own, navigating a well-trodden path with tools to help teams collaborate, communicate, and get work done in project settings, its integrations with popular products like Evernote, Box, Dropbox, etc. help it to nestle well in the workspace scenarios and operate effectively in heterogeneous environments. What lifts Redbooth out of a crowded marketplace, however, is the merger with AeroFS and the content collaboration (on-premise and cloud-based) that its technologies bring to the table. It’s still early days for the unified Redbooth content collaboration, communication, and task platform, but growing partnerships with providers of content services (as well as content storage agnosticism born of Redbooth’s heritage partnerships with the likes of Box and Dropbox) set it up well as an end-to-end solution for team deployments and small departmental use cases.

Although the Redbooth / AeroFS merger has resulted in the close of the former’s office in Barcelona, Spain (so that now the combined company only has an office footprint in the US), the product is available with multi-language support (French, Spanish, German – with expansion planned into additional languages in 2018).

How much you’re likely to opt for both AeroFS for on-premise file sharing as well as the Redbooth productivity suite will depend on what content you have, where you want it stored, and where your users are. However, if you are keen to keep your content on-premise, but need to share (at least internally) then AeroFS’ peer-to-peer sync-and-share offering offers an interesting (server-less) take on the problem; and adding Storage Agents on commodity hardware provides a cost-effective means to scale the solution. However, the lack of extensive business application integrations may discourage you from deploying AeroFS as an enterprise-wide solution – though it may prove very effective in select use cases, especially where files are large, and users are situated together on the same network segment.

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